John Henderson (Getty Images)
Before any team starts a season, there are always a handful of questions to answer. How will the quarterback play be? Will your top players stay injury free? Does your team have enough depth to overcome injuries?
There is seemingly an endless list of questions that coaches, fans and journalists alike will have about every team before a season begins. Usually, the more times you say “yes” the better. What really instills confidence though is when there aren’t even questions to answer.
There’s an old saying I like to refer to this team a year; “The less questions you have about a team, the better they will probably be,” or something like that. Of course, there are always teams that answer those questions (a la the 2007 Giants, who went from a mediocre team to Super Bowl champs). While there are teams that will rise from the ashes, it’s usually a safe bet to believe in a team that doesn’t have any huge questions regarding key personnel, injuries and experience.
With all that in mind, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of questions and “ifs” that must be worked out. They absolutely should not be ruled of contention before the season even begins, but a position-by-position breakdown reveals that there’s an abundance of “ifs” an questions floating around out there. To further analyze how confidence fans should be of the team, we’ll take a look at each position’s positives, lingering questions and how the position should perform. We will follow this with an overall confidence level, running from 0-10, 10 being the highest.
Pressing Question: Can John Henderson return to his old form or have his best years gone by? Bonus Question: Will Henderson even be on the opening day roster?
Breakdown: The Jaguars will be using elements of both a 4-3 and 3-4 defense this year. How that will effect personnel is not yet known but it’s safe to say that every defensive lineman will be kept on a short leash, just ask John Henderson. Henderson has underperformed due to several reasons over the past few years and it has become clear that it’s a get good or get gone type of deal for the former Pro Bowler. With the possible switch to a 3-4 and with Henderson’s apparent decline, the team reached some for nose tackle Terrance Knighton out of Temple. At 6’3”, 320 lbs., Knighton has the measurable needed to play in the 3-4 but entrusting the vital nose tackle position to a rookie who didn’t see top college competition week in and week out is a bit of a risk. Rob Meier was asked to be a run stuffer last year and it was painfully obvious that he is best as a high-motor guy who can come in as a third man in a rotation and disrupt starters, which is what he will do this year. Derek Landri might fill a similar role as Meier and both could be solid 3-4 ends. Atiyyah Ellison is a big tackle that the team is hoping can exceed expectations.
The Big If: Henderson or Knighton can prove to be efficient run stoppers, then Jacksonville’s linebackers can become a dominant unit as they will move freely around the field.
Our Call: Too many “ifs.” If Henderson can stay healthy and get back to form at 30-years-old…if Knighton can contribute immediately as a rookie…if Meier can prove to be a consistent starter…if Ellison is a pleasant surprise. That’s not to say that some of this “ifs” can’t be answered positively but as the lead-in states, the more unanswered questions heading into a season, the worse a feeling you have to have.
Confidence Rating: 5