Daryl Smith (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 this unit make plays consistently?
Breakdown: Mike Peterson is gone and while his numbers seem to indicate that the Jaguars will miss him, the tape proves that they won’t. The once dominant linebacker was let go after some in-house quarrels with Coach Jack Del Rio, but tentative play had to be a reason he was let go as well. Whether it was not longer having two dominant defensive tackles in front of him or age was just taking its toll, it’s clear that Justin Durant will be an upgrade in the middle. The speedy third-year player had a tendency to overrun would-be tackles last year but now he will be in the thick of things as he lines up inside. If he gets lanes to run to, watch the stats take off. Daryl Smith is a fixture on the outside and is as solid a player as the team has. Clint Ingram must take his game up a notch if he wants to stay in Jacksonville. He showed as a rookie that he has potential but he has been wildly inconsistent ever since. The depth is a bit sketchy, as special-teams stud Brian Iwuh doesn’t appear to be an every down backer and Thomas Williams might fill a similar role as a versatile backup.
The Big If: If Durant and Ingram can put it all together than the team might have the makings of a top five line backing corps. Our Call: Durant should have good production this year, as will Smith. Watching who goes inside during 3-4 situations will be interesting, but the team has three play makers at the second level and if Williams steps up as a versatile backup, it should be a very strong group. The young starters should all progress but until that notion is proven correct you can’t get overly excited about the group.
Confidence Rating: 7