Many national media pundits have selected the Jaguars to finish dead last in their division. After looking at what transpired last season, and the rosters of Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Houston, the dismal projections aren’t unfounded.
One of the main areas of question for the Jaguars is certainly their defensive line, and The Sports Exchange recently ran a power rankings story of the top defensive lines in the NFL. Not only were the Jaguars ranked last in their division, but they were ranked 31st overall. Out of 32 teams!
Here’s what the Jaguars portion of the story had to say:
Whereas all of that what they said happens to be true, the story doesn’t take into account a possible 3-4 switch. The Jaguars have mostly 3-4 personnel on their defensive line, and can be a solid unit if they re-tool. It will at least make better use of last season’s second-round pick Quentin Groves, who struggled mightily a year ago with his hand on the ground.
Starters: LDE Derrick Harvey, DT John Henderson, DT Derek Landri, RDE Reggie Hayward
Backups: DT Rob Meier, DT Atiyyah Ellison, DT Terrance Knighton, DT Jonathan Lewis, DE Jeremy Mincey, DE Quentin Groves, DE James Wyche, DT Montavious Stanley
Knighton is the only significant addition to the roster and he's a rookie, albeit a promising one. The Jaguars are so thin at the two tackle spots, Knighton will have a shot at winning a starting job. Henderson wasn't the same player he was when lined up with Marcus Stroud and will need to raise his performance. Landri is a hard-working, blue-collar type but may not be the answer as a starter. He and Meier have proven to be more effective when coming in from the sideline for short stretches in a series. Harvey showed signs of justifying his first-round selection from the year before but will need a hike in the 3.5 sacks that he recorded a year ago. Hayward is two years removed from the 2006 Achilles tendon injury on opening day and he too must pad his 4.5 sacks from 2008. The surprise could be Groves, a second-round draft pick a year ago, who provides solid depth at the end positions.
It’s certain that the Jaguars have plenty of question marks all over their defensive line, but it’s hard to believe that only the lowly Denver Broncos have a worse line. This could be yet another motivating factor for a team who has experienced more than their fair share of criticism this offseason.
“I appreciate all the down talk so we can use it,” Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew said in a recent ESPN interview that had an intro that firmly bashed the Jaguars.
Jones-Drew has lofty goals for the 2009 season.
“I think winning the Super Bowl is the only expectation I’m going to ever have in my life, because all the other individual things are going to come if you do that,” Jones-Drew said.
For the Jaguars to be a playoff contender, much less a Super Bowl contender, their defensive line must perform better than just one team in the league, as the TSX story suggests. Stories like this could help motivate what appears to be a team with a chip on its shoulder in 2009.
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