The Jacksonville Jaguars opened up their first possession on Saturday night against Tampa Bay with a 74 yard strike from David Garrard to Troy Williamson for a touchdown. Say what? Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars hit a deep pass to start the game for a touchdown. David Garrard finished the night 10 for 16 with 216 yards passing, and seemed to squelch his critics with a spectacular performance.
Or did he?
On the surface, it seems David Garrard had a spectacular night. While the offense was much improved from the first preseason game, the numbers do not tell the whole story. Of David Garrard's 216 passing yards, 147 came on 3 passes to Troy Williamson. The first pass of the game for 74 yards, was about as hokey as hokey can get. After the game it was found out that the Jaguars planned to run that play on their first snap at 9:30 AM in a team meeting. It required nothing but for David Garrard to chuck the football down the field and hit his man, which to give him credit he did. Garrard's known for throwing ducks down the field, but this time he hit his man in stride and Troy Williamson didn't drop the ball. After that initial pass, the Jaguars didn't try to throw the ball deep down the field the rest of the game.
That is where the problem arises and why I called the play "hokey". It felt too much like the Jaguars called that play initially to excite the fans, which is admirable, and it gives a faux excitement about the Jaguars passing game. Troy Williamson's other long reception of 61 yards came on a run-and-catch where Williamson gained roughly 40 yards on his own and against mostly Tampa Bay second teamers. The Jaguars next three drives after the first touchdown of the game resulted in punts. The Jaguars first team offense also failed to convert a single third down while they were on the field and nearly half of their drives were three and out.
The Jaguars offensive line gave David Garrard plenty of protection for the most part. On the first play of their second drive, guard Vince Manuwai whiffed on a block and caused the pocket to collapse. On the next two plays, Garrard had plenty of time to throw the ball and checked it down to Maurice Jones-Drew for two and seven yard gains, respectively. For most of the night, this is how the offense looked, sputtering along. There were some good signs however, as the 61 yard run-and-catch was an on the money throw from Garrard, and Garrard also had a nice roll-out play where he hit a lonesome Torry Holt for 23 yards.
To me, the most concerning drive of the game came with 1 minute left in the game. The Jaguars came out in their 2-minute offense and looked abysmal. On the first play Garrard checks down the Alvin Pearman for 8 yards. On second down, David Garrard held onto the football way too long and wound up running into the back of first round pick Eugene Monroe for a sack and loss of three. On third down, Garrard proceeded to skip the ball to tight end Greg Estandia. The quarterback looked panicked and lost on the drive. Couple this with the fact that on the night, the Jaguars were only 2 of 14 on third downs, and the areas of concern on offense are still glaring.
There were plenty off good things on the night, such as the fact that Todd Bouman's volleyball performance will force the Jaguars to scour the waiver wire for potential quarterbacks. David Garrard, despite the numbers, still seemed to struggle going through his reads and making quick decisions, but overall he improved from Week 1. The offensive line was much improved from Week 1, despite shuffling the line on nearly every drive. Troy Williamson looks like he is the real deal at wide receiver, and Steve Weatherford nearly lost the punting job Saturday night in the first half faster than Adam Podlesh won it in the second.
Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles will show us more of where this team's offense lies.