Line Continues to be a Question


Posted Aug 16, 2010


Entering training camp, two major concerns of the Jaguars dealt with their line play. Could the offensive line come together and do a better job of protecting David Garrard? Could the defensive line put more pressure on opposing QBs to improve on the NFL-low 14 sacks the Jaguars recorded last year?



After two weeks of training camp, the answers to both questions remain unresolved. And it's mainly because of the injuries to key personnel. With backup players starting at the two tackle spots, the Jaguars gave up two sacks in their preseason game to Philadelphia and had their quarterbacks running out of the pocket on several other plays.

Defensively, top draft pick Tyson Alualu and free agent veteran Aaron Kampman have been limited in their contributions thus far, with neither player suiting up for the Eagles game. That's made it difficult to get an accurate reading if either side of the line has improved from a year ago.

With starting tackles Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe nursing ailments and Alualu and Kampman also watching from the sidelines, the Jaguars have been using backups that may not even make the final roster. While the line as a whole only allowed two sacks, it had little success in opening holes for the running game with the Jaguars rushing for a total of 14 yards on nine carries.

This will be a key week for the Jaguars to get as many of the four aforementioned players back in the lineup. The team doesn't play until Saturday so everyone will have had eight days between games to recuperate and be ready for action.

The injuries keeping Britton, Monroe and Alualu out of the lineup do not appear significant and all should be getting close to returning to action. Kampman's situation is different in that the Jaguars are still limiting his work due to the late ACL surgery that he had last November. While he may also return this week, there's no guarantee that he'll operate at 100 percent at any time this year.

Alualu's return is especially important to a line that has already lost the services of third-round draft pick D'Anthony Smith due to an Achilles injury. Smith was in line to offer solid support behind Alualu and now the Jaguars find themselves having to fill both spots, hardly encouraging thoughts of improving one's pass rush.

The line play on both sides of the ball aren't the only issues of concern however. The Jaguars are still in search of a couple more solid receivers behind Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas who appear to have firmly locked on to the top two receiving spots. Troy Williamson has had a good camp but he looked real good in camp a year ago only to fizzle when the regular season started. Second-year receivers Jarett Dillard and Tiquan Underwood have battled injuries and haven't displayed their true value yet. Whichever of the two can get healthy first and back on the field at full strength will have the inside track of making the final roster. The other may be looking for a new team in September.

On defense, there continues to be concern in the secondary. The Eagles completed 20 passes in the game for 285 yards and committed two costly pass interference penalties that gave Philadelphia an additional 79 yards in two separate scoring drives. Too many times Eagles receivers had gained separation from their defender and were able to make uncontested catches. This was a problem a year ago and it doesn't appear to have gotten better based on one preseason game thus far.



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