The Jaguars dropped to 0-2 in the 2010 preseason record books last Saturday with a 27-26 loss to the Miami Dolphins, but preseason results can sometimes be misleading. After all, the dynastic, Peyton Manning-led Colts have lost 22 or their last 26 preseason contests. For Jacksonville, though, the play that’s paved the way for a 0-2 start is far more troubling than the record itself.
Save some impressive mop-up play from backup quarterback Luke McCown, the Jaguar offense has been mostly dreadful in its first two appearances, scoring just nine points in two first quarters, the only ones that truly count in early preseason play. David Garrard has looked like a below average starting NFL quarterback and the team has had a surprisingly difficult time running the football (consider that it finished 10th in the league last year in rushing offense).
If there are any bright spots on offense at this point they include receiver Mikes Sims-Walker and rookie running back/kick returner Deji Karim. Sims-Walker has displayed flashes of the physically dominant receiver he was all of last year, and Karim has been incredibly productive on kick returns, with nine returns for 295 yards, good enough for a 33-yard average per return. Unfortunately, Karim had surgery on his left thumb on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the preseason.
Defensively, the team did a slightly better job pressuring the quarterback last Saturday (registered five sacks), but, generally, still struggles mightily in this department. First-round pick Tyson Alualu looked active in his first NFL action, but the talented DT finished with just one tackle. To make matters worse, starting safety Gerald Alexander seemed to take backward steps against the Dolphins, struggling against both the pass and the run, while the defense as a whole again had major issues getting off the field, giving up multiple third-and-long conversions.
IMPROVEMENT ON MY MIND…
With a game against the struggling Bucs on the horizon (this Saturday), Jacksonville will have a nice opportunity to correct at least some of the aforementioned issues, get into a nice rhythm and perhaps gain some confidence. The Jaguars can start turning things around by getting pressure on the quarterback, even if that means manufacturing it with linebacker and corner blitzes. In football, one thing’s for sure: if a quality quarterback has time, no defense will stop him.
There’s no question the Jags have struggled the most on third-and-long this preseason and this fact can be linked directly back to the team’s inability to force quarterbacks out of their comfort zones. And no matter how bad Jacksonville’s defensive backs have looked thus far, they will continue to improve for as long as the pass rush does, as the two are intricately linked.
Of course, the team isn’t going to get everything corrected this weekend, and maybe not even by the end of this season, but getting Maurice Jones-Drew into a rhythm is another more-than-realistic goal for now. We know what the pro-bowl back is capable of, but the fifth-year star has had a miserable preseason, losing a total of two yards on six carries in two games. If the Jaguars have any success this year, it will come through controlling the clock with Jones-Drew and playing quality third-down defense, and this Saturday the Bucs will give the team a chance to work towards achieving both.
TWO GAMES TOO MANY…
The NFL owners were in Atlanta this week, meeting to discuss the merits behind the recently proposed 18-game regular season schedule. Currently all 32 NFL teams play four preseason games and 16 regular season contests, combining to form a 20-week schedule. Because money is at the center of this all, it’s important to note that all season ticket holders, all across the NFL, are presently forced to purchase tickets to all 10 of their team’s home games, which includes its two home pre-season contests.
With that said, then, there is no way the owners will ever vote to shorten the preseason – which, for the record, many are in favor of doing – without extending the regular season. In other words, they are going to get their 20 weeks, no matter how it has to happen. And there’s no doubt the owners stand to make more money with a 20-week schedule that includes 18 regular-season games than they do under the current 16-game format.
Personally, though, I’m in favor of leaving everything the way it is. The league can do whatever it wants with the preseason – whether that means shortening it or not – but I’m not sure I could be any more against an 18-game regular season. The way I see it, 16 games is already hard enough on the human body, and adding two more per season would be simply outrageous.
Consider some numbers. The life expectancy for an average American is right around 78 years. The life expectancy for an average NFL football player is 55 years, 52 if you’re a lineman. So, even with the schedule as is the average NFLer loses 23 years off his life. With that said, I think the league and its owners should be far more concerned with finding a schedule that protects the players, rather than one that makes them the most money.
Unfortunately, I have no time for any further rambling, but would love to hear what you guys think of this year’s Jaguar outfit, as well as how you feel about the potential for schedule expansion. Also, be sure to check back here this weekend for more news/commentary. Until then, be good and keep reading.
Janovitz can be reached at Scott.Janovitz@gmail.com
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Written by Scott Janovitz