After the Jaguars victory, on the road against the Colts, I really felt better about the team. I know the Indianapolis Colts are not the team they once were, but I still felt good about the win. When the Colts had an uninjured Peyton Manning, they were the team to beat, in the AFC South. They dominated the division for years; nonetheless, the Jacksonville Jaguars often gave them a run for their money. Even though Manning is no longer there, and they are in a rebuilding process, I still feel great when we beat them. I was hoping our victory over the Colts would be the spark the team needed, to at least be more competitive this season.
Last Sunday, Week 4, my hopes were dashed when the Cincinnati Bengals easily defeated the Jaguars, at home, in front of a sold out crowd, at EverBank Field. The flaws were glaring, and there is no doubt Jaguar fans are in for a painful season.
We are not where we should be, to say the least, and it is going to take time for this young team to get on the same page, have their timing synchronized, and play on a higher level. The problems are on both sides of the ball. The offense is lacking in ability to make the big plays when they really need to, and do so on a consistent basis. The game against the Bengals would not have gotten so far out of hand had the Jaguars been able to answer their scoring drives with scoring drives of their own. Moreover, the Bengals would not have been able to score so many points had the Jaguars defense not committed so many mental errors, and allowed the Bengals to march up, and down the field. This was not one of those games where one missed opportunity would have made a difference. I do not care what the jockocracy says contrary to this. This was a game where the Jaguars timing was off, and mental mistakes reigned supreme. The team came out flat, and despite a couple of flashes of brilliance, looked flat for the duration of the game.
This is what happens when a team is rebuilding. They will be up one week, be down the next, and even look like an entirely different team, from quarter to quarter, and possession to possession. It is going to take more time for us to get where we need to be. I know this is the last thing a real Jaguars fan wants to read, but it is the truth. We have not been to the dance for so long it feels like we will never get there.
The years under head coach Jack Del Rio are a bad memory, for many of us. Let’s face it. We were a .500 team under him, and the ownership blew it letting him stay for so long. He never found all the answers, especially on offense that the team needed, and still needs. His reign as head coach was a flop. The entire blame is not his though. Shack Harris had something to do with this lackluster era, as did owner Wayne Weaver who obviously lost his heart for the team several years ago, and failed to tell anyone. Having said this, I will move on.
Here are a few observations from a rabid Jaguars fan, as we move forward with this young team.
1) We need an answer to the gaping holes left in our wide receiver corps by the loss of Jimmy Smith, and Keenan McCardell. These two men were called Thunder, and Lightning, and for good reason. They played on an elite level, and found ways to get open, for the quarterback. The Jaguars have not found replacements for these players, and until we do, any quarterback we put under center will struggle. I see promise in our 1st Round draft pick Justin Blackmon. We need to get the ball to him often, so that Blaine Gabbert can work out the timing of his throws, at game speed, to this phenomenal Wide Receiver. If he works out, and there is every reason to believe he will, a dedicated effort to find the other thunder to go with the lightning, or the lightning to go with the thunder needs to be made. The lack of excellence at Wide Receiver has hurt us since the remaining member of that fantastic duo of old, Jimmy Smith, left the team. Filling this void is imperative. This is why I was a bit upset the team did not get Manningham (caught a brilliant side line pass in the Super Bowl) out of Free Agency. I hope the Coach, General Manager, and Owner have a plan to bring excellence back to the Wide Receiver positions, if Blackmon works out, and if he does not. After all, we can have the best quarterback in the league, but if he has no one to throw the ball to we will still lose. The big passing play must come back to the Jacksonville Jaguars, not just in the playbook, but on the field, effectively.
2) Maurice Jones-Drew is a great player, but his hold out has affected the team. Missing all of training camp caused the team to be on one page, and him to be on another. He is a great player, but he cannot win games on his own. He put up great numbers against the Colts, and carried the load of the game; however, that offense looked like a Jack Del Rio team, not a Mike Mularkey team. Mr. Mularkey needs to take the reins, not be the nice guy, and run it like he owns it. Jones-Drew will be a big part of game plans, but the game plan should not be built around him exclusively.
3) Use the run to set up the pass. Take some chances. The Jaguars are not going to the Super Bowl this year. We will most likely not even be in the playoffs. It is too soon for this quarterback, and this team. Let Blaine Gabbert take advantage of this opportunity, to mature into an elite quarterback, by throwing the ball to Blackmon, Marcedes Lewis, Cecil Shorts, Laurent Robinson, and Mike Thomas. We are supposed to have a great offensive line, let him use the time they give him, in the pocket, to hone his skills. I have my eye on next year being our year. We must have effective receivers to throw the ball to. This is the time to weed out those receivers who are not going to be play makers, and let Gabbert get more acclimated to the game.
4) Hold Mel Tucker accountable, for the crappy defensive showing so far this season. If the game does not get out of hand, the offense has a better chance of getting the points needed to win. I never want to see another poor showing, by the Jaguars defense, like the one last week against the Bengals, and the other abysmal performances we have seen from this group of veteran defenders thus far this season. We have a veteran defense. No excuses. Execute, and do not make so many mental errors.
5) The Tight End needs to get open more than he has been. Marcedes Lewis is allegedly an elite Tight End, and he has caught some good passes this year, but he is not playing on the level an elite Tight End should be playing on. Send him to see a psychologist if he can’t get his head into the game.
Do not get me wrong, I would love to see the Jaguars get into the playoffs this year, if only to give this young offense experience playing on a bigger stage. I just do not think it is going to happen. We do have some good players. Unfortunately things have been such that these good players have performed poorly. The reason for this is multi factorial, and the answers need to come from all sides of the ball, and the team.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be an elite team once again. This year is a year of transition. New coach, new owner, young offense, and a defense struggling to find its’ identity. Becoming an elite team will take time, but we have fantastic chances of doing so. If you are not on the Jaguars’ band wagon yet, now is the time to get on. Over the course of this season we will hone this team into a winner, and I expect nothing but going deep into the playoffs next season. Dare I say Super Bowl in two seasons?