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2006 Team Report: Jacksonville Jaguars

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Quarterbacks

Starter: Byron Leftwich
Backup(s): David Garrard, Quinn Gray

Starting QB: Though the strength of the Jacksonville Jaguars lies in their defense, the team is committed to accumulating game breaking talent at the offensive skill positions. The Jaguars are also continuing to tinker with the offensive line, which has not quite reached its potential despite loads of talent. The only thing holding this team back appears to be the offensive scheme. In 2005, the Jaguars were 14th in the league in yards per attempt and 20th in pass attempts, but were 8th in rush attempts, despite a 3.9 yards per rush average. Those numbers are in line with the team’s pass/rush ratio since HC Jack Del Rio took over in 2003. The scheme explains why Leftwich only managed to become the 16th best fantasy QB in points per game in 2005. Despite the conservative offense, Leftwich has loads of weapons. He has two 1st round wide receivers in Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, who will compete for playing time with third-year WR Ernest Wilford after veteran Jimmy Smith retired this offseason. In 2006, Leftwich received another receiving weapon in 1st round TE Mercedes Lewis. Leftwich is big enough that he gets a few goal line sneak attempts each year, but his rushing numbers are not of note for fantasy purposes. If Del Rio takes the shackles off, Leftwich is surrounded by enough talent to become a solid fantasy starting QB. Since the conservative Del Rio scheme produced 12 wins and a playoff spot in 2005, however, more of the same is expected.

Backup QB: David Garrard was pressed into action in 2005 due to injury to Leftwich in week 11. He played very well, posting a 5-1 record, and he produced good fantasy numbers. Considering only the games he started (from week 12 on), he would have ranked as the 9th best quarterback in fantasy points per game. Garrard provides a strong, athletic, mobile quarterback, who produces nice rushing numbers to augment average passing statistics. He will tuck and run before forcing a throw – in his six starts, he threw only 1 INT against 4 passing TDs and 3 rushing TDs. Quinn Gray will once again hold a clipboard and be the team’s emergency QB.

Running Backs

Starter: Fred Taylor
Backup(s): Maurice Jones-Drew (rookie), Alvin Pearman, LaBrandon Toefield, Rich Alexis
Fullback(s): Derrick Wimbush

Starting RB: After averaging 4.6, 4.6, and 4.7 yards per rush attempt from 2002 through 2004, Taylor fell to a 4.1 YPR average in 2005 and sporadically missed games between weeks 5 and 14. He failed to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the first time since 2001, despite three seasons in a row where he rushed for over 1200 yards. He has not had double digit total TDs since 2000, and that does not look to change with bruising fullback Derrick Wimbuch likely to take goal line duties. The worst news on Taylor was that he was targeted a total of 18 times in the passing game. After averaging 44 catches from 2002 through 2004, one must wonder if Taylor is being phased out of the passing game in favor of Alvin Pearman. Given his injury history, his downward trend in production in 2005, Wimbush stealing goal line carries, and Jones-Drew or Pearman stealing passing game looks, Taylor is a risky fantasy selection.

Backup RBs: The story in the Jaguars rushing game is in the backups. Greg Jones was having a fantastic training camp before he was placed on Injured Reserve with a season-ending injury. Rooke Maurice Jones-Drew has also had a strong training camp and preseason. With Taylor and Jones-Drew locks to make the team, that leaves LaBrandon Toefield, Alvin Pearman, Rich Alexis, and Montell Owens to battle for the remaining spots. LeBrandon Toefield and Alvin Pearman are the favorites in that competition, and should both make the team. Toefield is very similar to Taylor in style of play, but he lost his spot on the depth chart last year to Alvin Pearman. Pearman is an exciting runner and a great receiver who could see action on third downs. In the 2006 draft, the team selected UCLA’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who will compete for the third RB spot and could compete with Pearman for return duties. Jones-Drew is a bit undersized, however, so his likely role is as a change of pace back.

Fullback: Wimbush becomes the starter at fullback with the injury to Greg Jones. Wimbush is a bruiser who will likely get carries in short-yardage situations.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford
Backups: Reggie Williams, Cortez Hankton, Felton Huggins

Starting WRs: The retirement of Jimmy Smith takes away Jacksonville’s top receiving option from the last few years. Smith had 128 targets in 2005. Matt Jones is the heir apparent to fill Smith's spot at split end. Jones, a converted college quarterback, was the team's first-round pick a year ago; he has great speed and playmaking ability, and was starting to develop a nice rapport with QB Byron Leftwich last season before Leftwich's season-ending knee injury. Likely returning to a starting role is Ernest Wilford, who displaced Reggie Williams from his starting spot during the 2005 season. Although he has limited speed, Wilford is a big-play receiver. He averaged 16.6 YPR and had 7 TDs last year.

Backup WRs: Reggie Williams has been a disappointment. He has loads of physical talent, and at 6’4”, 223 pounds, he has the right body type to be a dominant receiver. Williams lacks concentration on the ball, however, and he sometimes vanishes for long periods of the game. He also faces possible entrance into the NFL’s drug program for a marijuana possession charge that was settled with community service. Between 6’4” Wilford, 6’4” Williams, and 6’6” Jones, the Jaguars have a clear vision for what kind of receiver they want to field. The remaining receivers will battle for the fourth and fifth WR spots, but their fantasy value is limited.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kyle Brady
Backups: George Wrighster (RFA), Marcedes Lewis (rookie), Brian Jones, Todd Yoder

Kyle Brady re-signed with the Jaguars in 2005 to remain as the team’s blocking TE. He excels in that role, but is not a particularly effective receiver. So, in the 2006 draft, the Jaguars drafted Mackey Award winner Mercedes Lewis from UCLA in the 1st round. Lewis is 6’6” and 262 pounds, and is an exciting and excellent receiver. As the Bruins go-to receiver, he led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and TDs in 2005. Like Pro Bowl TEs Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzales, Lewis was recruited to play basketball and he transformed those skills into an excellent pass-catching TE. With career numbers of 126 receptions, 1571 yards, and 21 TDs, he set UCLA career records. With 10 TDs, he led all college TEs in 2005. Considered the second best TE in the 2006 draft, Lewis is expected to provide an athletic presence in the middle of the field with the size and speed to give opposing pass defenders nightmares. If HC Jack Del Rio can motivate him to give effort on every play, Lewis could evolve into an elite receiving tight end. Considering he also has good blocking technique and gets leverage against defenders, the Jaguars will certainly want to incorporate a lot of 2-TE sets into their offense to take advantage of Brady’s blocking and Lewis’ receiving. With Brady and Lewis sidelined during portions of training camp and the preseason, George Wrighster has made the most of his opportunity to shine in their place. He has had a strong camp, and may get the nod over Lewis in two tight end sets in the season opener. The remaining TEs on the roster provide depth in case of injuries.

Place Kicker

Josh Scobee : The 107 points scored by Scobee was the first time a Jaguars kicker went over the century mark since 2000. His accuracy remained steady for his second year, as he went 23 of 30 on FGs (76.7%). Only one of the misses was under 40 yards, with the remainder being over 40 yards where he was 7 of 13. Kickoffs continue to be Scobee’s strength. His 65.7 yard average and 20 touchbacks last year was among the NFL’s best.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Maurice Drew; Derrick Wimbush; Alvin Pearman; LaBrandon Toefield; Trestin George

Second round draft pick RB Maurice Drew returned kickoffs during his UCLA career, including two for TDs in one game. He’ll be given the opportunity to be the team’s return specialist. RB Derrick Wimbush was a pleasant surprise for the Jaguars last year. As an undrafted rookie out of Fort Valley State, he was the team’s primary kickoff returner (39 returns, 24.5 avg., 1 TD). The lead backup was another rookie, RB Alvin Pearman (8 returns, 23.4 avg.). RB LaBrandon Toefield hasn’t had any returns the last two year, but had 14 returns and a 19.4 average in 2003. Jacksonville signed undrafted DB Trestin George who returned kickoffs (27.3 avg., 16th), including one for a TD, for San Jose State last year.

Punt Returners: Maurice Drew; Alvin Pearman; Chad Owens; Rashean Mathis; Charles Sharon

Maurice Drew led the nation in punt return average (28.5 yards) last year, and returned three for TDs. Alvin Pearman turned in respectable numbers (49 returns, 8.4 avg.) as the lead punt returner. The rookie that was expected to have a big impact on special teams last year was WR Chad Owens. He scored five times on punt returns in 2004 at Hawaii, and then looked pretty good in practice and preseason. However, a disastrous week two outing (3 returns, 2.0 avg., 2 fumbles, 1 mishandle) landed him a spot on the practice squad for the rest of the year. His potential earns him another chance this year. CB Rashean Mathis has been used sparingly on punt returns by the Jaguars (one or two a year); however he has experience from back in college at Bethune-Cookman (55 returns, 11.6 avg., 2 TDs). Jacksonville signed undrafted WR Charles Sharon who returned punts (10.3 avg., 1 TD) and kickoffs during his career at Bowling Green.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: RT Maurice Williams, RG Chris Naeole, C Brad Meester, LG Mike Williams, LT Khalif Barnes
Key Backups: T Stockar McDougle, C Dennis Norman, G Vince Manuwai

The Jaguars offensive line had talent but was unable to put it all together on the field in 2005. New OL Coach Andy Heck has been promoted from assistant line coach and it will be his responsibility to get the most out of this group. This year the Jaguars will likely feature a new starter along the line starting with former 1st round pick of the Bills, Mike Williams who never was able to reach his awesome potential with his former team. He can be a great run blocker when motivated but has always struggled in pass protection due to suspect lateral movement. Slotting him in at guard should help hide that weakness and he is a crushing run-blocking who can drive opponents off the ball. The other guard will likely be veteran Chris Naeole although he didn’t play that well in 2005. He may find himself in a battle for the starting job with Vince Manuwai who struggled last year after a very good 2004 season. Also brought in this season was Stockar McDougle who could start at left tackle for the club. However, 2nd year player Khalif Barnes is very talented and should beat out McDougle for the starting job with a good camp as he played quite well as a rookie. Maurice Williams is a very good right tackle. He has great strength and is very tenacious on the field. At center Brad Meester is intelligent and has very good technique. Expect a rebound season from this unit that has the talent to be very good if they can gel and play up to their potential.

Team Defense

The Jacksonville Jaguars were 6th in the NFL in total defense, 14th in rushing defense and 6th in points allowed. They were also tied for 3rd in the league with 47 sacks. Head Coach Jack Del Rio, an ex-NFL star linebacker who had a reputation as a tough guy, has molded the team in his image. Once a finesse-type defense, the Jaguars now are a power defense. Joining Del Rio in the coaching ranks once again will be Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith. Where they were once a team built around their offense, they are now a team that revolves around the defense, and it all starts with their pair of mammoth DTs, John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. They employ a 4-3 defense and a linebacking unit led by veteran Mike Peterson and third year player Daryl Smith . Peterson is one the game's very best and is still in his prime. Smith is young and has a great knack for the game. Losing Akin Ayodele may hurt little and they have depth problems at linebacker and in their defensive backfield, although they made some draft picks that could step up and provide help. The Jaguars have the makings of a dominate defense this year, especially if Darius is healthy and they can find more depth.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Reggie Hayward, DE Paul Spicer, DT Marcus Stroud, DT John Henderson
Backups: DT Tony Williams, DE Marcellus Wiley, DE Bobby McCray

Starting DL: The Jaguars defense continues to revolve around their impressive tandem of tackles, John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Henderson, at 6'7" 330, is a menacing presence who can not only bat down passes at the line of scrimmage but get to the QB as well. He also is very effective against the run. Henderson was recently signed to a monster six-year deal. Stroud was the team's only pro bowl selection last year, his third appearance, but he had a down season with only 42 total tackles and one sack. Those numbers were Stroud's worst since his rookie season. He struggled with knee problems and the team hopes he's back to his old self in 2006. Regardless, Henderson and Stroud give the Jaguars the most impressive bookend tackles in the league. Reggie Hayward was signed last year to give the Jags a pass rushing threat and it worked, as the team had 47 sacks. Hayward, though, only had 8.5 and was a bit of a disappointment. He has an explosive first step but lacks some bulk and gets easily dominated when double-teamed. Paul Spicer heads into 2006 as the starter opposite Hayward and had a career-high 7.5 sacks last year. Spicer is not the most talented player and is a little slow, but he has a high motor and never quits. He's all about heart.

Backup DL: The Jaguars defense continues to revolve around their impressive tandem of tackles, John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Henderson, at 6'7" 330, is a menacing presence who can not only bat down passes at the line of scrimmage but get to the QB as well. He also is very effective against the run. Henderson was recently signed to a monster six-year deal. Stroud was the team's only pro bowl selection last year, his third appearance, but he had a down season with only 42 total tackles and one sack. Those numbers were Stroud's worst since his rookie season. He struggled with knee problems and the team hopes he's back to his old self in 2006. Regardless, Henderson and Stroud give the Jaguars the most impressive bookend tackles in the league. Reggie Hayward was signed last year to give the Jags a pass rushing threat and it worked, as the team had 47 sacks. Hayward, though, only had 8.5 and was a bit of a disappointment. He has an explosive first step but lacks some bulk and gets easily dominated when double-teamed. Paul Spicer heads into 2006 as the starter opposite Hayward and had a career-high 7.5 sacks last year. Spicer is not the most talented player and is a little slow, but he has a high motor and never quits. He's all about heart.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Mike Peterson, OLB Daryl Smith, OLB Pat Thomas
Backups: LB Nick Griesen, LB Tony Gilbert, LB James Kinney, LB Clint Ingram, LB Jorge Cordova

Starting LBs: This group is led by all-pro Mike Peterson. All Peterson did was get 131 total tackles, a career-high six sacks and three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Even though Peterson turns 30 years old in June, he hasn't lost anything and should have another powerhouse season. He has 100 or more tackles in six of his seven seasons, with the only exception being a season he missed seven games due to injury. There's very little he doesn't do well and he makes plays from all over the field. Daryl Smith continues to progress nicely and is entering his third year. He had four sacks last year and over 80 total tackles. Smith is an excellent tackler and excels against the run. He's a smart player with excellent instincts who has been effective since the day he became a Jaguar. He should eventually replace Mike Peterson in the middle when Peterson retires or moves on. Pat Thomas is a bit of a project. He was a 6 th round pick in last year's draft. A hamstring injury hindered in preseason and Thomas never really caught up, but he did have an impressive game in the last week of the regular season when he finally got playing time. He's very athletic and understands the game and could be one to watch out for in 2006.

Backup LBs: Nick Greisen was signed to compete for Ayodele's vacant LB spot. Greisen has had some NFL success, having started his share of games for the Giants the last two seasons. Greisen is not very fast, but he's a physical player who hits hard and excels against the run. Clint Ingram was drafted in the third round and should battle Greisen for the starting linebacker job. Ingram is a great athlete with good size and speed. Tony Gilbert has contributed mainly on special teams to this point, but with their lack of LB depth, he could play a much larger role this year. Ideally, Gilbert plays in the middle. Greg Favors has played his share of DL, but Jacksonville will be once again lining him up at LB this year, mostly in a supporting role. Jorge Cordova was a third round pick in 2004 and is a very strong player who can line up at DL if necessary. He missed all of 2004 with a torn ACL to his left knee. If healthy, Cordova is a high motor player that could make an impact as a situational pass rusher.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Donovin Darius, FS Deon Grant, CB Rashean Mathis, CB Brian Williams
Backups: S Gerald Sensabaugh, CB Scott Starks, CB Terry Cousin, S Nick Sorenson

Starting DBs: – It was just a year ago when Donovin Darius was pressuring the team to trade or release him. The 30 year old Darius missed the last 14 games of the season with a torn knee ligament. He is a conditioning fiend and he has been rehabbing nicely. He is way ahead of schedule and seems ready today to play at full speed. When healthy, Darius has consistently produced between 75-90 tackles per year and he hits hard. He had a career-high 87 total tackles in 2004. Brian Williams is a high priced free agent acquisition from Minnesota. He had actually lost his starting job last year to Fred Smoot. When Smoot got hurt, Williams came back and started the last half of the season. Williams has good size, is very quick, and he can make plays, but many felt the team overpaid for him. At 27 years old, safety Deon Grant has been a very consistent performer. In his last five seasons, Grant has had between 65-77 tackles and 2-5 interceptions per year. Although he doesn't have tremendous instincts, he hits hard and plays under control. Cornerback Rashean Mathis was a second round pick in the 2003 draft and has started every game of his three NFL seasons. He has ten interceptions in the last two years. He's another solid player, although he is a little mistake prone and needs to work on his tackling skills.

Backup DBs: Gerald Sensabaugh was a rookie last year and it showed. He garnished some playing time when Deke Cooper did not play well and made several costly mistakes, especially in the playoffs. He was a fifth round pick in last year's draft. The team likes his athleticism and believes he will become a starter some day and view him as a playmaker. CB Terry Cousin had a good season last year with 46 total tackles and a career-high four interceptions, but at 31 years old, the team might want to look for younger players. Jacksonville is his sixth NFL team. He's undersized but is a good tackler who isn't afraid to come up and play the run. At the very least, he can continue to play a vital role in their dime and nickel defenses. Second year CB Scott Starks got an early start and worked out in Jacksonville weeks before their offseason program began and hopes to unseat Terry Cousin as the main nickel back. Starks is a physical player with good speed but at 5'8" 174 is very undersized. Nick Sorenson is mainly special teams player, although he's been good enough at it to last six years.

Last modified: 2006-08-30 16:08:01



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