The Jaguars have a short week as they get ready for the final preseason game of the year. They’ll travel Wednesday to play on Thursday in Washington against the Redskins.
Here’s what the Jaguars have to improve on before the season begins in less than two weeks:
Pass rush–This was a problem last season, especially against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The Jaguars couldn’t get any pressure on them which led to an 0-3 record against the league’s two best quarterbacks. After showing up in the first pre-season game against second and third teamers, rookie second round pick Quentin Groves hasn’t been a factor against first teamers. With Derrick Harvey still not signed and questions about how long it will take him to be a factor once he is. Reggie Hayward return from a nagging hamstring injury was a plus, but the lingering question with Hayward is how his legs will hold up.
Attacking with the passing game–Part of the lack of a deep passing game must be attributed to the lack of Jerry Porter, who might be back in the lineup on Thursday. Troy Williamson was signed to add some deep speed, but he hasn’t been much of a factor in the preseson. He has been nursing a hip/groin injury, but I’m not liking what I’m seeing from him since the pads went on. It’s more acute when Cleo Lemon is in the game. The Jaguars just can’t expect him to throw deep. Then again, if Lemon is in, that means that David Garrard is not and that’s not a good sign.
Health of Maurice Jones-Drew–We’re told that the injury is not serious and that if this were the regular season, Drew certainly would have played. With the passing game not showing much in the way of a downfield threat, Drew, perhaps the Jaguars best playmaker, needs to play a big role.
Pass protection–Especially on the left side where tackles Khalif Barnes and Richard Collier haven’t done a very good job keeping the pressure off David Garrard. Perhaps that’s another reason why the deep passing game has lagged behind. When camp began, Barnes and Collier were in a competition for the starting job. Neither one of them looks like a starter right now.
Jerry Porter’s hamstring–Last week, there were rumblings about Porter perhaps playing in this final preseason game. Is he healed up? There is certainly going to be a learning curve for Porter as he gets more comfortable with David Garrard and the sooner he can get on the field in a game and they can start working on that quarterback/receiver relationship that is so important. As it stands right now, Reggie Williams would start at one receiver spot with Dennis Northcutt, Matt Jones and Mike Walker as candidates for the other side.
The middle of the field-Early last season, the Jaguars were vulnerable in the middle of the field, meaning between the linebackers and safeties and inside the numbers. That’s been the case this preseason. Is that a product of the new defense? Maybe. I’m going to keep an eye on this during the regular season.
Notes: Jerry Porter likely won’t play this week. Jack Del Rio said that he wants to see Porter practice at least a week or two before he puts him in the game. Porter hasn’t practiced since hamstring surgery in July…The Jaguars signed Jacksonville native and former Gator Ciatric Fason to a contract. He’ll likely get some carries on Thursday with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew (ankle) not likely to play.