If the Jaguars are to live up to the high expectations of this season (some are talking Super Bowl), there is a roadmap they’ll have to follow to make that 170 mile trip to Tampa.
Here are the landmark’s they’ll have to hit in order to be a contender for the Lombardi Trophy.
1. Shore up the offensive line. The Jaguars didn’t pass protect very well in the preseason. Sometimes that doesn’t mean anything once teams start gameplanning. But David Garrard got hit too many times in the preseason. The left tackle position is very much in the spotlight. Khalif Barnes needs to play better and with Richard Collier out of the picture as he recovers from the shooting, there isn’t much depth there. For the time being, Dennis Norman and Mo Williams are the best options behind Barnes, and they are currently the starting center (until Brad Meester returns) and the starting right guard.
2. Find a reliable receiver on 3rd down. This has been an issue since Jimmy Smith retired. Despite David Garrard’s history of spreading the ball around, he needs someone he can go to when the chips are down. There is a chance that guy might not be a wide receiver. Tight End Mercedes Lewis is a candidate. Last year, the Jaguars won a playoff game on the road without THAT guy. If they can unearth a go-to receiver, they can take the next step.
3. Develop a Pass Rush. The Jaguars knew this was a weakness last year. That’s why they drafted Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. I also expect to see Gregg Williams blitz a lot more that we saw with Mike Smith’s defense in the past. You can get away with that against a lot of quarterbacks, but the two guys the Jaguars must pressure are, of course, Peyton Manning, whom they’ll see twice this year, and Tom Brady, who beat them last year in the playoffs. The Giants pressured Brady without blitzing in the Super Bowl. The Jaguars would love to be able to do that if they meet New England in the playoffs again.
4. Win the Division. If the Jaguars don’t win the division, they won’t have any home playoff games. If they don’t have any home playoff games, they’ll have to do it on the road again. That’s not a good recipe for a trip to the Super Bowl. To win the division, the Jaguars will need a strong start. By the time October arrives, they will have played every other team in the AFC South. We’ll know alot about what the Jaguars are playing for by then.
5. Win on Special Teams. The Jaguars haven’t won a lot of game on special teams in the past, although they did improve last year. I’m looking for Brian Witherspoon to make a big difference in the return game this year.