The Jaguars will make the playoffs this year.
In a weak division, teams need to gel and hit their peak at the right time. I said after the draft that once Blaine Gabbert gets in this line-up, that – due to the bad defense from last year and the smart offensive system and great variety of weapons-, he could make a run at Dan Marino’s record.
What’s changed since then is that Cecil Shorts isn’t developing quite as fast as I figured he would, Rashad Jennings went to IR and now the defense is much stronger with the additions of Paul Posluszny and Dawan Landry. The defensive line is also getting a lot more physical, as evidenced on Sunday against the Titans.
The Jaguars are an elite ball control offense because short passes to great receiving backs are more effective than a strong running game. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has transitioned the Jaguars to good running team with a lot of play-action, leading to check-downs to great receiving backs and a nasty tight end in Marcedes Lewis. 156 of their 291 completions last season were to non-wide receivers and their four main non-WRs had an 8.6 or higher yards-per-catch.
Compare that to other famous tandems of the Giants and Patriots. 120 of the Giants’ 339 completions were to non-WRs with Ahmad Bradshaw having just 6.7 yards-per-catch, Brandon Jacobs not being used in the receiving game much, and Kevin Boss – now with Oakland – with a surprisingly-high 15.2 yards-per-catch. 154 of the Patriots’ 331 completions were to non-WRs but their top two tight ends and RB Danny Woodhead were frequently deployed like wide receivers. Beyond just their O-line and extremely accurate quarterback, the way their offense dominated was with outlet receivers doing things after the catch. Their top three non-wideouts averaged at least 11.1 yards-per-catch, yet they still didn’t use their tight ends and backfield in the receiving game as much as the Jaguars.
With the emphasis on throwing to backs and tight ends, it still wasn’t surprising that the Jaguars decided to run more. Playing a Titans team struggling on offense – 1 first down in the first half – and this being Luke McCown’s first real action with the first team, the Jaguars ran 47 times at home vs. the Titans. This game against the Jets is quite crucial and the Jets just have too many playmakers. Most troubling is that one of the few playmakers the Jaguars have, Lewis, might not play.
Houston is the undisputed best team in this division and – due to schedule – it’s hard to believe (even if they go 4-0 vs. Colts and Titans) the Jaguars can pass both the Jets who are more talented and the Steelers or Ravens who are more talented and have easier schedules. I’m going to go with fiction. Jack Del Rio will get fired.
Steve Smith is a viable #1 receiver again.
Smith has long been lumped in with the Terrell Owens, and former Panther Keyshawn Johnson as a diva-type receiver. However, now, critics have been attempting to lump him in with Randy Moss as an over-the-hill receiver.
Steve Smith is a workout warrior who always has a chip on his shoulder. His drive to win games sometimes manifests itself in temporarily harmful ways but I think – overall – his teammates love him and his intensity. While some rightfully question the ability for Randy Moss to focus and transition his game into his twilight, Steve Smith will continue to be physical with DB’s and work relentlessly to get on the same page as Cam Newton. 1300 yards would be great at his age, but if Cam continues to work hard under Mike Shula and get better, this could end up as reality since Smith has the ability to go up and fight for a long pass. I expect more around 930 yards and 7 TDs but that’s what a real #1 would in fact do in an offense with 4 great tight ends, a great running game and a rookie QB.