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Jaguars report: Inside slant

The Sports Xchange

Sep. 2, 2010

Inside slant · Notes, quotes · Strategy and personnel

Jacksonville knew coming into training camp that if the offensive and defensive line play wasn't better in 2010, there wouldn't be much reason to think its record would be any better. After a month of training camp and three preseason games, what's been shown on the field at this point has not given reason to think a lot has changed from a year ago.

Some of the numbers on paper look better, such as the Jaguars having nine sacks in three games and only allowing quarterback David Garrard to get sacked three times. That's significantly different than the 14 total sacks the Jaguars recorded in 2009 and the 44 times they allowed their quarterback to get dropped trying to pass.

But Jacksonville has not played its starters enough in the three preseason games to conclude that there is a reversal of numbers coming in 2010. The offensive line could very well end up being the same group that started the majority of games a year ago. Granted the two tackles, Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, should be better after experiencing tough rookie seasons but the other three positions remain suspect.

The play of the two guards and center was a concern last year and remains that way this season. With the regular-season opener less than two weeks away, the club is still uncertain who will start at which guard spot. Center Brad Meester has slimmed down from a year ago, but at 33, he's definitely loss a step and is most likely playing his final season.

The Jaguars did nothing to help the receiving corps. It's the same unit minus Torry Holt from a year ago when Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas combined for 111 receptions. But the next high total from that receiver group was Jarett Dillard who caught six passes. That leaves the Jaguars with two average receivers and a handful of youngsters trying to make the roster.

Defensively the line is young and full of energy for the most part. Tackles Terrance Knighton was a hit as a rookie and this year's first-round pick Tyson Alualu could be even better. But the two pass-rushing ends remain suspect. Aaron Kampman is one of the best in the league when he's at his prime, but after knee surgery in December, there's some doubt if he'll be at his best, less than a year removed from the surgery.

Derrick Harvey has not even been an average pass rusher in his two seasons. The team's first-round draft pick in 2008 has totaled just 5.5 sacks in two seasons. Coach Jack Del Rio said Harvey has had a strong camp and looks solid this year, but Harvey still only got to the quarterback once in the first three preseason games.

When there is a lack of pass rush, the secondary must work overtime and it did so in 2009. The hope was that this unit would also improve, hand-in-hand with the defensive line. But with one preseason game remaining, Del Rio still hasn't announced who has won the two starting jobs at safety. Cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox will open at their familiar spots, but the safety spots are up for grabs among four players, none of whom made a lasting impression in training camp.

Following the team's third preseason game, Garrard proclaimed "this offense is ready to open the season," despite the fact that running back Maurice Jones-Drew was credited with minus-2 yards in six carries in his only action in two preseason games. Injuries, or the fear of getting players injured, have kept a number of starters either on the sidelines or seeing limited playing time in the preseason. Based on the numbers it's put up, the offense is not ready to play Denver in the regular-season opener Sept. 12.

The Jaguars have addressed their weak areas from a year ago with mixed results. Some appear to have gotten better like the defensive line and offensive tackles while others, like the secondary and receiving group, look to be the same people just trying to do a better job.

It's not the formula that will turn a 7-9 team a year ago into serious playoff contenders a year later. The team is on the right track with its draft picks the past two years and acquiring Pro Bowl talent in the likes of Kampman and Kassim Osgood. It's just that building a winner takes time and the Jaguars are not at that stage, not yet anyway.


Jack Del Rio, 8th year, 8th with Jaguars (58-57).


2009 record: 7-9 (4th in AFC South).


2010 regular-season record: 8-8 (3rd in AFC South).

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