No one outside the NE Florida area really knows anything about the Jags, so this is my annual "get to know the men in Teal" thread.
This is year 3 of the Gene Smith (GM) era, following the total devastation that was Shack Harris. Your first round picks should be the base of your franchise. Shack Harris had 6 picks. Only 1 was worthy.
2003: Byron Leftwich: After being dumped by Jax, Leftwich has never been more than a second stringer.
2004: Reggie Williams: Total drugged out bust
2005: Matt Jones: 90% drugged out bust
2006: Marcedes Lewis - Home Run
2007: Reggie Nelson - Never been any more than another warm body
2008: Derrick Harvey - Traded numerous picks to get him, he's just a warm body.
None remain with the team: 2 are out of football.
His track record with free agency and contracts were just as bad. He poured 60 million into a contract for David Garrard after his first good season, when he was still under contract for another year. Garrard was never more than an average QB ever again.
In 2008 the team hit rock bottom. 5-11, more arrests than the Bengals, and the money Harris spent on Free Agents was money down the drain. For example Jerry Porter got 10 million for 1 year and 11 catches.
So after the season, Wayne Weaver fired Shack Harris and made Gene Smith GM and gave him total control. Gene believes in character, and the 5-11 team was purged.
He's a build thru the draft guy, who in 3 drafts has held a consistent theme (except for 1 pick). Big guys in first 2 rounds from major schools, and guys from small schools in most of the other rounds.
2009 #1 Eugene Monroe Left Tackle, Virginia
2009 #2 Eben Britton Right Tackle, Arizona
2009 #3 Terrance Knighton, DT, Temple
2010 #1 Tyson Alualu DT California
2010 #3 D'Anthony Smith DT La Tech
2011 #1 Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
2011 #3 Will Rackley, Left Guard, Lehigh
Gene was universally praised locally (so much so that the catch phrase was "In Gene We Trust"). And he still has great support, but there are a chinks in the armor. Monroe has been decent, but not great so far. Britton has been hurt much of his career. D'Anthony Smith has been on Injured Reserve his entire career.
In his 2 years in control Smith has taken the Jags from 5-11 to 7-9 and then 8-8. Both of his years experienced late season collapses. 4 straight games to end 2009 and 3 straight in 2010.
Heading into the off-season the biggest needs were shoring up the defense which was one of the leagues worst especially against the pass. They needed Linebackers and defensive backfield help. And they needed to find their QB of the future.
In the draft the pulled off one of the major surprises and moved up four spots to get the consensus #1 Qb in the draft in Gabbert. And so far they love him. But they got another OL in round 3 (#2 was traded for Gabbert), and a WR in round 4. They didn't get any LB's and the only DB was a 5th rounder out of Wyoming.
So they needed to strike in Free Agency and they did. LB's Paul Pozluzny and Clint Sessions signed. In addition they signed safety Dawan Landry and corner Drew Coleman. All should be the solid "base hit" kind of player Gene likes. (they don't have to be home runs, just don't miss. Singles and doubles are fine).
The Jags looked shaky as best in preseason:
Maurice Jones-Drew missed almost all of it recuperating from off-season knee surgery
Eben Britton missed almost all of it after shoulder surgery
Aaron Kampman missed almost all if it
Tyson Alulu missed half of it
Terrance Knighton missed half of it
the offensive line was porous.
the dline got no pressure
And David Garrard was playing as if he was in a stupor.
And then 1 hour before contracts became official, the Jags released Garrard. The rest of the sports world that doesn't pay attention to the Jags see this as a cost cutting measure that sets them back as they transition to Gabbert.
What the locals know: Luke McCown has vastly overplayed Garrard over the last couple years. He had just been handed the starting job last year when he went down for year in preseason with an ACL.
He consistently looks better in preseason and practice. Garrard had lost the team. When they voted team captains, 5 were named but he wasn't one of them even though he had been the last 2 years.
After every series Blaine Gabbert played, he'd come to the bench and talk to McCown. When McCown would replace Garrard, he'd come into the huddle to high fives. The offensive line play was so bad with Garrard in the game, that Tony Boselli wondered out loud on a broadcast what many were thinking. Is the O line tanking on purpose to sabotage Garrard? The lineman would almost never help Garrard up.
When he was cut on Tuesday, a sportswriter's tweat had an anonymous quote from a Jags players saying something along the lines of "it's not that we lost confidence in him. We never had it"
So where do we stand going into the season:
Jags have what appears to be a tough schedule. They have games against
Jets (playoff team)
New Orleans (playoff team)
Baltimore (playoff team)
Pittsburgh (Super Bowl team)
Indianapolis twice (playoff team)
Atlanta (playoff team)
So a lot depends on how good Indy and Texans are. If they are good, this is a killer schedule.
But they should be better at QB no matter what the media says. The defense should be much better. They have their QB of the future.
They need to take care of business against the lesser teams. That's why a win in week 1 against Titans is critical.