JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
It’s difficult to expect major improvement upon the Jaguars’ paltry 15.9 points per game in 2012 until the QB position is stabilized. Fortunately, former GM Gene Smith left a nice parting gift for the new regime: WRs Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, two bright spots amid a dark and difficult season. What’s more, the return of RB Maurice Jones-Drew gives the Jags a bonafide “bell cow” back.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
QB — Blaine Gabbert progressed slightly in his second season before going on injured reserve in November, but he did little to convince anyone that he is a franchise QB. Gabbert’s replacement, Chad Henne, gave Jacksonville’s toothless attack a boost in his first two starts before struggling down the stretch. Both men will compete for the job in camp, but new GM David Caldwell’s biggest focus is finding a franchise signalcaller.
OL — With the exception of OLT Eugene Monroe and road-grading ORG Uche Nwaneri, there are a lot of question marks from a group that allowed 50 sacks in 2012. Soon to turn 36, C Brad Meester’s best days are behind him. OLG Will Rackley missed his entire second season with an ankle injury and remains an unknown. Right tackle, in particular, needs to be upgraded.
RB — The good news for the Jaguars is that Drew doesn’t plan to hold out for the second straight offseason. However, “Mojo,” whose contract expires after 2013, missed the last 10 games with a foot injury. His backup, Rashad Jennings, is a free agent who failed to make the most of his opportunities and missed six games because of injuries.
Jacksonville nosedived from the NFL’s sixth-ranked stop-unit in 2011 to 30th a season ago. Quite simply, the Jaguars lack playmakers throughout the defense. Their 4-3 scheme relies heavily on pressure coming from the front four, but without it, the jobs of the DBs are too difficult. A number of Jacksonville’s best defenders, including CB Derek Cox, SLB Daryl Smith and DT Terrance Knighton, are all free agents.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
DE — The Jaguars notched just 20 sacks in 2012, the lowest total in the NFL. Jeremy Mincey regressed after parlaying a career season in ’11 into a new deal. Second-rounder Andre Branch was demoted in midseason and managed just one sack. Easily Jacksonville’s best pass rusher is veteran Jason Babin, snatched off waivers in December, but he’ll be 33 this spring.
CB — Jacksonville’s two top corners, Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis, have expired contracts. Cox is very talented but injury prone. Mathis, who is 32, never returned to form following a knee injury in 2011. Free-agent acquisition Aaron Ross was too uneven. Rookie Mike Harris exceeded expectations, showing a confident, ball-hawking style of play.
OLB — The Jaguars are in good shape in the middle, where Paul Posluszny shined for the second straight season. Injuries rocked the outside ’backer spots, however, with stalwart Daryl Smith missing 15 games because of a groin injury and Clint Session missing the entire season because of concussions. Session’s playing career is in peril, and Smith (31 on March 14) is a free agent.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (5): WR Justin Blackmon / Oklahoma State (GP/GS: 16/14)
Skinny: Blossomed in second half to lead rookies in catches, yards.
2nd round (38): DE Andre Branch / Clemson (GP/GS: 13/3)
Skinny: Could not make an impact on pass-rush-starved unit.
3rd round (70): P Bryan Anger / California (GP/GS: 16/0)
Skinny: Handled pressure of draft status well. Had booming 47.8 gross.
5th round (142): OLB Brandon Marshall / Nevada (GP/GS: 5/0)
Skinny: Cut in October and later re-signed. Special-teams guy.
6th round (176): CB Mike Harris / Florida State (GP/GS: 15/6)
Skinny: Confident, athletic CB seized opportunity in second half.
7th round (228): NT Jeris Pendleton / Ashland (GP/GS: 4/0)
Skinny: Healthy scratch first three-quarters of the season.
SUMMARY: Blackmon, Anger appear to be the real deal. Harris has upside. Hard to ignore disappointment of Branch, though.
Pro Football Weekly's 2013 Draft Guide is now available at stores where magazines are sold. It can also be ordered online at the PFWStore or by calling 1-800-FOOTBALL.