Couldn't agree more. Berman is one of the top 10 (wait...let's double check ESPN's roster...), top 5 talents ESPN has. In fact, I propose a White House petition to bring back, back, back, back, back the Berman/Jackson NFL Primetime.
QB Cleo Lemon, QB Todd Bouman, WR Jerry Porter, WR Troy Williamson, DE Bo Schobel, CB Drayton Florence, S Pierson Prioleau.
RB Chauncey Washington, DE Derrick Harvey, DE Quentin Groves, ILB Thomas Williams, CB Trae Williams.
QB Lester Ricard, RB LaBrandon Toefield, WR Ernest Wilford, OT Stockar McDougle, G Chris Naeole, DE Bobby McCray, DT Marcus Stroud, DT Grady Jackson, OLB Kenneth Pettway, OLB Chris Claiborne, CB Terry Cousin, CB Aaron Glenn, S Sammy Knight, S Lamont Thompson.
2008 Jacksonville Jaguars Offense:
Jack Del Rio received tons of criticism when he cut Byron Leftwich a week before the start of the 2007 regular season. I actually loved the move; I had been saying that choosing David Garrard over Leftwich would instantly improve the team. Still, I understood why the critics questioned the release. How do you get rid of your starting quarterback nine days prior to Kickoff Sunday? I wanted Garrard to play ahead of Leftwich, but I never expected Del Rio to go as far as release Leftwich.
Well, Del Rio had the last laugh. Garrard, once considered a mid-round project from East Carolina, turned into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. In 12 starts, Garrard threw for 2,509 yards, 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Garrard's abilities to take care of the ball and avoid easy sacks (unlike Leftwich) were the reason why Jacksonville ranked sixth in offense, averaging 25.7 points per game. Garrard's 2007 campaign was defined by a 32-yard run on fourth-and-two, setting up the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter against the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. The following week, Garrard had his Jaguars going toe-to-toe with the invincible Patriots; Garrard went 22-of-33 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, even though his receivers let him down with a few key drops.
Jacksonville's receiving corps has been a huge disappointment ever since it lost Jimmy Smith. You can blame that on the front office spending numerous first-round selections on busts. Matt Jones has been the worst, as he managed only 24 catches and 317 yards in 12 games. Reggie Williams, meanwhile, also disappointed in the yardage department, accumulating 629, though it should be noted he had 10 touchdowns. Dennis Northcutt was the squad's top wide out in 2007, which was sad considering the Cleveland Browns didn't want anything to do with him anymore. Northcutt had 44 receptions, 601 yards and four scores.
In an attempt to improve this unit, the Jaguars signed Jerry Porter and traded for Troy Williamson, both of whom are currently penciled into the starting lineup. I can summarize this in one word: Ugh. I seriously feel sorry for Garrard. Instead of giving him reliable targets, management matched him up with a perennial underachiever and one of the greatest draft busts in this decade. Even so, Porter could be the best receiver Jacksonville has employed since Smith.
With the Jaguars' receiving corps in shambles, it's obvious they're able to move the chains on a consistent basis because of their ground attack. After numerous injury-ridden seasons early in his career, Fred Taylor has turned into a reliable 1,200-yard runner. Taylor had 1,202 yards and five touchdowns in 2007 (5.4-yard average), which is remarkable because he shared half of his carries with Maurice Jones-Drew. As for Jones-Drew, the human bowling ball pitched in with 768 rushing yards, 407 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Taylor turned 32, so Jones-Drew could see more of the workload. That said, Taylor hasn't received more than 260 carries since 2003, so the wear and tear of a normal 32-year-old back isn't there just yet.
You can thank a superb offensive line for Jacksonville's scoring success, as the team ranked second in running the ball and Garrard was sacked only 21 times in 12 starts. The front is anchored by stout offensive tackles Khalif Barnes and Tony Pashos. With right guard Vince Manuwai and center Brad Meester both solid, the only concern I have with the line is left guard Uche Nwaneri. Nwaneri, taking the place of the pedestrian Chris Naeole, has just one career start under his belt. Nwaneri will have to learn on the job, which should be easy for him considering he'll be playing right next to four really solid blockers.
I can't see Jacksonville's offense being worse than it was in 2007. But I can't really see it being much better, save for either Porter or Williamson having a break-out campaign. Still, I can't really blame the NFL's sixth-ranked offense for sitting on its laurels.
2008 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense:
If you told Jack Del Rio that his defense would miss one of its enormous defensive tackles (Marcus Stroud) for seven games, and it still would be ranked 10th in the NFL, he would have taken it. The Jaguars have since traded Stroud away, acquiring two extra draft picks from Buffalo.
Jacksonville used some of its many picks to trade up for Derrick Harvey, and it used its next selection on another defensive end, Quentin Groves. The team has clearly been paying attention to how the Giants won the Super Bowl and obviously wishes to emulate Steve Spagnuolo's pressure scheme.
However, despite the Jaguars spending their first two selections on ends to join Paul Spicer and the oft-injured Reggie Hayward, this tactic may not work - at least not right away. Defensive ends usually take a while to transition to the NFL (see Mario Williams). The thing is, neither Harvey nor Groves will be an every-down end in 2008. They'll be in on passing situations, so if their only focus is getting to the quarterback on a handful of plays, they could find some early success in this league.
With Harvey coming in and Stroud going out, the Jaguars are left with just one monstrous defensive tackle. Sort of. Stroud has frequently been in and out of the lineup the past few seasons, missing 12 games since 2006. So, does Jacksonville have a void next to John Henderson? Not likely - the team just signed Rob Meier to a four-year extension in May. Meier may not be as massive as Stroud, but he can get to the quarterback. In seven starts, Meier had four sacks.
Though they have some concerns up front, the Jaguars are pretty set at linebacker. Manning the middle is Mike Peterson, who has been a force since he signed with the team in 2003. Peterson just turned 32, but he's in a contract year. Jacksonville's top linebacker is Daryl Smith, who plays on the weak side. It's a shame Smith is a Jaguar because he'd get so much more publicity in a larger market. Meanwhile, Justin Durant, entering his second season, has cemented his spot at strongside linebacker. Durant started the final eight contests of the 2007 campaign, including the two playoff games.
My main concern with Jacksonville's defense last season was at the strong safety position. Donovin Darius just left, and all the front office did was plan to go with journeyman Sammy Knight and unproven Gerald Sensabaugh. Well, Sensabaugh suffered a serious injury early on, leaving Knight as the only reliable player there. Sensabaugh is back, but the Jaguars plan on moving Brian Williams from corner to strong safety. Williams is currently penciled in as the starter.
Taking Williams' place across from the Pro Bowl-caliber Rashean Mathis is the newly acquired Drayton Florence, who played in San Diego his entire five-year career. I'm not a big fan of Florence's, but he can't be much worse than Williams. Meanwhile, Williams should be better than Knight, so Jacksonville's juggling of the secondary should work out.
Rounding out the unit is free safety Reggie Nelson, who started every game from Week 2 on for the Jaguars. Nelson led the squad with five interceptions.
Jacksonville should be able to maintain its defensive ranking (10th), but it really depends on how quickly Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves develop. If the Jaguars strike gold with one of these guys, watch out.
2008 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule and Intangibles:
Jacksonville's hot and humid climate contributes to its outstanding 67-37 home record since 1995. The team had problems winning on the road (2-6 in 2006) prior to the 2007 campaign; it was 5-2 last year (5-3 if you count when all the bench players battled the Texans).
Josh Scobee was just 7-of-13 from beyond 40 yards in 2005. Credit Jack Del Rio for sticking with him; Scobee improved, connecting on 17-of-23 attempts from the same distance the past two years, though only one of those tries was from 50-plus.
Rookie punter Adam Podlesh struggled last year, maintaining a 41.6 average and hitting just 14 punts inside the opposing 20. As a reference, Jacksonville's foes had an average of 43.5 and 24 inside the 20. The Jaguars are sticking with Podlesh again, so they better hope he improves.
The past two years, the Jaguars have returned a touchdown and surrendered two. Maurice Jones-Drew took one back to the house on a kickoff. Dennis Northcutt never went the distance, but averaged a respectable 9.2 yards per return.
The NFL didn't do Jacksonville any favors with the schedule. The team opens at Tennessee, battles an upstart Bills squad in between that contest and a road trip to Indianapolis. After the Texans, the Jaguars have a rematch with the Steelers. They then go to Mile High and battle the Browns at home. Doesn't sound like good times to me. Luckily, the slate eases up, though two of the final three games are against the Packers and Colts.
2008 Jacksonville Jaguars Analysis: One problem the Jaguars have always had was not playing up to expectations against lesser opponents. They were always swept by the Texans because they had their mind on playing the Colts or another powerhouse. Well, that changed last year. Starting in Week 2, Jacksonville beat every team it was supposed to when David Garrard was under center. Take away Kickoff Weekend, and the Jaguars were 9-2 with Garrard under center, losing only to Indianapolis twice.
Was Garrard that much of a difference? I think so. The Jaguars became a focused team with him at the helm. While Jacksonville finished 11-5 in 2007, remember that two losses came with Quinn Gray, and a third was just nine days after Byron Leftwich was cut. They're an elite team that has inched very close to Indianapolis.
Projection: 13-3 (1st in AFC South)
2008 Fantasy Football Rankings:
David Garrard: David Garrard has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. He's not an elite fantasy quarterback, however, because his receivers suck and Jack Del Rio loves to pound the ball. Garrard had 2,509 yards and 18 touchdowns in 12 starts last season, which translates to 3,345 yards and 24 touchdowns over a 16-game slate, which isn't exactly terrible.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 3,150 passing yards. 22 passing TDs. 225 rushing yards. 1 rushing TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 317.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Everyone (including myself) always seems to expect Maurice Jones-Drew to supplant Fred Taylor as Jacksonville's yardage leader. Yet, Taylor had about 450 more yards than Jones-Drew. In fact, Jones-Drew had more than 15 carries just once last season. So, what's all the hype? Jones-Drew scores all the touchdowns and gets a lot of balls thrown his way. He had nine scores and 40 receptions in 2007.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 900 rushing yards. 400 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 190.
Fred Taylor: Fred Taylor just won't go away. At age 31, Taylor still totaled 1,202 yards and five touchdowns, and showed no signs of slowing down. If you're a Maurice Jones-Drew fantasy owner, be prepared for another season of absolutely loathing Taylor.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,000 rushing yards. 40 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 134.
Marcedes Lewis: Not much to get excited about here; Jacksonville doesn't throw the ball that often, so Marcedes Lewis will never put up elite numbers in this offense.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 490 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 67.
Jerry Porter: Excluding Jimmy Smith, Jerry Porter is the best receiver David Garrard has ever worked with. But saying Porter is better than Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford is like saying Carl Winslow looks very slim compared to Sally Struthers and Roseanne.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 750 receiving yards. 6 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 111.
Dennis Northcutt: Not much to say here. Yet another mediocre Jaguars receiver who won't put up any stats of significance.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 550 receiving yards. 4 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 79.
Reggie Williams: Thanks to his 6-4, 212-pound frame, Reggie Williams was able to catch 10 touchdowns in 2007, most of which came late in the year. I wouldn't count on a repeat performance, though he's worth drafting late in a touchdown league.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 525 receiving yards. 4 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 76.
Troy Williamson: I can't believe a smart team like the Jaguars are wasting their time with this bum. They really have a bad eye for receivers.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 350 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 41.
Josh Scobee: You won't get any 50-yard field goals from Josh Scobee, but he's pretty reliable from 40-49 yards out.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 23-27 FG (0-1 50+). 48 XP.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 123.
Jacksonville Defense: The Jaguars have made it clear that they want to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season. If they manage to do that, they'll get more turnovers. If not, they're still a solid defense.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 15 Defense.
2008 NFL Draft Grade:
Everyone's criticizing the Jaguars for moving up so high for Derrick Harvey, and I wasn't a huge fan of it, but think about it this way - if Harvey becomes a Pro Bowler and a perennial double-digit sack artist, it's all a moot point. I liked Jacksonville's strategy; it appears as though it's copying off the Giants. Jack Del Rio's squad needs to put as much pressure on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as possible. Harvey and Quentin Groves should be able to do that ... Chauncey Washington could be a steal at No. 213; he was a fourth- or a fifth-round prospect in many eyes. ... Trae Williams fills a need as a depth corner. He was good value at 159.
Thomas Williams wasn't bad at pick 155, but the selection could have been used on a defensive tackle to replace Marcus Stroud.
Grade give on 4/29/08: A-
2008 NFL Draft Picks:
8. Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
I like Derrick Harvey, but did the Jaguars have to trade all the way up to eight to get him? I doubt he was going before the Lions. (Pick Grade: C)
41. Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn
That said, I love Jacksonville's strategy. They clearly plan on copying the Giants and putting immense pressure on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The Jaguars just became even more dangerous than they were last year. (Pick Grade: A)
155. Thomas Williams, ILB, USC
I guess the Jaguars are serious about rebuilding their defense, huh? Thomas Williams figures to be excellent linebacker depth. (Pick Grade: B)
159. Trae Williams, CB, South Florida
Another "T.Williams?" Someone who works for the Jaguars is pissed off. That said, Trae Williams is a decent pick in the fifth round for a team that needs depth at corner, especially with Brian Williams potentially moving to strong safety. (Pick Grade: A)
213. Chauncey Washington, RB, USC
Chauncey Washington could have been picked in the fourth round. No surprise to see the Jaguars land a sleeper running back. (Pick Grade: A)
I can't take credit for this. Bill Simmons called the Jaguars a Team of Destiny that simply picked the wrong year. I loved the assumption the Jaguars would have been crowned champions until the Giants upset the seemingly invincible Patriots in the Super Bowl. Still, Jacksonville fans have a lot to look forward to, as it's clear their team has something special in David Garrard.
Jaguars cut G Chris Liwienski
Jaguars sign DE Bo Schobel
Jaguars sign G Chris Liwienski
Jaguars cut WR Craphonso Thorpe
Jaguars cut QB Lester Ricard
Jaguars sign S Pierson Prioleau
Jaguars cut S Lamont Thompson
Jaguars re-sign S Gerald Sensabaugh
Jaguars re-sign TE Greg Estandia
Jaguars re-sign DE Jeremy Mincey
Jaguars re-sign DE James Wyche
Jaguars re-sign S Jamaal Fudge
Jaguars re-sign OT Maurice Williams
Jaguars cut WR Charles Sharon
Jaguars cut G Chris Naeole
Jaguars sign QB Todd Bouman
Jaguars sign CB Drayton Florence
Jaguars trade DT Marcus Stroud to the Bills for third- and fifth-round picks
Jaguars sign QB Cleo Lemon
Jaguars sign WR Jerry Porter
Jaguars trade a sixth-round pick for WR Troy Williamson
Jaguars re-sign FB Greg Jones
Wide Receiver: Reggie Williams picked up his production in the second half of the 2007 season, but the problem remains the same for Jacksonville - all of its receivers, with the exception of the mediocre Dennis Northcutt, are too slow. Donnie Avery and his 4.2 speed could be the solution in the second round of April's draft. Traded for Troy Williamson; signed Jerry Porter and Craphonso Thorpe
Defensive Tackle: No idea why the Jaguars felt the need to trade Marcus Stroud, but now they need a new defensive tackle to clog the middle of the line of scrimmage. Signed Jimmy Kennedy
Defensive End: Bobby McCray is a free agent. Reggie Hayward gets injured way too often to be effective. Paul Spicer turns 33 in August. Think the Jaguars need a defensive end? I have them taking Phillip Merling with the 27th selection in April. Drafted Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves
Strong Safety: It's very possible that neither Gerald Sensabaugh nor Sammy Knight is the answer at strong safety. Well, we know Knight isn't. Sensabaugh hasn't been given much of a chance because he was injured all last year, but I'd still like to see the Jaguars bring in some competition for him. Craig Steltz could be looked at in Round 3. Re-signed Gerald Sensabaugh
Right Guard: Chris Naeole, who just turned 33 in December, is coming off a torn quad injury. His backup, Maurice Williams, is a free agent. Stealing Jacob Bell from Tennessee, or even Alan Faneca from rival Pittsburgh would be pretty smart. Signed Chris Liwienski
Cornerback: Despite the $32 million contract he signed (still scratching my head about that one), Brian Williams isn't the best cornerback in the world. He would be better served coming in on nickel situations. However, given the money Jacksonville has invested into the cornerback position, I doubt they sign anyone via the free-agent market. A mid-round draft pick is more likely - and probably a more efficient solution, given how deep the class is. Signed CB Drayton Florence; drafted Trae Williams
Punt Returner: The Jaguars can do better than Dennis Northcutt at punt returner. The quick receiver they sign or draft should be able to take back punts.
Backup Quarterback: Nullify this need if Quinn Gray re-signs with the team. If not, the Jaguars will need a backup quarterback. Signed Cleo Lemon and Todd Bouman
Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 17): $32.69 million
Greg Jones, FB. Age: 27. Re-signed with Jaguars (5 years, $17.4 million; $2.5 million signing bonus).
Greg Jones isn't much of a ball-carrier, but he's one of the better blocking fullbacks in the NFL.
Bobby McCray, DE. Age: 27. Signed with Saints (5 years, $20 million)
Bobby McCray's going to command tons of money this offseason, and in my opinion, he's just not worth it. He had a whopping three sacks last year. Of course, he had 10 in 2006, but the fact that he couldn't produce in his contract year is a bit concerning.
Talk about bad luck. After being named the starting strong safety for the Jaguars, Gerald Sensabaugh suffered a season-ending injury the second week of the year.
Ernest Wilford, WR. Age: 29. Signed with Dolphins (4 years, $13 million)
One of the many Jaguar receivers to go bust, Ernest Wilford's career highs include 45 receptions, 681 yards and seven touchdowns. Wouldn't be a bad third option on another team, but he's definitely not a No. 1 or 2.
Maurice Williams, OT. Age: 29. Re-signed with Jaguars (4 years, $16 million)
A versatile lineman capable of playing multiple positions on the front.
Sammy Knight, SS. Age: 33. Signed with Giants (3 years, $5.15 million)
A veteran safety who can only offer experience at this point. Should not be a starter.
Grady Jackson, DT. Age: 35. - Signed with Falcons
Terry Cousin, CB. Age: 33. - Signed with Browns (1 year)
Lamont Thompson, S. Age: 30.
Stockar McDougle, OT. Age: 31.
LaBrandon Toefield, RB. Age: 27. - Signed with Panthers (1 year)
Richard Angulo, TE. Age: 28. - Re-signed with Jaguars (3 years)
Kenneth Pettway, OLB. Age: 25.
Chris Naeole, G. Age: 33.
Craphonso Thorpe, WR. Age: 25. - Signed with Giants
Chris Claiborne, OLB. Age: 30.
Tony Gilbert, OLB. Age: 28. - Re-signed with Jaguars
Chris Liwienski, G. Age: 33.
Tutan Reyes, G. Age: 30. - Re-signed with Jaguars (1 year)
Aaron Glenn, CB. Age: 36. - Signed with Saints (1 year)
Divisional Rival History: Houston Texans: Prior to the 2007 season, the Jaguars were always guilty of playing down to the level of their competition. That's why they had lost four of six to Houston. Well, they improved mentally last year and destroyed Houston in the only meeting where their starters played. Indianapolis Colts: Most of these games are close; 10 of the last 12 meetings have been decided by eight points or less. The Jaguars won one of the black-sheep contests, 44-17 on Dec. 10, 2006. David Garrard got hurt in the other. Tennessee Titans: If you watch old and improved NFL Primetime you might remember Chris Berman always saying, "The Titans know all and tell all at Alltel Stadium." That's because Tennessee used to own Jacksonville. That's not the case anymore; the Jaguars have claimed four of the past six.