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.
WR Torry Holt, OT William Tra Thomas, DT Montavious Stanley, ILB Adam Seward, FS Marlon McCree, SS Gerald Alexander, SS Sean Considine.
OT Eugene Monroe, OT Eben Britton, DT Terrance Knighton, CB Derek Cox, WR/KR Mike Thomas, WR Jarett Dillard, TE Zach Miller, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Tiquan Underwood.
QB Cleo Lemon, RB Fred Taylor, WR Matt "Coke Zero" Jones, WR Dennis Northcutt, WR Reggie Williams, WR Jerry Porter, TE George Wrighster, OT Khalif Barnes, OT Charles Spencer, G Milford Brown, G Chris Naeole, G Tutan Reyes, DE Paul Spicer, DE Jeremy Mincey, ILB Mike Peterson, CB Drayton Florence, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, SS Pierson Prioleau.
2009 Jacksonville Jaguars Offense:
If Jaguar fans ever questioned the importance of interior offensive linemen, they've certainly learned their lesson the hard way. Starting guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams missed a combined 30 games in 2008, as they both got hurt in the first week of the season. Center Brad Meester, meanwhile, missed six contests himself.
Jacksonville consequently couldn't pass protect or run the ball. David Garrard took 42 sacks, compared to 21 in 2007. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor averaged 4.2 and 3.9 yards per carry, respectively, as both numbers were down from 4.6 and 5.4.
The good news is that everyone is ready to go, save for Manuwai. The left guard is coming off ACL surgery, but is expected to be ready by July. Still, you have to credit the Jaguars for what they did in the offseason. They focused exclusively on their offensive line, hoping to ensure that the 2008 disaster won't repeat itself.
The Jaguars signed William Tra Thomas in March. Thomas turns 35 in November, but he gave up just two sacks with the Eagles in 2008. Thomas will start at left tackle across from Tony Pashos, a very good run-blocker who surrendered 5.5 sacks last season. In the 2009 NFL Draft, Jacksonville selected Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton with their first two picks. Monroe, the eighth-overall choice, has the talent to be an elite left tackle in this league. Britton, chosen in the second round, figures to be a very good right tackle down the road. Britton can also step in for Manuwai or Williams, should they go down again.
With an improved offensive line, Garrard should be able to revert back to his 2007 form. In 12 contests that year, Garrard threw for 2,509 yards, 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions, maintaining a very good YPA of 7.7. However, he regressed in 2008, compiling 3,620 yards, 15 scores and 13 picks on a 6.8 YPA. The latter number was so low because Garrard barely had any time in the pocket to make his reads. That figures to change in 2009.
Another reason why Garrard will bounce back is the addition of Torry Holt. Holt is easily the best receiver that Garrard has been able to work with on a full-time basis. At 33, Holt certainly isn't in his prime anymore, but he's two years removed from 93 catches, 1,189 yards and seven touchdowns. Holt couldn't do anything in 2008 because the Rams were way too dysfunctional.
Meanwhile, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the favorites to lead the league in rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage. Fred Taylor is gone, so Jones-Drew will get at least 325 carries behind a good and suddenly very deep offensive front. Jones-Drew caught 62 passes for 565 receiving yards in 2008. Those numbers will decrease with his increased workload on the ground, but he still figures to be a dangerous option catching the ball out of the backfield.
2009 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense:
The Jaguars victimized themselves with senseless trades (giving away Marcus Stroud to the Bills), abysmal signings (seriously, what were they thinking with Drayton Florence?) and unproductive draft selections (Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves combined for six sacks). They consequently struggled on defense, finishing 21st in points allowed (22.9 ppg), 17th in yards allowed and 31st against the pass (8.3 YPA). They were also able to muster just 29 sacks, as no player had more than four.
Jacksonville responded by signing... umm... no one... but they drafted... umm... no one in the first two rounds. Still, despite its stand-pat approach, the team figures to improve on defense.
Harvey and Groves had just four and two sacks, respectively, but they'll be much better in 2009. Defensive ends almost always struggle as rookies - look at Mario Williams as an example - and both Harvey and Groves have way too much talent not to be factors this upcoming season. In fact, two of Harvey's four sacks came in the final week of the season, indicating that he was finally "getting it."
It's a good thing Harvey, Groves and Reggie Hayward are poised to put more pressure on the quarterback because Jacksonville's inept secondary needs all the help it can get. Rashean Mathis is one of the better corners in the NFL when he's healthy; the problem is that he's missed six games the past two years, including four in 2008.
However, Mathis doesn't have any help. Free safety Reggie Nelson had an outstanding rookie campaign in 2007, but was constantly torched last season. Brian Williams was supposed to play strong safety last year, but had to take over at corner across from Mathis because Florence was getting burnt on nearly every play. Williams would be a solid strong safety, but he's simply overmatched at corner.
Starting at strong safety in place of Williams will be Sean Considine, who was one of the worst starting defensive backs in the league two seasons ago. Considine is effective on special teams, but Jaguar fans will find out just how brutal he is on defense. Behind Williams, the Jaguars have Scott Starks, who is coming off an ACL tear, and Derek Cox, a third-round rookie. As I said, Mathis has no help whatsoever.
On the bright side, the Jaguars were good versus the run in 2008, ranking 13th in that department. John Henderson, an imposing figure at 6-7, 335, is one of the top defensive tackles in the league. Unfortunately, Jack Del Rio has recently called him out for skipping minicamp with a "bruise." Henderson, meanwhile, is calling it a "Grade 2 shoulder separation." I don't know if Del Rio is picking the right fight here, and I'll discuss the Jaguar coach later.
Playing next to Henderson, Rob Meier was asked to replace Marcus Stroud and was simply overmatched. Meier didn't play poorly, but he should not be a starter. Jacksonville utilized a third-round pick on the 6-3, 321-pound Terrance Knighton, so we'll see how quickly the Temple product can make his way into the lineup.
A major reason why Jacksonville excelled versus the rush was its sound linebacking corps. Playing in the middle, Justin Durant is one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL. As a second-year player, Durant didn't break into the starting lineup until Week 6, but thrived ever since. Darryl Smith, who played in the middle last season, figures to be just as effective on the weak side in 2009. Clint Ingram, who has 34 starts in three NFL seasons, is the strongside linebacker.
2009 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule and Intangibles:
I said I'd talk about Jack Del Rio. I used to have a lot of respect for him as a head coach and a defensive mind, but his inability to motivate the team last season spoke volumes. Players reportedly tuned out Del Rio in the locker room. I don't know how you can win the team over again, and Del Rio certainly isn't helping his case by questioning his defensive star's injury and toughness. That's just something you don't do in this day and age.
Jacksonville's hot and humid climate contributed to its outstanding 67-37 home record from 1995 to 2007. However, the Jaguars were just 2-6 as hosts in 2007, beating only Houston and Green Bay, and somehow losing to Buffalo and Cleveland.
Josh Scobee mustered the worst kicking percentage in his career last season, going just 19-of-25 for 76 percent. However, Scobee saved himself by hitting 4-of-5 from 50-plus.
Punting in only 12 games in 2008 thanks to a knee injury, Adam Podlesh maintained a mediocre 43.2 average and hit 12-of-46 attempts inside the 20.
The Jaguars neither surrendered nor scored a touchdown on special teams, though it should be noted that Brian Witherspoon maintained solid return averages of 11.3 on punts and 24.0 on kickoffs. Jacksonville, meanwhile, surrendered averages of 8.7 and 19.9.
The poor Jaguars open up at Indy. They host Arizona a week later before going to potential upstart Houston. After that, they host Tennessee and then travel to my NFC West favorite Seattle. Fortunately for Jacksonville, thinks get much easier after that. The team has St. Louis, Kansas City, Buffalo and Miami at home. Easier road games include contests against the Browns, Jets and 49ers.
2009 Jacksonville Jaguars Analysis: The Jaguars will bounce back, and I'll be shocked if they're 5-11 or worse again. They've rebuilt their offensive line and the rookie defensive ends they drafted a year ago will be much more of a factor this season.
The problem is that Jacksonville resides in the toughest division in the NFL. The Colts will always be one of the top teams in the league as long as Peyton Manning is under center. The Titans were 13-3 a year ago, while the Texans are one of the most underrated squads in the NFL. Finishing 8-8 in the AFC South is an achievement in itself.
When the Jaguars brought in William Tra Thomas, they obviously didn't anticipate Eugene Monroe falling to them. Taking Monroe was their best option. However, what confuses me is the Eben Britton selection. I'm all for addressing the offensive line, but what are you going to do with Thomas, Monroe, Britton and Tony Pashos? They must be planning on using their own Fat Man offense, where they'll play 11 offensive and defensive linemen at the same time. It's going to be awesome.
At any rate, Jacksonville did a good job addressing needs and positions of high value, though I'm disappointed the team didn't take a corner earlier. They also found some steals in the later rounds. I don't get the Derek Cox pick; even if he pans out, it was a poor selection because he was a late-round prospect at best.
Grade given on 4/27/09: B-
2009 NFL Draft Picks:
8. Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
I will never bash a team for taking an elite left tackle in the NFL Draft. I don't know what the Jaguars plan on doing with William Tra Thomas, but when they brought him in, I don't think they anticipated Eugene Monroe being available. (Pick Grade: A)
39. Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
I guess the Jaguars didn't get the memo that you can only start two offensive tackles; not four. What is Jacksonville going to do with Eugene Monroe, William Tra Thomas, Tony Pashos and Eben Britton? Perhaps some new formation like the Wildcat, only you use all offensive linemen? (Pick Grade: D)
72. Terrance Knighton, DT, Temple
The Jaguars really needed some help at defensive tackle to replace Marcus Stroud. Can Terrance Knighton be that guy? We'll find out, but I like how Jacksonville is addressing both sides of the line of scrimmage. (Pick Grade: B)
73. Derek Cox, CB, William & Mary
So much for taking the best player available. Derek Cox is horrendous value in the third round. He fills a need though, so this isn't a complete fail. (Pick Grade: F)
107. Mike Thomas, WR/KR, Arizona
Jacksonville had to find a receiver relatively early in the 2009 NFL Draft. Mike Thomas also provides added value as a return specialist. (Pick Grade: A)
144. Jarett Dillard, WR, Rice
Gene Smith really loves going back-to-back at the same position. He's getting really good value here with Jarett Dillard though. (Pick Grade: A)
180. Zach Miller, TE, Nebraska-Omaha
Great... A second tight end named Zach Miller to confuse us all in our fantasy football leagues. Miller's in this draft range, so this seems like a solid choice. (Pick Grade: B)
250. Rashad Jennings, RB, Liberty
Wow... Rashad Jennings could have been drafted in the second round. Even if Jennings doesn't pan out, this is a great pick in terms of value. Jennings could be a very solid complement to Maurice Jones-Drew. (Pick Grade: A)
253. Tiquan Underwood, WR, Rutgers
Solid draft value here. This is Jacksonville's third receiver, which isn't surprising, given the problems they had at the position. (Pick Grade: B)
Arguably the most disappointing team in 2008, the Jaguars were picked by many (including myself) to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, thanks to a plethora of injuries to their offensive line, horrific offseason additions (Jerry Porter, Troy Williamson, Drayton Florence) and many close defeats (first five losses were by seven or less), Jacksonville was the only team in its division to finish with a losing record.
Jaguars cut DE Jeremy Mincey
Jaguars sign ILB Adam Seward
Ravens sign QB Cleo Lemon
Lions sign S Calvin Lowry
Lions sign G Milford Brown
Jaguars cut OT Drew Miller
Jaguars re-sign OT Drew Miller
Lions sign CB Will James
Jaguars sign DT Montavious Stanley
Jaguars cut S Calvin Lowry
Lions acquire WR Dennis Northcutt from Jaguars for SS Gerald Alexander
Jaguars cut QB Cleo Lemon
Jaguars cut OT Drew Miller
Jaguars cut DE Mkristo Bruce
Jaguars cut CB Will James
Jaguars sign S Marlon McCree
Giants sign G Tutan Reyes
Jaguars cut S Chad Nkang
Giants sign TE George Wrighster
Jaguars sign QB Todd Bouman
Jaguars cut QB Nathan Brown
Jaguars cut OT Charles Spencer
Jaguars sign WR Torry Holt
Jaguars cut TE George Wrighster
Saints sign S Pierson Prioleau
Dolphins acquire DT Tony McDaniel from Jaguars for 7th-round pick
Saints sign DE Paul Spicer
Jaguars cut WR Matt Jones
Raiders sign OT Khalif Barnes
Cowboys sign SS Gerald Sensabaugh
Falcons sign ILB Mike Peterson
Jaguars sign OT William Tra Thomas
Bills sign CB Drayton Florence
Jaguars sign SS Sean Considine
Jaguars re-sign CB Scott Starks
Jaguars re-sign C Brad Meester
Patriots sign RB Fred Taylor
Jaguars re-sign OLB Brian Iwuh
Jaguars cut RB Fred Taylor
Jaguars cut WR Jerry Porter
Jaguars cut CB Drayton Florence
Left Tackle: Easily Jacksonville's biggest need. Khalif Barnes is a really good run-blocker, but he's an abomination in pass protection. He surrendered 7.5 sacks and was whistled for a whopping nine penalties in 2008. Jason Smith (pick No. 8) looks like he'll be a Jaguar. Drafted Eugene Monroe and William Britton; signed William Tra Thomas
Cornerback: Adios, Drayton Florence! What a waste of money that was. The Jaguars need a top-notch corner, and they'll consider Malcolm Jenkins at No. 8. The position is likely to be addressed in Round 2, however. Drafted Derek Cox; re-signed Scott Starks
Defensive Tackle: Judging by Jacksonville's inability to stop the run, the team missed Marcus Stroud, who played really well for Buffalo in 2008. This position can be addressed in the early rounds. Drafted Terrance Knighton; signed Montavious Stanley
Two Wide Receivers: Matt "Coke Zero" Jones was cut and the Jaguars have needed a downfield threat for years. Signed Torry Holt; drafted Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Tiquan Underwood
Guard: Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams are both coming off season-ending injuries. Manuwai is especially risky, as he tore his ACL in September. Uche Nwaneri and Dennis Norman proved that they were incapable of playing well in reserve, so the Jaguars could draft a guard for depth purposes just in case Manuwai can't bounce back.
Linebacker Depth: This area is going to be pretty thin once Mike Peterson signs with another team. This can be addressed in the later rounds. Re-signed Brian Iwuh
2009 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Torry Holt, WR, Rams. Age: 33. Signed with Jaguars (3 years, $20 million)
Torry Holt had a poor season in 2008, catching just 64 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns. As a comparison, Holt had 93 receptions, 1,189 yards and seven scores in 2007. The 6-0, 190-pound wideout still has a few quality years in the tank; you can attribute his lacking production to Marc Bulger's struggles and the offensive line's inability to pass protect.
William Tra Thomas, OT, Eagles. Age: 34. Signed with Jaguars (3 years)
William Tra Thomas turns 35 in November. He played really well this season, surrendering just two sacks, but he's a huge risk because of his age.
Marlon McCree, S, Broncos. Age: 32. Signed with Jaguars
An old veteran past his prime, Marlon McCree missed half the year with an ankle injury.
Adam Seward, ILB, Colts. Age: 27. - Signed with Jaguars
Sean Considine, SS, Eagles. Age: 27. - Signed with Jaguars (2 years, $3 million).
Montavious Stanley, DT, Saints. Age: 27. - Signed with Jaguars
Todd Bouman, QB, Ravens. Age: 37. - Signed with Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 8): $16 million
Brad Meester, C. Age: 32. Re-signed with Jaguars (4 years)
Brad Meester is a quality center, but has injury issues; he has missed 11 games the past two seasons.
Matt Jones, WR, Jaguars. Age: 26.
Matt "Coke Zero" Jones is young and coming off his best season (65 receptions, 761 yards, 2 TDs). He's a solid possession receiver. Unfortunately, Jones has trouble staying out of jail.
Khalif Barnes, OT. Age: 27. Signed with Raiders (1 year)
What happened to this guy? Khalif Barnes had a brilliant rookie year, but has since completely fallen apart. He gave up 7.5 sacks and was whistled for nine penalties in 2008. Maybe a change of scenery will help him.
Reggie Williams, WR. Age: 26.
When your best quality as a receiver is blocking, you know you pretty much suck. Reggie Williams is huge (6-4, 214) and athletic, but he can't separate from defenders. He had 629 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2007, but saw his figures drop to 364 yards and three scores this season.
Mike Peterson, ILB. Age: 33. Signed with Falcons (3 years)
Mike Peterson just had the worst season of his NFL career. He was benched for talent and character issues.
Fred Taylor, Jaguars. Age: 33. Signed with Patriots
I can't believe the Fred Taylor era is over in Jacksonville. Taylor, 33, averaged 3.9 YPC last year despite playing behind the most banged-up offensive line in the NFL. Taylor can still be an effective reserve running back for a year or two.
Gerald Sensabaugh, SS. Age: 26. Signed with Cowboys (1 year)
A young safety who was thrust into the starting lineup once the Jaguars figured out that they wasted tons of money on Drayton Florence.
Drayton Florence, CB. Age: 28. - Signed with Bills (2 years, $6.6 million)
Jerry Porter, WR. Age: 31.
Brian Iwuh (RFA), OLB. Age: 25. - Re-signed with Jaguars
Paul Spicer, DE. Age: 34. - Signed with Saints
George Wrighster, TE. Age: 28. - Signed with Giants
Cleo Lemon, QB. Age: 30. - Signed with Ravens
Montell Owens, FB. Age: 25.
Scott Starks, CB. Age: 26. - Re-signed with Jaguars
Calvin Lowry, S. Age: 26. - Signed with Lions
Jeremy Mincey, DE. Age: 25.
Greg Estandia (RFA), TE. Age: 26.
Milford Brown, G. Age: 30. - Signed with Lions
Pierson Prioleau, SS. Age: 32. - Signed with Saints
Divisional Rival History: Houston Texans: The Texans still give the Jaguars problems. They crushed them at home on Monday Night Football and took them to overtime in Jacksonville. Houston seems to have Jacksonville's number. Indianapolis Colts: Most of these games are close; 12 of the last 14 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 watched old and improved NFL Primetime you might remember that Chris Berman always said, "The Titans know all and tell all at Alltel Stadium." That's definitely true; Tennessee has won four of the previous five in this heated rivalry.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2009 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)