The Jaguars enter a pivotal year in 2010, with club ownership on the brink of making major changes to the team’s management and roster unless there is an improvement over the disappointing 2009 season.
The futures of general manager Gene Smith, head coach Jack Del Rio, and quarterback David Garrard hinge on the Jaguars at least contending for a playoff spot this season. If that doesn’t transpire, expect a major shake-up in Jacksonville, with new management put in place and a new quarterback leading the squad in 2011.
Garrard had a disappointing season in 2009, failing in close games to make plays at key times like he had in 2008. Although his numbers were similar in each season, he failed to make the improvements expected and, despite a better group of receivers, his production in the passing game remained steady. His accuracy remains a concern, and he needs to improve if the Jaguars are to make a playoff run in 2010.
While the passing game struggled under Garrard, there are no concerns about the Jaguars rushing attack. Maurice Jones-Drew excelled during his first year as the team’s starter, with 1,765 total yards and 16 touchdowns. In doing so, he expelled all concerns about his ability to handle the lead rushing role. With no proven backup, he is expected once again to be the team’s offensive engine in 2010.
Mike Sims-Walker enjoyed a breakout season at wide receiver, harnessing his natural ability into solid production during his third year in the league. Despite missing a game due to suspension and being an afterthought in week one, he totaled 869 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. However, he struggled in road games with just 19 receptions for 232 yards and one touchdown.
Torry Holt was released in the offseason, and the team failed to acquire a replacement. That leaves three second-year players to battle for the starting spot opposite Sims-Walker. Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard are the frontrunners entering training camp, with Tiquan Underwood also in the mix. Troy Williamson remains on the roster but will need a strong showing in the preseason to retain his roster spot.
The tight end spot will be manned by Marcedes Lewis and promising receiving prospect Zach Miller. Lewis has been a tease during his four years in the league, failing on a consistent basis to showcase his natural ability. He enters 2010 at a crossroads. Miller is a solid receiving option, catching 21 passes for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a rookie. He may get a shot at the starting spot sometime this season.
For the Jaguars to remain in the playoff hunt this season, the passing attack will need to step up its production. However, little was added to the mix, and there are concerns about getting quality play at the second wide receiver position, as well as at tight end. Although the offensive line features some young performers who should improve this season, there remain too many question marks on offense for the Jaguars to make a big leap forward in 2010.
QB David Garrard
Garrard enters 2010 with something to prove to the Jaguars management, who thought he took a step back in 2009. Unfortunately for Garrard, the Jaguars ignored wide receivers in the draft, so he has to hope either Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard, or Tiquan Underwood develops opposite Sims-Walker. Garrard has put up 3,620 and 3,597 passing yards over the last two years with 15 touchdowns in each year—steady but not spectacular production. Without the addition of a proven threat at wide receiver, it’s safe to assume he will approximate those numbers once again in 2009. Garrard should be considered a fantasy backup with little upside.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
With Fred Taylor having signed with New England, the concern for the Jaguars entering 2009 was whether Jones-Drew would be able to shoulder the lead back role without a proven backup. He removed those concerns by remaining injury-free over 16 games despite accumulating 365 touches. There were some rumors that the Jaguars would use the tenth pick in the draft on C.J. Spiller, but that didn’t happen; so Jones-Drew will remain a workhorse runner in 2010. Look for Jones-Drew to top 1,700 total yards and average a touchdown per game again this year. He is a top three selection in standard leagues and worthy of consideration as the first overall pick in PPR leagues.
RB Rashad Jennings
The consensus was that the Jaguars received good value when they took Jennings in the sixth round of last year’s draft. However, he failed to make the most of the opportunity in Jacksonville and, despite Greg Jones being ineffective and missing part of the season with an injury, Jennings had only 55 touches on the year. But the Jaguars may decide that the 365 touches Maurice Jones-Drew had last year are too many to ensure his long-term viability, so Jennings has a chance to get more touches in 2010. He will have to beat out rookie sixth-round pick Deji Karim for the role. Jones-Drew owners should monitor this battle and grab as his handcuff whoever wins the role.
WR Mike Sims-Walker
Sims-Walker is a talented player coming off a breakout season, but there is room for improvement in 2010. While he posted solid numbers with 869 receiving yards and six touchdowns, he disappeared at times and missed one game as a result of a team suspension for missing curfew. Considering he barely played in week one, his production came in just 14 games, all the more impressive. However, the Jaguars expect more improvement in 2010, and it’s likely that Sims-Walker will provide it. He is a solid WR2 with upside and little risk given that he is clearly the top wide receiver in Jacksonville.
WR Mike Thomas
Thomas flashed some playmaking ability as a rookie, but his 9.4 yards per reception average left something to be desired. He will compete with Jarett Dillard and Tiquan Underwood to start opposite Mike Sims-Walker. At just 5’8”, however, it’s possible the Jaguars will use Thomas out of the slot, which would put a serious damper on his fantasy potential for 2010. While Thomas is worth monitoring during preseason, he will likely enter the season as a waiver wire candidate, given the Jaguars weak passing attack.
WR Jarett Dillard
Dillard enters 2010 coming off a disappointing rookie campaign in which he finished with just six receptions for 106 yards, despite the team’s lack of talent at the position. He gets a break this year, however, as the Jaguars inexplicably ignored the wide receiver position during free agency and through the draft. Dillard doesn’t possess great size at 5’10, 187 pounds, but he is a candidate to win the starting spot outside or to play out of the slot. He needs to beat out Mike Thomas and Tiquan Underwood first, however. Don’t expect Dillard to do much in 2010.
TE Marcedes Lewis
Lewis is a reasonably talented tight end, but his development has been slow and there is little reason to think he’s ready to break out in 2010. While his yardage total has increased in each of his four years in the league, he has failed to top two touchdowns in a season. So why should you expect more than that in 2010? You shouldn’t. Lewis is a fantasy backup with little upside. He might prove useful as waiver wire fodder, but that’s about it.