Finally, it would seem, the Jaguars have a quarterback who can lead them into the postseason and win.
That's what the 2007 season produced; a quarterback, David Garrard, worthy of a rich, new contract and status as a centerpiece player to the Jaguars' pursuit of a Super Bowl title. Garrard is "The Man" and this is "The Year." At least, that's the hype the Jaguars take into the start of training camp on Saturday.
Garrard came out of nowhere to win the job in training camp last season. All of a sudden, he was the kind of heady, pocket passer that every head coach and offensive coordinator wants. Yeah, he could still make plays with his feet, but it was with his arm that he was ringing the victory bell.
Three interceptions! That's all he threw the whole season. Garrard threw for 2,509 yards, 18 touchdowns and a 102.2 passer rating. Then, with the season on the line in week one of the postseason in Pittsburgh, Garrard used his feet to move the Jaguars into position for Josh Scobee to kick the game-winner, which gave the Jaguars their first postseason victory in eight years.
Here's the kicker: In New England the following week, Garrard may have been at his all-time best. Had it not been for dropped "touchdown" passes by Dennis Northcutt and Matt Jones, who knows what might have happened?
A flash in the pan? A one-year wonder? That's to be determined, but even after the Jaguars lined Garrard's pockets with the largest contract in team history, Garrard was better than ever in spring practices and has given Jaguars fans no reason to believe he is not "The Man."
What about the man behind Garrard? That would seem to be the big issue at quarterback this summer. Cleo Lemon was signed to a rather pricey free-agent contract to be Garrard's backup and it's thought head coach Jack Del Rio favors carrying only two quarterbacks on his roster, but Lemon didn't have a great spring, a fact to which Del Rio confessed during the June mini-camp.
Lemon's performance in training camp and the preseason will go a long way toward easing the Jaguars' depth concerns at the position. Garrard missed three weeks of last season and had the Jaguars not won two of those games, they wouldn't have made the playoffs.
Behind Lemon are journeyman Todd Bouman and undrafted rookie Paul Smith, who may be more of a candidate for the practice squad than for the active roster.
Here's a look at the other positions on offense.
Running back—"Old Man" Fred Taylor just keeps getting better and better. In his 10th season, Taylor had a breakout year in 2007: He finally made it to the Pro Bowl. Taylor remains the heart and soul of the Jaguars running game. He rushed for 1,202 yards in '07, but the best thing about those yards is that a significant portion of them came in the season's biggest games. Taylor's complement, Maurice Jones-Drew, is a player of major impact, but on a broader scale than Taylor. Jones-Drew is a touchdown-maker. He's a goal-line runner who scored nine touchdowns last season. He also caught 40 passes, returned one kickoff for a touchdown and another kickoff return, in the postseason win in Pittsburgh, may have been the Jaguars' biggest play of the season. Taylor and Jones-Drew represent the best one-two punch in the NFL, yet, there is a third runner in the Jaguars' backfield, Greg Jones, and Jones will be in his second comeback season from ACL surgery, and hopes are that Jones will give the Jaguars a 1-2-3 punch. Jones, by the way, also got a rich, new deal in the offseason, making Jones the highest-paid fullback in the league. What's to be decided at running back this summer? Depth, that's what. Is Montell Owens more than just a special teams player? Seventh-round pick Chauncey Washington will be given a chance to win a roster spot. Undrafted rookie Lavarus Giles has rare size and speed. Undrafted rookie fullback Anthony Cotrone is a big, powerful runner and blocker.
Wide receiver—This is the highlight position. All eyes will be on the wide receivers in this training camp. Where do we start? Well, Jerry Porter will be on the shelf until at least the start of the regular season, having been sidelined by recent hamstring surgery. He was signed to be the team's number one receiver, so, it's an antsy situation. Can Mike Walker be a number one? Walker, a third-round pick who missed his rookie season due to knee surgery, was sensational late in spring practices and has the distinct look of a number one, but is his knee ready for the daily pounding of training camp? That's one of the big questions of the summer. Reggie Williams is coming off his best season and a solid spring. He's set at number two. Northcutt had a top spring, too, and he would seem to be settling into his intended role as a number three and slot receiver. Troy Williamson is attempting to resurrect his career and so far, so good. Williamson caught everything in the spring, but this isn't OTAs, it's training camp. Matt Jones' future is clouded by a recent drug arrest. Jones was just OK in the spring; he missed a lot of practice time. John Broussard is pure speed and he also has good hands. Has he matured into the kind of receiver he'll have to be to win a roster spot? There's nothing sudden about D'Juan Woods, but he was solid in the spring and he's given himself a chance to compete for a roster spot. Jeron Harvey and Clyde Edwards are long-shot undrafted rookies.
Tight end—Marcedes Lewis developed into one of the league's better tight ends last season. He caught 37 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns and he is said to have blocked as well as he caught. Lewis missed time in the spring with a knee sprain. Is he ready to go in training camp? We'll find out on Saturday. Behind Lewis are Greg Estandia, who is coming off labrum surgery, Richard Angulo, a journeyman type who the Jaguars like, and George Wrighster, who will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, as he continues to rehab from ACL surgery. The Jaguars like what they've seen in first-year man Charles Davis. Chris Brown and Adam Bishop are long-shot undrafted rookies.
Offensive line—Two key position battles highlight the summer: Khalif Barnes vs. Richard Collier at left tackle and Maurice Williams vs. Uche Nwaneri and Dennis Norman at left guard. Barnes is the incumbent at left tackle, but Collier was running with the ones when spring practice ended. Williams is number one at left guard, which was vacated by Vince Manuwai when Manuwai made the move to right guard in the spring. Brad Meester is solid at center and Tony Pashos is an underrated right tackle. The Jaguars appear to have depth up front: Pete McMahon, Tutan Reyes, Andrew Carnahan and undrafted free agent Drew Miller will battle to make the final roster.