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Good time to take stock


Their offseason practices ended yesterday. When the Jaguars next gather as a team, it will be training camp. It will be the realseason.

That was the most important fact of yesterday's final practice of the spring. The hype season, the prediction season, the everybody-is-going-to-the-Super-Bowl season is over. Good!

"I know the town's excited, but … this team needs to establish itself. We're going to take a little break now. When we come back, we're going to roll up our sleeves and get busy," head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters following a spirited practice that ended earlier than scheduled. Coaches like to do that on the final day; a little morale booster. The next practice won't end early, you know.

Del Rio's mood perfectly suited the day. Championships can't be claimed in mid-June. We've all had our fun with our hopes and our dreams; let them run wild a little bit. Hey, it's spring, but soon it won't be. Soon it will be put-up time.

"I believe in competition. We'll utilize talent. We've set the stage. It's now up to the players to earn their way onto the team," Del Rio added in his media conference finale of the spring.

Do you hear the challenge in his voice? Do you sense his resolve? Oh, yeah, the gears were shifted yesterday. Good!

Go ahead, be enthusiastic, but let's not forget the Jaguars are in the midst of four consecutive losing seasons. Hopes are high for this season and a well-respected scribe even went so far as to put the Jaguars in this season's Super Bowl, but chest-thumping won't get it done and, after all, the chest-thumping season is about to end.

Yeah, the offseason is in its final days now, and this would be a perfect time to evaluate where this team stands in its pursuit to be a postseason contender. Perspective is good. Let's do it.

They have a good-looking roster. That's number one. Spring drills told us that much. The Jaguars have some size, some speed, some skill and some depth. That last "fact" is especially surprising, given the fact that a year ago at this time they had absolutely no depth.

Also on the positive side, the Jaguars have a nucleus of star-quality or star-potential players. Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor were joined last season by Marcus Stroud. This year, Byron Leftwich, Brad Meester and John Henderson could leap into the upper ranks. Then there's a group of several young players who represent the largest and most promising collection of talent on this roster. Rashean Mathis, Vince Manuwai, Maurice Williams, Reggie Williams, Mike Peterson, Deon Grant, Daryl Smith, etc., are some of those players.

This team is not, however, without worries. Defensive end could be a trouble spot. The kicking game may require more attention. Can the Jaguars count on rookie Anthony Maddox to provide immediate depth at defensive tackle? Did the Jaguars adequately address their need at cornerback? Will Leftwich make a big enough step forward in just his second season? Who will provide a pass-rush?

So, as we bid farewell to spring it might be a good idea to process all of this information and assign a realistic expectation for the Jaguars this year. Go ahead, do it, then put it away, take a little break, and be ready for the start of the realseason when you return for the start of training camp.

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