Today, we take a look at aspects of the Jaguars' 2011 season you may have overlooked.
We do this now because the Jaguars are in the middle of the search for a permanent head coach, and on that matter, there's not a lot to say just yet.
We've heard the same names, rumors and speculation you've heard, and that's all we expect for a while. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan repeatedly has said it will be a quiet process, and said last week to handle it any differently would be a disservice to not only fans, but those involved.
It's not likely he changes that approach.
In the meantime, we're planning to spend this week taking a quick look back at the 2011 season (Tuesday), and looking ahead to 2012 by taking a look at the offense and defense as we head into an off-season personnel process that will begin in earnest once a new coach is in place.
We're also going to try to catch up with a few players in the next few days, and we'll continue to do that throughout the off-season.
For now, here are some things about the 2011 season maybe you overlooked:
*If you think there was something familiar about Wild Card weekend, there was. Five of eight teams – New Orleans, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Houston and Atlanta – were on the Jaguars' schedule this season. Those teams accounted for six of the Jaguars' 11 losses. The Jaguars lost to New Orleans (23-10) on October 2, Cincinnati (30-20) on October 9, Pittsburgh (17-13) on October 16, Houston (24-14, 20-13) on October 30 and November 27 and Atlanta (41-14) on December 11.
*Overall this season, the Jaguars faced six teams that made the postseason. They beat the Baltimore Ravens, 12-7, on October 23. The Ravens play host to Houston Sunday at 1 p.m.
*Speaking of games against postseason teams, the 23 points the Jaguars allowed the Saints represented New Orleans' fourth-fewest points this season. The Saints never scored fewer than 20 points this season.
*The Jaguars went 1-6 against teams that made the postseason and went 4-5 against non-playoff teams.
*Because today is more about looking forward as much as looking back, we also want to break down the 2012 opponents. The dates and times won't be announced until later this spring, and there will be a more extensive round of analysis then, but we can take a look now. The Jaguars, in addition to their AFC South opponents, will play the following teams at home next season: New England Patriots, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions. They will play the AFC South on the road next season and also will play the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. In terms of quarterbacks, that's an impressive schedule, particularly at home, with Tom Brady coming to Jacksonville with New England, Andy Dalton with Cincinnati, Jay Cutler with Chicago and Matthew Stafford with Detroit. The Jaguars also play Aaron Rodgers with Green Bay. A year ago, with the Jaguars having struggled against the pass for several seasons, that schedule would have raised a lot of concern among fans. It's still not easy facing elite quarterbacks, but it's not necessarily something about which to worry the entire off-season.
*The 2012 schedule includes five playoff teams – Houston, Green Bay, New England, Cincinnati, Detroit – including three in the final eight this weekend: Houston, Green Bay and New England. It also will include 11 games against opponents that finished .500 or better this past season: two against Houston (10-6) and Tennessee (9-7) and one each against New England (13-3), the Jets (8-8), Cincinnati (9-7), Chicago (8-8) Detroit (10-6), Oakland (8-8) and Green Bay (15-1).
*Next year's schedule features two non-division opponents the Jaguars also played this season – the Jets and Cincinnati. The Bengals game is in Jacksonville for a second consecutive season because the game was on the schedule in 2010 as part of the AFC South-AFC Central rotation. The game is there this year as one of the teams' two conference games outside of the division and the AFC East.
*After making the Pro Bowl as a backup, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew in recent days has been getting post-season honors a bit more befitting a player who won the NFL rushing title and set a franchise single-season rushing record in the process. Jones-Drew on Friday was named first-team Associated Press All-Pro and on Monday, he was named first-team All-Pro by Sports Illustrated's Peter King. While the Pro Bowl gets the most publicity, the All-Pro team is the more prestigious honor because it honors fewer players. For example, there is just one AP All-Pro quarterback and two All-Pro running backs. Six quarterbacks make the Pro Bowl and six running backs as well. While Jones-Drew is the backup to Ray Rice on the AFC Pro Bowl team, he and LeSean McCoy of the Eagles are the two AP All-Pro running backs. Not that Jones-Drew's season needed validation, but it's fitting that the best rushing season in franchise history is recognized as such on the national level.
*One Pro Bowl item to watch for the Jaguars will be the status of Montell Owens. The fullback was selected as the AFC first alternate as a special teams player. With New England safety Matthew Slater having been named to the team in the special teams position, Owens would go to the game should the Patriots qualify for the Super Bowl.
*How impressive was Jones-Drew's record-setting season? We could stay in this vein throughout the off-season and never run out of pro-Jones-Drew statistics for 2011, but this one is particularly impressive. Jones-Drew not only was the NFL rushing champion in 2011, he won the rushing crown by 242 yards over Ray Rice of Baltimore. That's the second-widest margin for an NFL rushing champion in the last 14 years. The widest margin during that span? Chris Johnson of Tennessee won it by 590 yards over Steven Jackson of St. Louis in 2009. That was the year Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards.
*Jones-Drew has been nominated for the NFL's FedEx Ground Player of the Year award. Fred Taylor won the award in 2007 and is the only Jaguars player to receive the honor.
*Jaguars outside linebacker Daryl Smith set the franchise record with 15 tackles for loss in 2011, and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny's 192 tackles were second in franchise history. Middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson had 211 tackles in 2001.