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Jags must start making big plays


The "Great Debate" rages on, and I'm not talkin' about Friday's scheduled presidential debate. I'm talkin' about the debate among Jaguars fans as to what the problem is with the Jaguars' deep passing game.

Why are the Jaguars unable to make plays down the field in the passing game? Is it the wide receivers' fault, quarterback David Garrard's fault or is it because of Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter's play-calling?

Everybody has a strong opinion on this. I tend to believe the Jaguars lack a big-play wide receiver.

I think we all agree, however, that regardless of who's fault it is, the situation has to be remedied for the Jaguars to live up to their preseason billing and become a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Hey, is there anyone who believes the Jaguars can go all the way to the big game by completing passes no longer than 11 and 15 yards, which are the wide receivers' long-gainers of the past two weeks?

No; can't be done. Once upon a time, maybe, in the run-the-ball era, but not in today's game. You're just not gonna take it to the championship round in today's game without having a big-time passing game and, as it stands today, the Jaguars don't have one.

Want some stats? OK, here are some stats:

• There have been 26 receptions of 50 yards or longer by wide receivers in the NFL so far this season. The Jaguars have none.

• Dallas and San Diego are tied for the league lead with 13 pass plays each of 20 yards or longer. The Jaguars are tied for 27th with four such plays, two which were provided by running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

The Jaguars have a strong running game and a defense that's going to get better as it gets to know its new coordinator better and as the Jaguars' top draft picks learn how to play professional football. I also believe the Jaguars have a quarterback who can take them to the championship level, but I also believe he can't establish that fact unless the Jaguars' wide receivers start making big plays.

Koetter? Come on, he's as good as any coordinator in the league. There's a reason he isn't calling for the deep ball.

What happens if the Jaguars don't start making big plays? Hey, we already know the answer to that. The line of scrimmage will continue to be crowded with defenders and the Jaguars' strong running game becomes ordinary.

So, as we reach the quarter pole of this season, I think it has already become clear to me, if not to you, too, that the wide receivers hold the Jaguars' fate in their hands. This team, in my opinion, will reach as far as its wide receivers will allow.

Now here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Texans.

  1. Run the ball—It's how Pittsburgh and Tennessee each blew out the Texans.
  1. Keep Andre Johnson in check—He'll be, without a doubt, the best big-play receiver on the field. Don't let him do to you what you can't do to them.
  1. Be efficient—I like the way Jack Del Rio put it. "Be like the maestro that directs the orchestra," Del Rio said of Garrard.
  1. Trust in Khalif Barnes—He's turned in strong performances already against Kyle Vanden Bosch and Dwight Freeney. Sunday, Barnes gets Mario Williams, who already has a couple of sacks.
  1. Don't underestimate the rookie—Steve Slaton is a smallish back but he has blazing speed that can make the Jags pay big, just as Titans rookie running back Chris Johnson did.
  1. Bring the heat—Del Rio said this week that the reason the Texans have traditionally played well against the Jaguars is because the Jaguars have lacked a pass-rush. The Jaguars have certainly spent enough money to correct that problem.
  1. Feed off the energy—The win in Indianapolis resurrected the Jaguars' high expectations. The home fans should be feeling pretty good about that, too.
  1. Make one big play—Let's start with that expectation; just one big play by a wide receiver on Sunday. It would do wonders.
  1. Know what it is—This is a division game, which nearly counts two in the standings. The Jaguars haven't won consecutive division games since 2005. That's why they haven't won an AFC South title.
  1. Defend the teal—One o'clock in September in teal; make it a winning formula.
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