Jimmy Smith is on pace to set a personal high for pass receptions in a season, but his yardage is not up to past standards.
The reason for that disparity is obvious: The Jaguars have not thrown the ball deep very often this season. Smith's longest catch of the season went for a mere 35 yards, and he hasn't gone a season without a reception of 62 yards or more since 1995, when Smith didn't make his first pro pass reception until the ninth game of the year.
"We're not throwing the ball deep as much as we have in the past. Obviously, that's by choice. I like to throw the ball deep. That's something I believe in," coach Tom Coughlin said.
So why haven't the Jaguars looked for the long ball? Well, the answer begins with the failure to present much of a threat with the running game. That's allowed opposing defenses to exclude their cornerbacks from run-support, which has permitted them to turn and run with the Jaguars' wide receivers.
The other major reason the Jaguars haven't been successful with the deep ball goes directly to their success with it in the past. Opponents have decided that at any cost they would deny Smith and company that opportunity.
"It's my favorite thing. Teams have taken that away with (zone pass-defense) and having a safety deep," Smith said.
Through 10 games this season, the Jaguars' longest completion of the season was thrown by Jonathan Quinn in Pittsburgh, when Keenan McCardell turned a short sideline toss into a 45-yard gain.
Mark Brunell's longest completion of the season went for 40 yards to tight end Damon Jones in the season-opener, on a play the Jaguars refer to as "Fun Pass." Jones, lined up to the right and pretended to have fallen while blocking, as Brunell rolled out to the left. Jones then rose to his feet and Brunell threw back across the field to Jones, who had an empty field in front of him.
But there have been no long bombs that have gone for completions; nothing to make the crowd hold its breath as the ball noses down into Smith's outstretched hands. Those days would seem to be in the past, or at least until the Jaguars can force opposing defenses to support against the run with their safeties, and make opposing cornerbacks respect play-action.
Coughlin hopes running back Stacey Mack has established enough of a presence to make this Monday night's opponent, Green Bay, respect the Jaguars' running game.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars began preparations today for Monday's game. Brunell is listed as "questionable" with the right quadriceps injury that has hampered him since Nov. 11. Coughlin said Brunell would not practice today.
R. Jay Soward returned to practice with the Jaguars for the first time since the preseason. "R. Jay is going to work scout squad and special teams. I'm going to observe his eye-to-hand (coordination) and conditioning," Coughlin said of his troubled wide receiver, who returns to the active roster after having served consecutive suspensions for violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Coughlin said he will probably exercise the one-week exemption the league has offered the Jaguars for Soward.