Not too long ago, at about midseason, we were debating whether or not the Jaguars offense truly was improved over last season. I had offered the opinion to my media buddy that my eyes said the offense was improved, and he countered with, "Show me where."
He was right. I couldn't show him statistical improvement. My eyes said the offense was better but the stats said it was the same.
Well, new evidence has been uncovered and it says, without a doubt, that this year's Jaguars offense is vastly improved over that of a year ago. You want statistical proof? Here it is.
The Jaguars are averaging:
• 355.9 yards per game, which is 17 more yards per game than last season.
• 202.9 passing yards per game; 22.8 yards more than a year ago.
The Jaguars have thrown eight interceptions this season; down from 14 last year. They have 304 first downs through 15 games, which are already 11 more than in all of the 2006 season. Touchdowns are up by four, passing touchdowns are up by seven, average gain per play is .1 better than last season and the biggest gain of all is in third-down conversion percentage, up to 44.9 from 39.2 in '06.
Best of all, most of that gain is the result of a late-season outburst. In the last five games, the Jaguars have scored 36, 25, 30, 29 and 49 points. They've scored 24 or more points in nine consecutive games for the first time in team history and the Jaguars averaged 30.7 points per game in those nine games.
How about fourth-down conversions? Well, the Jaguars are 18 of 32 under "Gambler Jack" this season. To put that into perspective, both of those numbers are league highs and the Jaguars' 32 attempts are the most in the NFL since New England had 34 fourth-down tries in 1996.
There's more; a lot more, but I think you get the idea. The question is: What and who caused this dramatic improvement?
- Jack Del Rio—Simply put, he made the changes that caused the improvement. He put all of this into motion.
- Dirk Koetter—The Jaguars' new offensive coordinator brought a no-nonsense approach to the offense. He kept what was good, which is to say the running game, and improved what was bad, which is to say the passing game, and that's why the Jaguars are a better offense today than they were at this time last season, when they were in the midst of a three-game collapse to miss the playoffs.
- David Garrard—He is, without a doubt, the Jaguars' most valuable player this season. Even Fred Taylor would tell you that. As the Jaguars head into their final regular season game of the year, Garrard has yet to play a bad game. He has been the most consistent and productive player on the team. Everything you didn't like about Garrard at this time last season is gone, and what's emerged from this metamorphosis is a quarterback who is feared and respected around the league.
- Mike Shula—The team's new quarterbacks coach has to get credit for Garrard's development. The guy who imploded at crunch time last season has been transformed into a picture of poise.
- The receiving corps—It's vastly improved, especially Reggie Williams. New wide receivers coach Todd Monken gets a big pat on the back. He was tough on these guys right from the start and that's exactly what they needed.
- Fred and MoJo—They have been as good this season as they were last year, and that was a tough act to follow.
- Brad Meester—His return after the bye week stabilized the offensive line. They missed him and it showed.
- The coach's confidence—Jack Del Rio never wavered in his faith. He promised a top-notch offense and he delivered.
As the Jaguars head into the playoffs, it's their offense that is this team's calling card. Imagine that.