The development of the Jaguars' receiving corps and the passing game in general are at the core of the Jaguars' improvement on offense in 2009. "There's no doubt about that," Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter said on Thursday.
Koetter commands the league's 11th-ranked offense, up nine spots from last year's position. Heading into Sunday's game in Tennessee, the Jaguars are 11th in rushing and 14th in passing and a team that once was led by its defense now leans heaviest on its offense.
"We're more balanced. We can distribute the ball to any of the wide receivers and tight ends. We have so much more confidence to call a pass play because we know these receivers are going to do the right thing," Koetter said.
The Jaguars' rebuilt wide receiver corps is led by Mike Sims-Walker's 28 catches and Torry Holt's 27. Rookie Mike Thomas has chipped in with 14 catches and has added a run-after-the-catch dimension the Jaguars did not possess last season.
In contrast, the Jaguars' top three receivers from last season are currently out of football.
"It wasn't just those three guys, but we are playing better at wide receiver right now," Koetter said.
The Jaguars' improved passing game has helped open running lanes for Maurice Jones-Drew, the league's 10th-ranked rusher with 463 yards.
"Fifty-fifty is hard to defend. That should lead you to score more points," Koetter said of the balance between run and pass most coordinators seek. "The best offense runs when it wants and passes when it wants."
The last time the Jaguars and Titans faced each other, the Jaguars elected to pass the ball. Quarterback David Garrard torched the Titans for two touchdowns in 25 pass attempts in the first half, compared to just four rushes by Jones-Drew, as the Jaguars opened up a 27-3 lead.
Will the Jaguars attempt the same strategy this Sunday against a Titans pass-defense that is ranked last in the league? Koetter, of course, isn't saying.
"Traditionally, Tennessee has been an eight-man-front team, but they're playing more split-safety than they have in the past," Koetter said. Split safeties, of course, is an attempt to help a secondary troubled in pass-coverage.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, the Titans loaded the box and dared the Jaguars to pass, "which several teams have done over the last three years," Koetter said.
This year, however, it's not working. Garrard has better receivers and big plays are up dramatically.
"It's a good place for us to be. We have a little more feel for who we are. We're still growing as a team and each week we're getting better and better," Thomas said.