You may have heard the sound of a trumpet this morning as the Jaguars took the field for another "veteran camp" practice. Why the trumpet? Well, today was the Jaguars' eighth OTA (organized team activity) practice of the spring, which means the Jaguars just went over the halfway mark.
How's that for big? Only six OTA's left and so much to do. What about the personnel grouping for that third-and-28 quick-kick play?
OK, I'm being sarcastic, but I can't help it. These OTA's just seem so pointless. When the pads go on everything changes, right?
So what do we talk about at this time of the year? That's a daily question in the spring. The draft is over, free agency is played out and OTA's are boring and, if you believe football is a contact sport, meaningless.
Well, I got a question to "Ask Vic" that gave me perfect subject matter. Instead of putting it in "Ask Vic," I decided the question is worthy of a whole column.
Trevor from Washington, DC: I enjoy your top 10 list of things the Jaguars need to do to win each week. It's usually an exact reflection of the game plan. How about a Top 10 offseason list of what the Jaguars need to do to win next season?
You betcha, Trevor. So here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to win in 2006.
1. Find a replacement for Jimmy Smith—He was the Jaguars' big-play guy for 10 years. Now he's gone and the Jaguars have to find a new big-play guy. Who is that player? Ernest Wilford? Matt Jones? Reggie Williams? Marcedes Lewis? Chad Owens? The Jaguars will not be a postseason threat if they don't identify a big-play receiver. It's that simple.
2. Turn back the clock on Fred—This will be Fred Taylor's ninth season and history tells us running backs traditionally go over the hill at about this point in their careers. Eddie George did. So did O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Earl Campbell. Others didn't. Emmitt Smith didn't. Neither did Walter Payton or Curtis Martin. So, in which category will Taylor fall? The Jaguars need a young Taylor for one more season. They're not ready for him to go over the hill just yet.
3. Stabilize the offensive line—Jack Del Rio says Byron Leftwich needs to get rid of the ball quicker. A little more time and room to throw would help. Who's the left guard? Is Brad Meester all the way back from biceps surgery? Those two questions must be answered satisfactorily.
4. Find an outside linebacker—The Jaguars drafted Clint Ingram because they believe he can become an immediate starter. Ingram, however, was a late-bloomer at Oklahoma. There's depth at the position in Pat Thomas, Jorge Cordova, etc. Whoever wins the job, he has to be worthy of it.
5. Replace Keenan McCardell—The Jaguars have been trying to do that for four years but have yet to find that reliable possession receiver who moves the sticks. Will it be Marcedes Lewis?
6. Establish an offensive identity—Is this going to be a two-tight end offense? Is this going to be a pound-it-with-Greg-Jones offense, a throw-it-high-and-deep-to-Matt-Jones offense, a ball-control-with-Fred-Taylor offense or a combination of all those? Whatever it is, the Jaguars must establish it early in the season.
7. Cement Leftwich as the starter—With all due respect to David Garrard and the merits of competition, it's not likely the Jaguars will be the best they can be in 2006 if the season is dedicated to a switch at quarterback.
8. Be better than they were last season—Because the schedule is tougher. It's just that simple.
9. Slap themselves in the face—Slaps in the face work better than pats on the back. Football is a game of challenges. You can't live on past successes. Forget about 12-4.
10. Stay healthy—You could say this goes without saying for every team, but I'm saying it. Injuries of a temporary nature can be overcome. All teams sustain little hurts. Season-enders are season-killers. You can't lose a big chunk of your salary cap and expect to compete against teams that haven't lost a big chunk of theirs.
Wadda you think? Do you have some others?