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Judging by the fact that the 2011 Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) finished dead last in overall offensive yardage, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch pointing out that the 2012 squad has plenty of room to improve and then some.
Running the football was not really an issue last season, considering that Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew led the league’s rushers with 1,606 yards on the ground. After letting go of his desire to renegotiate the final two years of the front-loaded deal he signed five years ago, Jones-Drew officially ended his 38-day holdout on Sunday, only a week before the Jaguars season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
But despite having the number one rusher in the NFL, rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s tremendous struggles in 2011 plummeted the Jaguars offensive efficiency to rock bottom. The former University of Missouri quarterback’s 11 interceptions in 15 games was not an abysmal total, but with 12 touchdown passes, a 50.8 completion percentage, an average of only 147.6 passing yards per game, and a visible fear of hanging in the pocket and taking the big hit, the consensus was that Gabbert clearly was not prepared for the starting role just yet.
The other side of the football was a much different story for Jacksonville. Defense was a strong-suit in 2011, as they allowed an average of just 20.6 points per game, which was good enough for the 11th rank in the league.
However, a great running attack and defensive unit was not enough to allow former head coach Jack Del Rio to keep his job. Management decided to move on, firing him on November 29th. Del Rio held the title of Jaguars head coach dating back to the 2003 season.
In now is Mike Mularkey, a long-time former NFL assistant coach and also Buffalo Bills head coach from 2004-2005. The team is under new ownership and has begun its rebuilding phase. Their key personnel losses this offseason include defensive linemen Matt Roth, Aaron Kampman and Leger Douzable. Among the significant additions are veteran wide receivers Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, a quality cornerback in Aaron Ross and former Miami Dolphins starting quarterback, Chad Henne. Because of Gabbert’s youth, many believe Henne will take control of the starting position under center at one point or another this season.
Rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who the Jaguars selected with the fifth overall pick in this summer’s draft out of Oklahoma State, is projected to become their primary target for the foreseeable future.
With all that being said, the Jaguars compete in the AFC South, which will likely be run away with by the Houston Texans for a second straight year. In this first season of the next stage for this Jacksonville franchise a realistic goal would be somewhere between six and eight wins.
Image Courtesy of Jacksonville Jaguars