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Online Jaguars Lines & Predictions - Jacksonville Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Jacksonville Jaguars Season Preview

2006 Jaguars NFL News - August 23rd, 2006
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The 28-3 playoff drubbing that the Jacksonville Jaguars sustained at the hands of the New England Patriots this past January begged as many questions as it answered.

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For starters, where is this offense going? Is Byron Leftwich ever going to step up and deliver on the promise that he has hinted at over his first three years in the league? Is the franchise ever going to part ways with oft-injured running back Fred Taylor? Will recent first-round draft choices Matt Jones and Reggie Williams become first-rate NFL targets? Is the much-celebrated defense of head coach Jack Del Rio and coordinator Mike Smith capable of turning up the heat in a big-game setting?

And the fact that the Jags even made it to the playoffs in year three of the Del Rio era was a topic of great discussion as well. Was the 12-4 mark indicative of a franchise on the rise, or did the performance have more to do with a weak schedule that included two games each against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans? Is Jacksonville capable of seriously challenging Peyton Manning and the Colts, who swept their next-best AFC South foe in 2005?

Answers to these questions won't begin to arrive until September, when the Jags will attempt to silence their inquisitors in the form of another run towards the postseason.

And this time, Jacksonville plans to answer its questions while hoisting the Lombardi Trophy atop the Super Bowl stage.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 12-4 (2nd, AFC South)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2005, lost to New England, 28-3, in AFC Wild Card Game

COACH (RECORD): Jack Del Rio (26-22 in three seasons with Jaguars, 26-22 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Byron Leftwich, QB (2123 passing yards, 15 TD, 5 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Mike Peterson, LB (131 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 INT)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 10th rushing, 19th passing, 12th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 14th rushing, 7th passing, 6th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: Pittsburgh (9/18), at Indianapolis (9/24), N.Y. Giants (11/20), Indianapolis (12/10), New England (12/24)

KEY ADDITIONS: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, (2nd Round, UCLA), WR Troy Edwards (from Lions), WR Randy Hymes (from Ravens), TE Marcedes Lewis, (1st Round, UCLA), T Wayne Hunter (from Seahawks), T Stockar McDougle (from Dolphins), OL Mike Williams (from Bills), LB Nick Greisen (from Giants), LB Clint Ingram (3rd Round, Oklahoma), DB Brian Williams (from Vikings), P Toby Gowin (from Jets)

KEY DEPARTURES: WR Jimmy Smith (retired), T Ephraim Salaam (to Texans), T Mike Pearson (to Dolphins), LB Jamie Winborn (to Buccaneers), LB Akin Ayodele (to Cowboys), CB Kenny Wright (to Redskins), S Deke Cooper (to Dolphins)

QB: Barring anything unforeseen, the depth chart at quarterback will remain the same for another year. Byron Leftwich (2123 passing yards, 15 TD, 5 INT) ran his career record as a starter to 21-17 last season, posting an 89.3 passer rating and playing generally well. David Garrard (1117 passing yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 172 rushing yards, 3 TD) wasn't spectacular in the five games Leftwich missed with a broken ankle, but went 4-1 and didn't make many crucial mistakes. Preseason wonder Quinn Gray (100 passing yards, 2 TD) got to take the first regular season snaps of his career in last year's finale against the Titans, and figures to hold the clipboard for another year.

RB: There is much intrigue over the state of this position. Fred Taylor (787 rushing yards, 3 TD) is now 30 years of age, has battled injuries in each of the past two seasons, and has scored only six touchdowns since 2003. The Jags were able to get production out of both fullback Greg Jones (575 rushing yards, 4 TD) and backups Alvin Pearman (149 rushing yards, 1 TD, 32 receptions) and LaBrandon Toefield (142 rushing yards, 4 TD) in Taylor's absence last year, and all three of those players return. Add second-round draft pick Maurice Jones-Drew (UCLA) to the mix, and Taylor has a battle on his hands. At the first sign of trouble, you can expect Taylor to be filling a backup role, with Jones-Drew likely the top candidate for increased carries. Derrick Wimbush (12 rushing yards, 1 TD) played fullback when Jones was moved to tailback last season, but given the crowded running back picture, his spot on the roster could be in serious jeopardy.

WR/TE: Jimmy Smith (70 receptions, 6 TD) called it quits in the offseason following 11 seasons, nine 1,000-yard campaigns, and five Pro Bowl appearances as a Jaguar. And while Smith was definitely slowing down, his departure still leaves a major void at the No. 1 wideout slot. Seeking to fill that gap will be a trio of players - former first-round picks Matt Jones (36 receptions, 5 TD) and Reggie Williams (35 receptions), along with overachieving former fourth-round pick Ernest Wilford (41 receptions, 7 TD). Jones is just two years removed from serving as a college quarterback, but his size (6-6, 229) represents a major matchup problem for opposing defenses. Williams has scored a grand total of one touchdown in two NFL seasons, and will have to shed his label as a first-round bust. Wilford (41 receptions, 7 TD) is not a household name, but has been a reliable downfield weapon. Battling for spots behind those three are Troy Edwards (2 receptions with the Lions), who is back in Jacksonville following a one-year hiatus; Randy Hymes (11 receptions, 2 TD with Baltimore), a regular with the Ravens for the past couple of years, and holdovers Chad Owens and Cortez Hankton (3 receptions). Jacksonville used a first-round draft pick on tight end Marcedes Lewis (UCLA), though a preseason ankle injury to the former Bruin meant that holdovers Kyle Brady (18 receptions, 1 TD) and George Wrighster (13 receptions, 2 TD) both appeared safe to remain.

OL: The Jaguars were solid but far from dominant up front last season, and experienced no major turnover in the trenches despite any real or perceived weaknesses. Del Rio is looking for a spike in production from the left side of the line, as tackle Khalif Barnes improved throughout his rookie season of 2005 and guard Vince Manuwai was steady as well. On the right side, tackle Maurice Williams and guard Chris Naeole are both reliable, as is center Brad Meester. If any of those principles go down, the Jags will turn to a couple of newcomers with starting experience in the league. Tackles Stockar McDougle ex- Dolphins) and Mike Williams (ex-Bills) are both recent first-round picks who have had trouble establishing themselves in the league. Former Seahawk Wayne Hunter is another former first-day draft pick who has had trouble getting on the field. Also vying to make the roster will be holdover Derrick Fletcher, who was a reliable backup last year and is best suited for the guard position.

DL: The heart of the Jacksonville defense is still on the interior line, where the presence of Marcus Stroud (42 tackles, 1 sacks) and John Henderson (70 tackles, 3 sacks) continues to make life mighty difficult for opposing offenses. Stroud earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl citation last season. The Jags bolstered the pass rush with the addition of Reggie Hayward (33 tackles, 8.5 sacks) prior to last season, and both the ex-Bronco and Paul Spicer (37 tackles, 7.5 sacks) had their moments off the edge a year ago. Jacksonville has solid depth behind that foursome, with Marcellus Wiley (6 tackles) and Bobby McCray (16 tackles, 5.5 sacks) at end and Rob Meier (35 tackles, 6 sacks) and Anthony Maddox (3 tackles, 1 sack) at tackle. Wiley and Maddox will be challenged for backup spots by former Bengal and Viking tackle Tony Williams, who did not play in 2005, and rookie end James Wyche, a seventh-round pick out of Syracuse who could wind up on the practice squad.

LB: The Jags' most significant defensive departure is at strong side linebacker, where Akin Ayodele (70 tackles, 2.5 sacks) was lured away by the Cowboys' free agent money after four seasons in Jacksonville. Top candidates to fill that void include special-teamer Pat Thomas (12 tackles), ex-Giant Nick Greisen (85 tackles, 1 sack with New York) and third-round draft choice Clint Ingram (Oklahoma). Elsewhere within the linebacking corps, top playmaker Mike Peterson (131 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 INT) is back in the middle, and Daryl Smith (81 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT) brings his services back to the weak side. In addition to two of the losers of the starting battle among Thomas, Greisen, and Ingram, reserves should include Jorge Cordova, a former third-round pick trying to rebound from two seasons lost to injury, fifth-round draft choice Brent Hawkins (Illinois State), who was a defensive end in college, holdover Tony Gilbert (12 tackles, 1 sack), and undrafted free agent Brian Iwuh (Colorado).

DB: Jacksonville made its most significant offseason addition in the secondary, throwing big free agent money at cornerback Brian Williams (47 tackles, 4 INT, 1 sack with Minnesota), a part-time starter with the Vikings last season. Williams will start opposite Rashean Mathis (69 tackles, 5 INT), who is unsung but is still the team's best corner. The job of the corners will be made easier if strong safety Donovin Darius (6 tackles) can fully recover from a knee injury that forced him to miss almost all of 2005. Deon Grant (66 tackles, 3 INT. 1.5 sacks) returns to the free safety position, and Terry Cousin (46 tackles, 4 INT) is again expected to occupy nickel corner duties. Backups at safety will include Gerald Sensabaugh (24 tackles) and special teams ace Nick Sorensen (9 tackles). At corner, three players - 2005 third- round choice Scott Starks (13 sacks), fellow holdover David Richardson (6 tackles), and seventh-round draft pick Dee Webb (Florida) - are probably competing for at most two backup spots.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Josh Scobee (23-30 FG) is inconsistent, but barring a complete preseason meltdown, will make the team. Punter Chris Hanson (42.9 avg.) and long-snapper Joe Zelenka return as well. Alvin Pearman (8.4 punt return avg.) and Derrick Wimbush (24.5 avg., 1 TD) were the Jags' primary returners last season, but Chad Owens and rookie Maurice Jones-Drew will be among the candidates to unseat them.

PROGNOSIS: The Jaguars appear to be in a bit of a holding pattern in the AFC South, which considering last year's 12-4 record and playoff appearance, is mostly a good thing. Jacksonville clearly has more talent than both Houston and Tennessee within the AFC South, which means that another second-place finish is something of a formality. The trouble is that the Jags appear to be no closer to Indianapolis than they were last season. Given Jimmy Smith's retirement and Fred Taylor's age and health issues, the offense could take some time before forging an identity. The defense still looks sturdy, though depth on the interior line and in the secondary could eventually be an issue. If the Jaguars fail to be a major player in the wild card race, it will be a surprise, though actually reaching the postseason will depend heavily on how the AFC's other three divisions shape up.

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