2007 season recap
Almost over the hump: After allowing the Titans to rush for a franchise record 282 yards in Week 1, the Jaguars rebounded nicely, winning 11 of their next 15 games that included two losses to perennial division leader Indianapolis. The Jags knocked off the Steelers in the Wild Card round, only to fail to find a lack of answers for Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense the following round.
Key camp questions:
Can David Garrard avoid a sophomore slump?
When Byron Leftwich was cut just before the 2007 season, Garrard was suddenly thrust into a starting role and ran with it, leading the Jaguars to wins in four of their first five games. Though Garrard's numbers were rarely earth shattering, his ability to manage games without making mistakes was critical to the team's success as evidenced by his not throwing an interception until Week 13. Now that Garrard heads into training camp as the unquestioned starter, he'll be under a lot of pressure to repeat last year's efficiency on a team with much higher aspirations. Battling it out for the backup spot will be Cleo Lemon and Todd Bouman, two players with starting experience that the Jaguars brought in this offseason.
How much more does Fred Taylor have in the tank?
The eleven-year RB hasn't gone over 250 carries since 2004, then again, with Maurice Jones-Drew as his running mate, he hasn't had to. With both running backs to complement each other the Jaguars lead the league with 4,932 rushing yards over the last two seasons. But if Taylor's old injury problems reoccur, can Jones-Drew handle 200-plus carries? Until that happens he'll continue to provide all the intangibles, including blocking and kick returning.
Can the pass rush improve?
For all the talk of the Jaguars' dominant defense, the team only managed one sack against Tom Brady in the divisional round of the playoffs, allowing the Patriots QB to complete a postseason-record 26 of 28 passes. The Jags answered by stealing Redskins' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, releasing DT Marcus Stroud and drafting two impact pass rushers in defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Williams is known for his exotic schemes and applying a lot of pressure on the quarterback. With a young LB corps that includes Justin Durant, Daryl Smith, Clint Ingram and Mike Peterson returning from injury to go along with a solid defensive line anchored by Paul Spicer, Williams will have a lot of moveable parts to play with during camp.
Key position battle
T Khalif Barnes vs. T Richard Collier: Guard Maurice Williams and tackle Tony Pashos won't see much competition on the right side. Brad Meester and Vincent Manuwai are locks at center and left guard respectively. After injuring his left knee in Week 9, standout Chris Naeole was released. That leaves Barnes and Collier to duke it out during camp for the last spot up for grabs on the offensive line.
DE Derrick Harvey: With Paul Spicer recently signed to a new deal and eight-year veteran Reggie Hayward still in the mix, Harvey will find himself in a comfortable spot, starting the season as a reserve in what will be an aggressive front seven. But there is a reason Jacksonville traded up to the eighth spot to draft the athletic junior out of Florida. Look for Harvey to see a healthy amount of playing time in the preseason while easing his way into a rotation that will likely also feature second-round pick DE Quentin Groves.
Player on the spot
WR Troy Williamson: The fact that Williamson, the Vikings' seventh overall pick in 2005, was traded to Jacksonville for a sixth-rounder this offseason shows how far the 26-year old wideout's stock has fallen. After three seasons in which Williamson started 21 games and caught 79 passes and three touchdowns, the WR known more for the passes he's dropped over three years in Minnesota than the ones he's caught has a fresh start on a Jacksonville team in need of a big-play receiver. Reports out of Jacksonville claim that Williamson looked sharp during minicamp, and he'll have every opportunity to prove himself with Jerry Porter expected to miss all of camp following surgery for a hamstring tear.