2006 season recap
Wounded Jags fall short
After steadily improving for three consecutive seasons, the Jaguars appeared to take a step backward last season, posting an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs. However, seven of those losses were by a touchdown or less, and the team dealt all season with injuries (LB Mike Peterson, RB Greg Jones, DE Reggie Hayward and QB Byron Leftwich, among others). Through it all, the Jags were in contention down the stretch, only to lose their final three games.
Key camp questions
Was last season an aberration, or are the Jaguars already in decline?
After going 5-11, 9-7 and 12-4 in coach Jack Del Rio's first three years, the team slipped to 8-8 last year. An optimist could look at the injuries and write the season off as a one-year stumble. A pessimist might start to wonder if the team has what it takes to bounce back and take the next step toward a playoff run.
Can the offense come together and be a consistent threat?
Jacksonville has a lot of question marks on offense, starting with the quarterback position. Leftwich is the starter heading into camp, but David Garrard will compete, and the team still could wind up acquiring Daunte Culpepper from the Dolphins. Whoever takes the snaps will have to develop some consistency. Last season the Jags scored more than 30 points five times but less than 20 six times. That's a good recipe for an 8-8 season.
How will the secondary respond to the loss of safeties Donovin Darius and Deon Grant?
Darius was the leader in the secondary but missed the last month of the season to injury and has since been cut. Grant, one of the team's top playmakers, is now in Seattle. In an attempt to offset those losses, the Jaguars drafted Florida free safety Reggie Nelson with their first-round pick in April. The Jaguars are very talented up front, and they'll need to be to take some pressure off of a young defensive backfield.
Key position battle
Del Rio has said Byron Leftwich is the starter headed into camp, but Leftwich couldn't regain that spot last season after losing it to Garrard while injured. If Daunte Culpepper comes on board, as rumored, there will be a serious battle for the starting spot, as well as the backup role.
With Darius and Grant now gone, Nelson will be counted on to produce. He will be given every opportunity to start right away in a thin secondary, and with a solid front seven, he could be in a position to show off his ball-hawking skills at free safety.
Player on the spot
Leftwich has two concerns heading in to camp. The first is staying healthy. The second is keeping hold of the starting quarterback job. He once was thought of as the quarterback of the future in Jacksonville, but in four seasons he still hasn't proven he can be the franchise quarterback the Jags thought he would be.
Jones-Drew came out of nowhere to produce monster numbers as a rookie, but the continued presence of Fred Taylor and the return of Greg Jones limit his value this season. He will be a nice No. 2 fantasy back, but another season with 15 total touchdowns will be hard to produce.