With the Raiders set to face the Jacksonville Jaguars, I caught up with Alfie Crow of the Jaguars blog Big Cat Country to get a little inside info on the team he covers. I made sure I didn't have beers with him this time. I did that in New York last April and my head still hurts when I think about it.
1. What do you think is most to blame for the Jaguars being dead last in total offense this season?
The biggest blame for the Jaguars poor offense lies at the feet of general manager Gene Smith. It's the quarterback he drafted and the pass catchers he drafted/signed for the most part. Blaine Gabbert has struggled mightily in his second season still and the other skill position players Smith has drafted are also struggling.
2. What do you think is most to blame for the Jaguars being among the worst defenses in the NFL?
The defense being poor is due to the lack of a pass rush and injuries at the linebacker position. The pass rush is the bigger surprise after the team re-signed Jeremy Mincey in the offseason after a career year, but he's been ineffective getting to the quarterback in 2012. The other end is a second-round pick, so it's no shock he's struggled. At the linebacker position, the Jaguars are forced to play what would normally be special teams guys due to injuries to Daryl Smith and Clint Session.
3. Has there been any signs that the Jaguars could begin improving this season?
There are small glimmers on the offensive side of the football that things could get going, but that usually lasts about two drives and then reality smacks you right back in the face. The defense should improve if/when Daryl Smith can come back, but unless some magic light switch can be flipped, it's going to be tough sledding from here on out.
4. In your opinion is Blaine Gabbert the answer? Or will the Jaguars look to move on from him?
Is Blaine Gabbert the answer? The short version is no, he's probably not. The long answer is essentially that Gene Smith drafted what appears to be a 4-5 year project at the quarterback position in his third year of rebuilding. You simply don't have that kind of time to "rebuild" in the modern NFL. Gabbert will likely get the remainder of the 2012 season to show improvement, but if he can't the Jaguars could be hitting the reset button.
5. What are the three strongest areas of this Jaguars team?
Do I have to name three? Well, I would say the Jaguars third-round punter has been a bright spot in some regard, but I still think he out kicks his coverage far too often.
One real bright spot however has been the play of left tackle Eugene Monroe, who's shut down some of the leagues best pass rushers in the first five weeks of the season and seems to be taking the next step in his young career.
The final bright spot on the Jaguars I can point to is that Cecil Shorts III might finally be emerging as an impact player for the Jaguars in his second season. He's caught two late game touchdowns that put the Jaguars in the lead and has now moved into a starting role.