JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Love/hate observations from Jacksonville Jaguars camp.
• Running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He is an explosive offensive player on a team with too few of them. He is a tough runner who proved last season he could handle carrying the load as a lead back. It's scary to think how good he could be if he had more help from the passing game. He is off to a slow start in the preseason, but the team isn't overly concerned. He's too good for that.
• As rookies, tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton had their moments where they struggled. But seeing time as rookie starters (28 starts between them) was a good thing. These two have a chance to develop into one of the better tackle tandems in the league. Monroe has trimmed his body weight down about 25 pounds and looks much more athletic, which will help against speed rushers. Britton, who was the better of the two even though he was taken a round later in the 2009 draft, plays with a nasty disposition you want from a right tackle. These two will form the nucleus for a long time on this line.
• Receiver Mike Sims-Walker upped his catches from 16 in 2008 to 63 last season. When he's on the field, he has big-play ability. The problem has been nagging injuries that have kept him on the sidelines way too much. Sims-Walker practiced once a day during camp to help keep him on the field. If he plays 16 games, he could be an 80-catch player.
• Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. It might seem strange to pay homage to a coordinator whose offense hasn't really been that explosive. But I think Koetter has been hurt by bad quarterback play and interference from former assistants Kennedy Pola and Mike Tice. They're both gone, so Koetter has much more freedom now. Look for a more innovative offense.
• Linebacker Daryl Smith. For a couple of seasons, when the Jaguars were pumping him up, I thought he was a little overrated. But he was outstanding last season. A quiet, reserved player, Smith is on the cusp of a Pro Bowl season. He doesn't get sack numbers, but he's a sure tackler who gets to the football.
• Quarterback David Garrard. It's hard for Koetter to be innovative because Garrard limits his ability to do so. Garrard is a serviceable quarterback, nothing more. He often plays it too safe, rather than taking chances down the field. That has earned him the nickname of "Captain Checkdown." If the Jaguars are to improve as a team, Garrard has to take more shots -- and hit them. It's likely the Jaguars will draft a quarterback in the first round next spring. Even though some would like to speculate that Luke McCown is pushing Garrard, he isn't. It's Garrard's job, no matter what happens in the preseason.
• While the tackles are set, the inside of the offensive line is not. The interior was a trouble spot last season. Center Brad Meester, who admittedly didn't play that well in 2009, has dropped some weight and will start again. Uche Nwaneri will start at left guard or right guard, depending on who wins the other spot. That will be decided this week. If Kynan Forney plays better at left guard than Vince Manuwai does at right guard, Nwaneri will play on the right side. If Manuwai plays better, he will start and Nwaneri will be the left guard. Justin Smiley is in the mix, but he has some catching up to do. Watch the guards against Tampa.
• The safety spot. They drafted Reggie Nelson in the first round of the 2007 draft and he has been a bust so far. He is poor in recognition and takes bad angles, which leads to a lot of missed tackles. Even so, he still might start. That's how bad the safety spot is for this team. Anthony Smith and Gerald Alexander started the first two preseason games, but Nelson will get another shot coming up in the next game or two. There's a real good chance the opening day starter might actually be on another roster right now. Let's just say this is a team in the market for a safety. "There are some things we need to do a whole lot better back there," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.
• The coaching uncertainty. There was a lot of speculation that the team would fire Del Rio after last season. But he had three years left on his contract, worth $15 million. That's a big chunk to eat for owner Wayne Weaver, considering the problems they've had selling tickets. If the Jaguars don't get to at least seven victories, there will be a new coach around next season. One name to watch: Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, who worked as a secondary coach in Jacksonville under Tom Coughlin.
• The perception the team is moving. They've done a nice job selling tickets this offseason and should have sellouts. The passion is coming back, and the crowds are getting younger, which is a good thing. Weaver has steadfastly said he will not move the team. Getting a football team to Jacksonville is his legacy. That means more than money to him, especially since he already has a ton of it. But if five years from now things haven't changed, then there could be issues. Not until then. People always point to the tarps. Did you know that even with the covered-up seats, the stadium has a bigger capacity than Soldier Field?