|Gabbert often looked lost as a rookie, forcing the Jags to rely on the run. (US Presswire)|
And they still finished 5-11.
The Jaguars of 2011 are all the proof you need that if you can't pass the football, you won't have success -- no matter how good you are in other areas.
First-year coach Mike Mularkey, who takes over for run-heavy Jack Del Rio, has to amp up the passing game with second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbbert.
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As a rookie, Gabbert really struggled, finishing last in the league among starters in passer rating and yards.
But a change of scheme and help around him should help Gabbert progress in his second season.
If this team continues to be Jones-Drew's team, they will be hopeful of just reaching .500.
QB: At 22, Gabbert was the youngest quarterback in league history to start 14 games. At times, he looked like it. He struggled to get any consistency and had real issues in terms of mechanics. But the offensive style didn't help him, nor did a lack of a real threat at receiver. That sometimes led to Gabbert having problems staying in the pocket, although the idea he is timid is way off base. The Jaguars signed veteran Chad Henne to compete with Gabbert. But if Henne is playing, the Jaguars front office will be in a lot of trouble. Gabbert has to be the guy. The third quarterback is Dan LeFevour.
RB: Jones-Drew rushed for 1,606 yards and proved to be the team's only real weapon on offense. He is a tough runner who averaged 4.7 per rush, even though he was the focus of every defense the Jaguars faced. He did carry it 343 times, so wearing down has to be a concern. Rashad Jennings was scheduled to be the backup, but he went down early with a knee injury. He is expected back and should help spell Jones-Drew. Deji Karim is more of a third-down back, but DuJuan Harris showed some potential late last season. Greg Jones is the fullback and he is a punishing lead blocker. But he offers little more than that with seven yards rushing last season. Brock Bolen is his backup, so the draft could help here.
WR: This has been a trouble spot since Jimmy Smith retired in 2006. That's why the Jaguars signed Laurent Robinson as a free agent. There are still some questions as to whether he's a top-level receiver, but he played well for the Cowboys last season. Mike Thomas had a disappointing third season for the Jaguars in 2011, but a change in coaches should help him. He should be comfortable as a slot receiver. The Jaguars did sign veteran Lee Evans, who played for Mularkey in Buffalo, but he didn't do much for the Ravens last year because of injuries. The front office has high hopes for Cecil Shorts, who did little as a rookie. But the team thinks the change in coaches will help his growth. Brian Robiskie, Chastin West and Taylor Price are three players who should get good shots to make the team. The missing piece here is the No. 1 receiver. Expect the Jaguars to take a receiver early this year.
TE: Marcedes Lewis had a disappointing season in 2011. After catching 10 touchdown passes in 2010, he had none last season. Lewis had some off-the-field issues involving a custody case that seemed to take some of his focus away. He has more ability than he showed last season. Zach Miller has flashed as a move tight end when he's been on the field in his two seasons but he's missed too much time with injuries. Zach Potter is a nice third tight end who can block. Colin Cloherty, who was picked up late, did some good things.
OL: The best player on the line is left tackle Eugene Monroe, who played at a high level in his third season. He is on the verge of being a Pro Bowl player. There were some problems at other spots, especially at right tackle when Eben Britton went down because of a back injury. That forced Guy Whimper in and he struggled. Britton is expected back, but who knows for how long with a back issue. Whimper was re-signed as a backup. Veteran Brad Meester is back to anchor the line at center. He is smart and played well in 2011. Right guard Uche Nwaneri is a mauler in the run game, while Will Rackley was a 14-game starter as a rookie. He needs to get bigger and stronger, but did impress against Haloti Ngata of the Ravens. Cameron Bradfield and John Estes are two young players the team likes as potential starters.
DL: The pass rush has been an issue for a long time. They thought they had an answer when Aaron Kampman was signed, but he has been on the sideline too much with knee issues. He will try to play again, but it's still unknown if he can get back on the field. Jeremy Mincey was the team's best pass rusher with nine sacks. He is an effort player who was re-signed as a free agent. Austin Lane could be the other starter. George Selvie and John Chick, who is coming off a knee injury, are the backups. The defensive tackle spot looked good with Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton, but Knighton suffered an eye injury in a bar incident recently and might not be ready for the season. Alualu played his first two seasons with a bad knee, but he had surgery to clean it out after the season. He played better than the critics would lead you to believe. C.J. Mosley would be the starter if Knighton can't go. Mosley was solid as a reserve last season.
LB: When healthy, the linebackers are a top unit. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny played at a Pro Bowl level in 2011, his first season with the team. Posluszny was much better than he showed when he was with the Bills, especially against the pass. Daryl Smith remains one of the game's most underrated players. He isn't flashy, but when you talk about good, solid linebackers his name is among the first mentioned. Clint Session, who, like Posluszny, was signed as a free agent last year started slow, came on strong and then went on injured-reserve with concussion issues. He is expected back, and if so the Jaguars have a top group of linebackers. Depth is a problem. Russell Allen started for Session and did well, but there isn't much behind him. Kyle Bosworth is an inexperienced backup. There isn't much in reserve in the middle, and drafting some help is in order.
DB: This was a unit crippled by injuries at corner last season. The biggest injury was a season ending torn ACL suffered by veteran Rashean Mathis. He is back on a one-year deal, but will have to try to win his job back against Aaron Ross, who was signed as a free agent. Ross started 16 games for the Giants last season and is a capable corner. Derek Cox will be the other corner. He started just six games last season because of injuries, but he played well when he was on the field. Drew Coleman did a nice job as the nickel corner. Kevin Rutland, Morgan Trent, Ashton Youboty and William Middleton all got starts last season and are back to compete for roster spots. Dawan Landry and Dwight Lowery proved to be two good pickups at safety last season. Both are back after Lowery re-signed as a free agent this year. The backups are Courtney Greene and Chris Prosinski.