The 49ers wrap up November and their AFC South opponents with what looks like a winnable game, but could prove tricky against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Depending on the 49ers are performing at this point, one could argue this has trap game written all over it. It is sandwiched between the tough road game at Green Bay and then a stretch of 3 divisional games in 5 weeks. Given how some folks think the 49ers will do this year, I'm guessing they do not view this as a trap game, but as just another potential loss. I like to look on the bright side of things (even the fact that I'm turning 30 today...how's that for a little nugget for you? That and a test to see if you've already given up reading this article).
The Jacksonville Jaguars are represented here at SB Nation by my boy River City Rage over at Big Cat Country.
Although the Jaguars continued their pattern of alternating very solid and not so very solid years, 2008 was quite a stumble for them as they fell to 5-11. It certainly didn't help that they were playing in a tremendously strong AFC South with the other three teams finishing 33-15. The Jaguars did manage a fairly balanced, although not wildly strong offensive attack, finishing the season 12th in passing and 13th in rushing. The bowling ball with legs, Maurice Jones-Drew finally surpassed Fred Taylor in carries, but saw the rushing attack become significantly less potent. Given the offseason moves it will be very interesting to see how that holds up.
On defense, the Jaguars finished 29th against the pass and 10th against the rush. Definitely a big disparity there. I watched pretty much no Jaguars football games last season so any thoughts on this are based on what I can scour around for on the Internet. One thing that jumps out at me: They finished the season with 1 less sack than the 49ers. Not exactly the kind of stat that screams pass defense success.
After the jump we look at the Jaguars offseason additions and subtractions, 2009 Questions and Answers and a quick preview of the matchup...
Tell me if this situation sounds familiar. Team signs a veteran at a position of some need before the draft. On draft day, a player they weren't expecting to fall to them lands squarely in their loops and they'd be foolish to pass on him, leaving them with potentially one too many guys at the position. Subsequently, that first round pick holds out from training camp. You'd argue that's the 49ers story with Brandon Jones and Michael Crabtree, only it's also the story of the Jaguars with Tra Thomas and Eugene Monroe. While Jones has not done as much at WR as Thomas has at OT, it's still sufficiently similar to be a little eery.
At the same time used the draft, and free agency a bit to try and beef up the offense around MJD and David Garrard. They drafted OT Eben Britton and very intriguing wide receivers Jarrett Dillard and Mike Thomas. Oh, and don't forget their 7th round pick, Rashad Jennings out of I-AA Liberty, who rushed for over 1,500 yards his senior season. In free agency, they added an aging Torry Holt who might still have a little bit left in the tank. So, while they didn't do much to upgrade their defense (Terrance Knighton appears likely to start as a backup DT and Derek Cox getting time in nickel situations), the offense could be building towards something solid (eventually).
The Jaguars saw quite a free agents leave town this offseason. The most notable two were probably Fred Taylor and Khalif Barnes. Taylor (the NFL's injury answer to Ken Griffey Jr.) had a resurgence in his last few years in Jacksonville before being surpassed by Maurice Jones-Drew. He was released this offseason and the full time job was handed to MJD. Barnes left to become the Raiders starting left tackle, although Jaguars fans don't exactly seem broken up about it.
One of the more interesting, but not surprising releases was that of wide receiver Matt Jones. The former Arkansas QB seemed to be building himself into a pretty solid wide receiver before things went to crap last year. Aside from that they seemed to clean out a whole lot of veteran bodies that brought something to the table but were nothing spectacular as of late (Reggie Williams, Mike Peterson). My favorite subtraction of theirs had to be this guy. I had forgotten he was still in the league (he's in New Orleans now).
2009 Questions and Answers
I'm really quite curious where this team is going in 2009. Most folks seem to view this as a rebuilding year for the Jaguars. Anybody think they could be one of those teams that comes out of nowhere to shock folks? It would take a lot of things going right, but I suppose anything is possible after what the Dolphins did last year.
I guess my biggest question at this point is whether Maurice Jones-Drew will be able to handle the load by himself. They've got bodies behind him and I think Rashad Jennings could be an interesting backup, but this is still a big step for the Jaguars. Of course, given that this appears to be a bit of a rebuilding year, maybe it's the perfect time to figure this out. Then they can decide whether they need to invest a fairly high pick in a decent handcuff option without blowing a year of high expectations.
Aside from that I'm curious who, if anybody, steps up as a wide receiver and as a pass rusher. Matt Jones was their leading receiver and they've got a whole bunch of youngsters around an aging ex-Ram (hmmmm...sounds like the 49ers receiver corps!)
@ San Francisco
Both Bigelow and I predicted a win in this matchup. At the time I mentioned Monroe and the fact that the offensive line could be gelling by week 12. At this point who knows what will happen. I do stick by the win prediction as even a 7 win team should be able to pull this kind of game out at home. As I mentioned up at the top, I see this as a big time potential trap game (assuming the Jaguars aren't all that good). There are so many question marks that I think a few answers make this quite the tough team. I think the 49ers defense can contain this offense, but we'll see how the Jags pass defense has improved (or not) by week 12.