by Richard David Smith III
And that’s a wrap. The Jaguars season has officially come to an end…and not a moment too soon. The Big Cats ended the season more like the Big Flats, falling 30-10 to the Indianapolis Colts to conclude their 2013 campaign with a three-game losing streak. Not much to analyze in this one–the Colts are the far superior team, they were playing at home with playoff seeding on the line and, after grabbing a quick 17-0 lead in the first quarter, they easily handled a bad Jaguars team that seemed slightly out-of-rhythm all afternoon. The Jags once again lost the all-important turnover battle, with Maurice Jones-Drew even coughing up a rare fumble on the first drive. Chad Henne did throw for 331 yards, but most of that was in garbage time, where his lone TD pass to Kerry Taylor also took place with 16 seconds remaining. If we’ve learned anything about Less Bad Chad this season, it’s that he has absolutely mastered garbage time.
This game also marked Brad Meester’s last official game with the Jaguars after 14 seasons’s of stalwart service. Meester was the quintessential every man, the blue collar football player who so many of us could relate to; the guy who just showed up every day and grinded. There was nary an ounce of diva in that man. My last impression of Meester was not on the field, nor during his final post-game press conference at Everbank Field last week, but rather immediately thereafter. The moment Meester finished talking to the press, there was his family, waiting for him as his wife urged him to hurry along or they’d be late for something or other. As if instructed by coach Gus Bradley, Meester dutifully hustled along at her beckon. I like that my last memory of Meester was him acting just like I always envisioned he would off the field: like one of us. Farewell Mr. Meester: take these broken wings and learn to fly again…into a wonderful retirement.
As Meester heads off into the world of fattening food and fishing ponds, the Jaguars head off into another long off-season full of uncertainty. One of the bright spots of 2013 was the team picking up momentum in the middle of the season and winning three out of four after a devastating 0-8 start and showing that they will not give up on coach Bradley. I am on record as questioning the selection of Bradley in the first place, but I am also of the mindset that every newly acquired coach should get at least three years to get his program in place and turn things around before being seriously evaluated. If his positive attitude is as infectious as his winning grin, then the Jaguars just may have something good happening here.
My MVP of the Jaguars this year was middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. My impact Rookie of the Year was strong safety Jonathan Cyprien. Both Poz and Cyp have become the types of defensive players that seem to be involved in just about every play, and are brilliant building blocks for a strong defense going forward. Per his season ending presser earlier this, GM David Caldwell expects Poz to return to the team next season along with TE Marcedes Lewis. This is great news, as I still think that Lewis can be the best offensive player on the team if given a chance to roam the field with more defensive attention diverted to WRs Blackmon and Shorts III (which we didn’t really get to see last season). Jones-Drew will “be allowed to test the free agent market,” and the the return of the biggest name on the team is highly questionable. Caldwell also said that Henne could be signed before free agency and that Blaine Gabbert (under contract) is “still a Jaguar.” Though it makes me throw up in my mouth a little to say it, bringing back Henne as a back-up/mentor who has experience with the current offense makes some degree of sense. That said, it wouldn’t bother me if I never had to type the names “Henne” or “Gabbert” ever again.
In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Jaguars are locked in to pick 3rd behind #1 Houston and #2 St. Louis (from Washington) and have many holes to fill. A team should never draft based on need but when you need as much as the Jaguars do it’s sort of hard not to by default. As things stand now, the ridiculously beastly Jadaveon Clowney–the 6’6”, 249lb defensive end out of South Carolina–would be a steal at number three and would be the Jaguars best bet if he slips to them. Clowney’s tangible skills would translate with most certainty and most immediately to the NFL and would give the Jaguars an instantly respectable pass rush. Though set at defensive end, I can’t envision Jeff Fisher (whose Rams pick 2nd)–the man who drafted defensive end Jevon “The Freak” Kearse out of Florida many years ago–passing up on the even more physically gifted Clowney, but you never know.
If Clowney is not available at number three, then the pick should be Johnny “Football” Manziel, the dynamic QB who won the Heisman in his freshman year at Texas A&M. Sports Illustrated’s writer Peter King seems to think that this is likely to happen and views Manziel as a nice fit for the creative ways that Jaguars coordinator Jedd Fisch likes to line-up his offense. Manziel can win games with both his arm and legs and is a fierce competitor who hates to lose. The primary knock on him is his size (6’1″, 209lbs), but he plays much bigger than he is and, according to those who have seen him up close, is much more solid than meets the eye. Besides–with designed roll-outs, wildcats, and option plays–the league has morphed into much more of an out-of-the-pocket league these days. It’s not as important as it once was to be a 6’8″ gunslinger who is cemented in the pocket, and Manziel would seem to be the archetype for today’s NFL. Along with the mind-blowing offensive numbers he put up in the SEC (including once beating, and twice torching Nick Saban’s mighty Alabama), Manziel also comes complete with a cocky attitude. This is off-putting to some but, honestly, the Jaguars could probably use a little of that sort of swagger at this point.
Many in the #JaguarsTwitter scene appear to be enamored with Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater. I have watched him a few times and, though a fan of him as a person, I am not a fan of him as a player. He put up fantastic numbers in college but doesn’t pass the eye test to me and I view him as the sort of fool’s gold that seduces a lot of teams at the combines but never quite translates to the NFL level (Gabbert, anyone?). This sort of selection ultimately keeps bad teams further spinning into the ground for years. Many draft nerds have Houston picking Bridgewater first and, if that were to occur, they’d be doing the Jaguars a colossal favor. The precious position of quarterback should never be forced in the first round unless it’s as close to a sure thing as it can possibly be. In my estimation, if the Jaguars can’t land either Clowney or Manziel with the 3rd pick (which will occur if the teams in front of them are wise), then they should probably think about immediately shifting into trade down mode, what with all of the areas they need to address. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves…there are a lot of combines, workouts, soirees, autograph sessions, and speeding tickets to be had before now and the draft. Stay tuned…
My final thought on the Jaguars 2013 season: Sorry Dave, but you may as well have signed Tebow.
Jaguars Season Wrap-up
by Richard David Smith III