A Capsule Look at this Week's Colts Opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars
Synopsis: The Colts' third opponent of the 2008 season is not only a very familiar one, it's one that in a very imant way is having a similar season to the Colts.
The opponent? The Jacksonville Jaguars.
Each team thus far in the 2008 season has had a notably difficult time keeping offensive linemen healthy.
"Where their problem has come is exactly like ours," Colts President Bill Polian said this week. "They've lost three of their starting offensive linemen and unfortunately the tragic shooting of their backup tackle.
"So, they're in a position where they're fighting hard to get some offensive continuity because of all of the new people they have had to play on the offensive line."
The Jaguars, selected by many to contend for not only a playoff position but their first AFC South title, lost their opening game of the season, 17-10, at AFC South rival Tennessee, then lost to the undefeated Buffalo Bills in Jacksonville this past weekend, 20-16.
A playoff team two of the past three seasons, the Jaguars are currently without starting center Brad Meester (biceps) and already this season they have placed starting left guard Vince Manuwai (knee) and starting right guard Maurice Williams (biceps) on injured reserve, ending their season.
Meester is expected to be out at least two more weeks, and the Jaguars also are without their top reserve tackle, Richard Collier, who was shot two weeks ago.
The Colts, who ended an 18-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday without center Jeff Saturday, left tackle Tony Ugoh, tackle Ryan Lilja and guard Mike Pollak, have rushed for 39.0 yards per game and are 32nd in the NFL in rushing through two weeks.
The Jaguars, who ranked second in the NFL in rushing last season, have averaged 65.5 yards per game and are ranked 28th. Fred Taylor, a Pro Bowl selection last season, has rushed for 67 yards on 23 carries – a 2.9-yards-per-carry average compared to 5.4 last season and 4.7 for his career entering the season.
Third-year veteran Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the NFL's top breakaway threats, has rushed 12 times for 30 yards for a 2.5-yard average compared to 4.6 last season and 5.1 for his career.
"They're like us," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "They have some new offensive linemen playing because of injuries. They haven't run the ball nearly as well as they're capable of with those two runners (Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor). When you see their stats and they're averaging 2.9 or 3.0 yards per carry, that's very unusual for them.
"I think both teams are going to look at, 'Hey we have new guys in there, but we have to run the ball better.' I'm sure we'll see both of those guys run it quite a bit."
The Jaguars, after making the playoffs as a wild-card last season with an 11-5 record, made several major offseason changes, including the signing of wide receiver Jerry Porter as a free agent from the Oakland Raiders and cornerback Drayton Florence as a free agent from San Diego. They also traded three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud to Buffalo.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith left to become the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, after which longtime NFL assistant and former Buffalo Bills Head Coach Gregg Williams – most recently the coordinator in Washington – became the Jaguars' defensive coordinator.
"Gregg Williams comes in from the Washington Redskins with a completely different approach – a multifaceted, multi-front, multi-blitz approach," Polian said. "He has veteran players to make it work. He has good rush people, including the two young ones they drafted. They're a formidable defense and they're going to give us different kinds and maybe more problems than we faced the last two weeks.
"Even though we have faced overpowering and physically dominant defensive lines the last two weeks, now we're going to face different schemes and people coming from different places. The pickups and the recognition required is going to be a lot different, so that's going to be tough for us."
The Jaguars in the last several seasons have developed into one of the Colts' fiercest rivals. The teams have played 12 times since the formation of the AFC South in 2002, with the Colts winning nine of the meetings. Indianapolis holds an 11-3 all-time series lead, including a sweep in the series a season ago.
2008 Record: 0-2, 4th in AFC South.
Head Coach: Jack Del Rio, sixth season as Jaguars and NFL head coach (45-37, 46-39 including postseason).
Last game: The Jaguars lost to the Buffalo Bills, 20-16, at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium Sunday. After facing a 10-3 halftime deficit, the Jaguars took the lead – and control of the game's momentum – in the third quarter. They tied the game with a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Maurice Jones-Drew on the first drive of the third quarter, then pushed the lead to 16-10 with field goals of 50 and 39 yards. The 39-yarder gave them a 16-10 lead with 13:31 remaining. But Bills quarterback Trent Edwards completed 20 of 25 passes for 239 yards and his seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver James Hardy in the fourth quarter gave the Bills a 17-16 lead they never relinquished.
2008 NFL Rankings: Offense – 29th overall (216.0 yards per game); Rushing, 28th (65.5 ypg); Passing, 22nd (150.5 ypg); Defense – Overall, 13th (297.0 yards per game); Rushing, 18th (106.0 ypg); Passing, 16th (191.0 ypg).
2008 Leading Passer: David Garrard (40-63 completions, 380 yards, 63.5 pct., 1 TD, 3 INT, 65.6 rating).
2008 Leading Rusher(s): Fred Taylor (23 carries, 67 yards, 0 TD); Maurice Jones-Drew (12 carries, 30 yards, 1 TD).
2008 Leading Receiver(s): Matt Jones (11 receptions, 130 yards, 0 TD).
2008 Leading Sacker(s): Rob Meier (1), Clint Ingram (1), Quentin Groves (1) and Reggie Hayward (1).
2008 Turnover Breakdown: Minus-2 (3 forced, 5 committed).
First-round draft choice: Derrick Harvey, defensive end. With the No. 8 overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Jaguars selected Harvey from the University of Florida.
Harvey, considered one of the top pass rushers available in the draft, was the first defensive end selected by the Jaguars in the first round in franchise history and one of four defensive ends selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Harvey, who held out for nearly five weeks of training camp, is currently backing up veteran Reggie Hayward. He has yet to have a sack in two NFL games, and he had an interception in the Jaguars' season-opening loss to Tennessee.
He was an All-Southeastern Conference second-team selection as a sophomore, registering 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks. As a junior last season, he had 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
Key free agents acquired: Drayton Florence (San Diego), CB; Jimmy Kennedy (Chicago), DT; Cleo Lemon (Miami), QB; Jerry Porter (Oakland), WR.
Key free agents lost: Aaron Glenn (New Orleans), CB; Quinn Gray (Houston), QB; Sammy Knight (New York Giants), S; Bobby McCray (New Orleans), DE; Shantee Orr (Cleveland), LB; LaBrandon Toefield (Carolina), RB; Ernest Wilford (Miami), WR.
2008 Review: The Jaguars, after winning 11 games – 12 including a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers – last season, have lost their first two games by a total of 11 points.
They lost the opener, 17-10, in a defensive game in which they were outgained by Tennessee, 309-198. After entering the game without Meester and Collier, the Jaguars lost Williams and Manuwai in that game. Jaguars quarterback David Garrard was sacked twice and he threw two interceptions.
This past week, after falling behind by seven points at halftime, the Jaguars took control in the second half before Edwards found wide receiver Lee Evans for a 37-pass on 3rd-and-6 from the Jaguars 44 with 4:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. Edwards' touchdown pass to Hardy came a play later, and the Bills never trailed again.
"They are far from an 0-2 football team," Polian said. "They have just run into a little bad luck, which they will overcome in the end. They're too talented not to."
Last time in Playoffs: 2007.
Last time in Super Bowl: Never.
Super Bowl Championships: None.
2007 Pro Bowl Selections: Fred Taylor, RB.
Quotable I: "I'm not frustrated. I know we could easily be 2-0, but we're not."
--- Jaguars Running Back Fred Taylor
Quotable II: "We never imagined we'd be 0-2. That was never in the plan, but that's what it is."
--- Jaguars Defensive End Paul Spicer