By Chris Cummings: Heading into Week 11 of the regular season, the Jacksonville Jags have a record of 1-8, and it would be fair to say that things don’t look great for Mike Mularkey et al. Blaine Gabbert, who was drafted two years ago as the future of the franchise is still struggling; Justin Blackmon, the rookie wide receiver who was supposed to boost the Jags’ otherwise hapless receiving corps has only managed one receiving TD thus far; and the sole peace of hope for the offense and the franchise, MJD, is currently injured and reportedly wants out. The pass rush still seems to scare the living daylights out of whomever it is that stands under centre, and injuries are plaguing the offensive line.
The defence hasn’t been quite as bad, but is still nothing to write home about, and they have averaged fewer than 9 points per game at Everbank this season. In short, the Jags are the worst team in the NFL this season -even the Browns look capable of competing with the likes of Philly, San Diego, and Cincinnati.
But is it all really this bad for the Jags, or is it a case of riding out the storm and rebuilding for next year? Well, I believe that there is hope for Jacksonville, but it all revolves around the QB.
After a season and a half, Gabbert has proved himself incapable of competing at the highest level and, whilst he admittedly doesn’t have the greatest group of guys around him, it’s time to ditch him in favour of someone more reliable… Chad Henne perhaps? He hasn’t been world class by any means, but certainly is a feasible short-term replacement for Gabbert.
There is also the problem surrounding MJD, who, it appears, may not be playing in Jacksonville next winter. Rashad Jennings has been fairly disappointing in replacement, although this has not really come as a surprise, and it is vital that the Jags find somebody to take Jones-Drew’s role, which is one that essentially carries the offense when the QB is not able to do so. Both of the short term solutions the Jags have found have, as of yet, not been up to the task, and so they must look to the future.
The long term solution, will be found in the off-season, where Khan and the front office staff have the chance to rebuild this franchise with the help of the draft (let’s hope they don’t draft a punter this time!). Providing that they use their first-round pick wisely, and are prepared to spend some cash to attract some of the league’s quality players, then who’s to say that we can’t expect some major improvements come this time next year.
USC’s Matt Barkley should be their target in the draft, and if they manage to secure his services, then we can expect Blackmon’s performances to improve greatly and emerge as a quality receiver who can help Robinson and Lewis when the ball is in the air. Now I’m not saying that we can expect to see them even with a winning season next year; they have got themselves in such a mess that it will take years to be playoff-competitive again. But, stranger things have happened…