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With NFL teams stuck in a state of limbo thanks to the lingering lockout, we are taking a tour around the league and looking at where teams stand as they await the opening of the 2011 league year. Today, we offer our take on where the Jaguars stand.
Top three story lines
1. The Jaguars, after not drafting a quarterback since Byron Leftwich in 2003, identified QB David Garrard's successor, sending their first- and second-round picks to the Redskins to move up six spots and grab Blaine Gabbert. GM Gene Smith and head coach Jack Del Rio both have stated that Gabbert will be brought along slowly, with Garrard still their guy for 2011. But if the inconsistent Garrard stumbles early like he did in Week Two last season, when four interceptions led to the club going with Luke McCown in the second half — McCown promptly suffered a season-ending ACL tear — Gabbert's learning curve could be accelerated.
2. The momentum gained by televising all eight home games in 2010 after blacking out 7-of-8 in '09 has disappeared. Even the release of the schedule, which features the Jaguars hosting two "Monday Night Football" games for only the second time in franchise history did not provide a spike in ticket sales. If Jaguars fans do not come out and support the team at EverBank Field this season, the speculation of a possible move to Los Angeles will continue to grow.
3. Owner Wayne Weaver elected to bring back Jack Del Rio, but anything short of a postseason trip will not be good enough for the head coach to return in '12. Weaver did not extend the contracts of the coaching staff, leaving many to wonder if the owner is attempting to clear the books to make the team as attractive as possible for a potential sale. Smith's draft class likely won't offer a lot of immediate help for Del Rio, either, with one of the worst defenses in football a season ago receiving only fifth- and sixth-round defensive backs as reinforcements. All this could add up to the writing being on the wall for Del Rio, who is only the second coach since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 not to win a division title in his first eight years on the job.
2011 free-agency — whenever that happens
Unsigned players: QB Todd Bouman (12), DT Nate Collins (1), S Sean Considine (6), DT Leger Douzable (2), OLB Justin Durant (4), QB Trent Edwards (4), S Courtney Greene (2), WR Nate Hughes (2), TE Marcedes Lewis (5, franchised), CB William Middleton (2), MLB Kirk Morrison (6), P Adam Podlesh (4), DE Zach Potter (1), WR Mike Sims-Walker (4), DE Bryan Smith (3). [Editor's note: The number after a players' name is his years of service in the league. If the NFL decides to go with free agency under the same rules as used in 2010, then a player would become a restricted free agent after three years and an unrestricted free agent after six years.]
Analysis: The Jaguars need plenty of help on defense, but it is hard to fault them for jumping at the opportunity to grab QB Blaine Gabbert when he was available. GM Gene Smith said after the draft that, because the club was not able to address other pressing needs on "D," it would be active in free agency. Jacksonville desperately needs at least one safety and linebacker who can start right away. It also would love to find another pass-rushing defensive end to line up opposite Aaron Kampman. As far as keeping its own players is concerned, the biggest name on the list is Lewis, who was slapped with the franchise tag but is expected to receive a long-term deal after a breakout '10 campaign. Podlesh, Greene and Douzable all played well enough last season to warrant being back. Morrison did not make the impact the club had hoped he would when it acquired him during the '10 draft from the Raiders, but he could return at a modest price. Sims-Walker and Durant are not expected to be re-signed after neither player produced on a consistent basis during their time with the club.
2011 rookie class
First-round QB Blaine Gabbert (No. 10 overall) — Gabbert has the size, strength and intelligence to become a fine NFL starter. He could make this draft a huge success if he adjusts well to a pro-style offense.
Third-round OL Will Rackley (No. 76 overall) — The Jaguars had a second-round grade on Rackley, a high-character team captain in college — both major selling points for GM Gene Smith — who eventually will replace OLG Vince Manuwai.
Fourth-round WR Cecil Shorts (No. 114 overall) — A man among boys at NCAA Division III Mount Union, Shorts is a savvy and sure-handed receiver who will compete for the No. 3 job.
Fourth-round FS Chris Prosinski (No. 121 overall) — Prosinski, a pro-day riser who ran a sub 4-4 40-time and measured a 39½-inch vertical jump, fills a major void.
Fifth-round WR Rod Isaac (No. 147 overall) — The Jaguars think Isaac's combination of size and speed will allow him to compete for the nickel job from Day One.
Lockout fallout: How impacted will the Jaguars be by the work stoppage?
On scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most significantly impacted), the Jaguars rate a 6. This is a club that returns both coordinators and most of its coaching staff, although defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will take over the play-calling duties from Del Rio. The biggest setback the Jaguars face during the lockout is getting Gabbert up to speed and a delay in addressing their numerous defensive needs through free agency. But it's Garrard's job to lose — at least for the time being — and we hear GM Gene already has targeted 2-4 players in free agency.