I wrote yesterday about the optimism that’s running rampant through the NFL at this time of the year, especially inside the Dolphins’ organization. Landing HBO’s Hard Knocks series should provide the team with considerable exposure as they try to prove their critics wrong. For the first time in a long time, the Dolphins are showing genuine signs of optimism.
There’s another team in Florida that is beginning to believe in itself, and shall I say, getting very “youngry.”
With apologies to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to become the bright spot in the sunshine state in 2012. Criticism has come from all directions targeting Blaine Gabbert’s ineffective rookie season, but it’s always easier to see the negative side of a poor team. If you take a closer look, you may even find an unpolished diamond.
The Jaguars lacked offensive weapons in 2011 that didn’t allow Gabbert to shine in any way. Frankly, the Jaguars assembled the biggest pile of excrement they could find and called that their “receiving corp.” Let’s be honest for a moment. Very few quarterbacks could have succeeded with the Jaguars’ wide receivers in 2011, but the Jaguars have done a lot this offseason to fix that problem.
At the beginning of the 2011 season, the Jaguars’ best wide receiver was Mike Thomas. At this point, he’s the Jaguars’ 4th best receiver, behind the Jaguars’ offseason acquisitions of Lee Evans, Laurent Robinson, and first round draft pick Justin Blackmon. Basically, it’s a whole new group that looks a whole lot better.
The Jaguars were able to retain their stellar defense from a year ago as well. Jeremy Mincey re-signed with the team after briefly feeling out the free agent market, and the Jaguars were able to add Aaron Ross who will either be their 2nd or 3rd cornerback on the depth chart. The Jaguars bolstered a poor pass rush with 2nd round selection Andre Branch as well.
Most analysts have predicted the Jaguars to win anywhere from 5 games to 8 games in 2012. There’s a real possibility that such a prediction is right on the money, especially if Blaine Gabbert can’t grow with the rest of the team. If, however, Gabbert does grow into a solid starting quarterback, the Jaguars are a very formidable opponent. I’m not saying they’re about to shove the Texans off the top of the AFC South hill just yet, but just to be safe, the Texans better not get too comfortable. There’s almost always a team that comes out of nowhere to win their division, and the Jaguars are trying their hardest to be 2012’s Cinderella.