With the regular season approaching, Football Outsiders uses its unique brand of analysis to break down each of the league's 32 teams. The series continues today with a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Season Preview -- Jacksonville Jaguars
A veteran quarterback will return to his 2007 form, due in no small part to the arrival of a veteran No. 1 receiving target.
To see which player could soar, which could sink and whom you need to watch before the season opener, you must be an ESPN Insider.
One up: QB David Garrard
Garrard was great when Jacksonville made the playoffs in 2007, but in 2008, he threw three fewer touchdowns and 10 more interceptions as the Jags plummeted to a 5-11 finish. What some might have seen as an unimpressive season on Garrard's part was mostly due to circumstances beyond his control. Starting center Brad Meester was out the first six games, and starting guards Vince Manuwai and Mo Williams were lost for the season in the opening game. Garrard's receivers, a group that featured four former first-round draft picks (Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, ex-Viking Troy Williamson and tight end Marcedes Lewis) didn't play like that at all, doubling their dropped passes from 17 in 2007 to 34 in 2008. No quarterback was knocked down more often than Garrard (110 times), and only Kurt Warner suffered more quarterback hurries (73).
Garrard's interior linemen are back, and Williams and Jones are gone. Veteran Torry Holt could be a great target (see below), and rookie tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton should make a major difference in pass protection. We're very high on the 2009 Jags at Football Outsiders, and a huge bounce-back season from Garrard is the primary factor.
Trending down: DT Rob Meier
In 2007, the Washington State veteran led the NFL in our stop rate statistics (defined here). After that season, Meier was rewarded with a five-year, $15 million contract extension. It seemed his future as a starter was bright. But in 2008, with problems all along the defensive line, Meier's stop rate dropped from 96 percent to 83 percent. Now, Meier must deal with the new schemes his coaches will implement and their perception of him in them. The Jags intend to run 3-4 fronts much more often than in the past, which would leave Meier as the odd man out. At 6-5 and 315 pounds, he's not the ideal nose tackle in that setup, nor would he have the edge skills needed to rotate with Derrick Harvey and Reggie Hayward as 3-4 ends. Jack Del Rio has said he now sees Meier as a situational role player.
One to watch: WR Torry Holt
In 2008, Holt ended the season with fewer than 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since his rookie season of 1999. Holt might not have the ability to get separation from defensive backs like he used to, but he also was toiling in a miserable offense last season. Our projections are very positive for Holt as Garrard's primary target, and a look at similarity scores shows why. Following the down years of players of similar age and stats over three-year periods (including Art Monk in 1990, Rod Smith in 2003, Derrick Mason in 2006 and Muhsin Muhammad in 2005), the average rebound year includes a 7 percent increase in receptions, with 20 percent more yards and 29 percent more touchdowns.
Doug Farrar is a writer for Football Outsiders.