Jaguars Offense: Eyes Wide Open
I understand the issue of sitting still when NFL training camp looms. It’s like when you were a child and you heard the ice cream truck’s enchanting music a few streets away. However, until the age of 10, you were never allowed off your block without parental presence or consent. It will be okay. Those days are over because you are grown now. Take a deep breath. It’s just football … or so we keep telling ourselves.
Today is Part One of a two-part column in which I list the Jacksonville Jaguars to keep an eye on with training camp on the horizon. Part One is offense and Two will be defense.
Clarence Denmark, wide receiver, 24 – I am supportive of a Jacksonville boy like Denmark, who attended Robert E. Lee High School. But, size is one of my biggest issues if someone wants to succeed at the NFL level. Big boys hit hard. Smaller ones can break easier than most. Denmark is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. Only four other Jaguars – Scotty McGee, Scott Starks, Roren Thomas and Tiquan Underwood – weigh less than the 24-year-old Denmark. Obviously, the organization likes Denmark, a victim of last year’s final cuts. I trust general manager Gene Smith and his scouting department. It’s just that I need to see more from Denmark to be impressed. Nobody remembers stars of organized team activities unless they become stars on game day.
Rashad Jennings, running back, 25 – The confidence and poise of Jennings slightly reminds me of Maurice Jones-Drew during his second season. One year ago, I noted Jennings’ footwork and ability to find holes along the offensive line. Entering his second season, out of Liberty, Jennings has powerful shoulders and fluid hips. He runs a little too upright, but if something ever happened to MJD, Jennings could step in and be fine. Jennings comes from a similar mold of fullback/special-teamer Montell Owens – a player you sometimes forget is on the roster but has talent that we tend to overlook.
Marcedes Lewis, tight end, 26 – I remember more than a handful of times last season turning to my media colleagues in the press box with my mouth agape. Most of those instances occurred after Lewis’ down-the-field catches. As a first-round selection in 2006 and with 10 receiving touchdowns during his final year at UCLA, the 6-foot-6 Lewis had loads of expectations heaped upon him in Jacksonville. In 2009, while becoming quarterback David Garrard’s favorite target, Lewis led all NFL tight ends with a 16.2 yards per reception average. And, his eight catches of 25 yards or more aided in opening up the Jaguars’ offense. Improving upon last season’s total of 32 receptions, 518 yards and two touchdowns is very possible.
Brad Meester, center, 33 – No matter one’s dedication to football, analyzing offensive line play is almost as enjoyable as staring at an unsliced birthday cake. Having started all 80 regular-season games in his first five seasons, Meester gained credibility by coaches, fans and teammates. With or without speaking, I feel that Meester is one of the team’s proven leaders. He is a consummate professional – always showing how it should be done. We, even I, have questioned how many years are left in the 10-year veteran’s tank. Meester reminds me of long-time Jaguar long-snapper Joe Zelenka. It is hard not to like the Jaguars’ center.
Justin Smiley, guard, 28 – Acquired via trade from the Miami Dolphins in the latter part of May, Smiley, 28, brings added competition to a line expected to keep Garrard off his back. In six years with the San Francisco 49ers and Dolphins, Smiley started 73 games. Having suffered leg and shoulder injuries over the last three years, there are continuing questions about his health. Come the regular season, Smiley could easily wrap up a starting gig at guard. However, ongoing position battles with Kynan Forney, Vince Manuwai and Uche Nwaneri might keep Smiley off the field longer than he wants. If injury-free, Smiley can be a full-time starter for the Jaguars in 2010.
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio. Additionally, starting on July 10, you can hear him on AM 1530 as the host of Inside the Game on Saturdays. The program airs from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010. Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer on Twitter @MillerOnSports.