It seems every year some nitwit at ESPN or NFL Network says This is the year the [insert inferior AFC South team here] will overtake the Colts in the AFC South. They said it last season after Vince Young's rookie year. They said it the year before, after Jacksonville drafted Maurice Jones-Drew. They said it before that, when they actually thought that Steve McNair was a better QB than Peyton Manning. They've said it since 2003, and six straight AFC South titles later, they still don't get the hint. The Colts aren't going anywhere.
However, this year the racket is louder and (even worse) listened to a little more because the AFC South is now the best division in football. In 2007, no team had a losing record in the AFC South, and the "cellar dweller" 8-8 Houston Texans would have made the playoffs if they'd played in any other AFC Division. In the off-season, one AFC South team made "big moves" to try and unseat the Colts: The Jacksonville Jaguars.
I saw this diary by Jaguars fan over at Big Cat Country, and like most rantings from Jags fans, it made me chuckle. Pretty much anything Jags fans do makes me chuckle. My favorite memory of covering the 2008 Draft is Chris getting up to use the head, and while he was gone the Jags traded up to the #8 spot. When he came back to the table where John and I sat, he asked us if anything happened. John and I tried not to snicker, and responded nonchalantly, Oh nothing much. By the way, the Jaguars are on the clock.
Chris' face when we said this was as priceless as a Peyton Manning MasterCard commercial.
DE Derrick Harvey, via www.orangeandbluehue.com
The Jaguars' draft day maneuvers were one of many off-season moves designed energize the team for a potential Super Bowl run. In 2007, the Jags won their first playoff game in almost a decade, physically beating the snot out of Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They then went to New England and got waxed by the Patriots despite a tremendous game by QB David Garrard. The reason the Jaguars lost to the Patriots, and the reason they have not won a single AFC South title, is their lack of a pass rush. Despite what you may have heard about the Jaguars defense, it really isn't all that good.
Now before I get flamed, hear me out. The Jaguars are a very good team at shutting down an opponents running game. However, against the pass, the Jaguars flat out suck. They can't pressure the QB and their secondary is highly suspect. The Jaguars defense in 2007 allowed opposing playoff QBs to complete 78% of their passes for 599 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs.
In the modern NFL, that is a sucky defense.
So, after their playoff exit, the Jaguars decided that throwing the football is a good thing to build your offense around. However, if you are going to throw, you must, must, MUST stop the other team from throwing. This means you need a pass rush. This is why the Jags traded up to get DE Derrick Harvey at pick #8 overall, and drafted DE Quintin Groves in the 2nd round. The Jags also landed WRs Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson in free agency to boost their passing attack. They jettisoned steroids cheater Marcus Stroud (DT), and they will soon part ways with 2005 draft bust WR Matt Jones. David Garrard is firmly entrenched as the starting QB, and head coach Jack Del Rio has a nice contract extension. They also added defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to their staff to go with secondary coach Donnie Henderson. On the surface, these are all good moves, and it's hard not to get excited if you are a Jags fan.
But, look closer.
All of you, take a look at the Colts roster and the Jaguars roster. Look at their proposed starting lineups on offense, defense, and special teams. Now, after looking at those areas, can you honestly (and with a straight face) tell me that the Jaguars have done enough to overtake the Colts? No, you can't.
There is not one single area where Jacksonville is "better" than Indy. Maybe their special teams coverage units. Maybe. Everything else is a clear advantage for the Colts. Indy's QB, WRs, o-line, d-line, TEs, CBs, safeties, LBers, kicker, and punter are all better than Jacksonville's. Even the running back position favors Indy. The Jags have two studs in Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, arguably the best RB tandem in football. But after them, there isn't much. They Colts have four starting caliber RBs, including rookie Mike Hart and Pro Bowler Joseph Addai. Despite Jacksonville's additions to their coaching staff, Indy's staff is still better. Tony Dungy, Tom Moore, and Howard Mudd are legends. Ron Meeks turned one of the worst defenses in NFL history into the best scoring defense in 2007, and RB coach Gene Huey is the most under-rated position coach in football.
The acquisition of WR Jerry Porter is not enough to make the Jags better than the Colts.
So, knowing all this, I don't think it is rational or prudent to claim the Jaguars have done enough to overtake the Colts in the AFC South. Of course, anything can, and likely will, happen in the 2008 season. But, right now, just looking at both rosters, the Jaguars are not better than the Colts. Not even close.