JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- Maybe Gene Smith didn't have such a bad year after all. Yes, going 22 games under .500 is not listed in any recipe for success but the former general manager drafted two rookies on the Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie team. Justin Blackmon and Bryan Anger had great rookie seasons for the 2-14 Jaguars.
Blackmon's season got off to a slow start before taking off in Houston with the third-best receiving day in franchise history. Blackmon exposed the Texans weak secondary with seven catches for 236 yards and a touchdown. For the year, Blackmon caught 64 passes for 865 yards and 5 touchdowns. Blackmon did most of that with Chad Henne at quarterback. It remains to be seen if Blackmon and Blaine Gabbert can develop the same chemistry. A healthy Cecil Shorts III and Laurent Robinson can only help push Blackmon to the stardom associated with being a Top 5 draft choice.
Anger (yes, punters are people too) had one of the best rookie seasons for a punter in NFL history. GM Gene took a lot of flak for using a 3rd round pick on the punter from Cal, but Anger backed it up. Anger booted a team record 91 punts (maybe GM Gene knew something about the offense all along). 31 of those punts were inside the 20 with only 5 touchbacks. The 47.8 average was good for a 40.8 net. Not too shabby.
Going forward, David Caldwell needs to figure out who the quarterback is and surround him with a nasty offensive line who can give the guy time to let his receivers get free. The defense needs fixing. The addition of Jason Babin seems to have changed the mind-set already.
Watch the playoffs this weekend: The teams that advance will give their quarterback time to throw and will not give the other guy time. That happens by winning the line of scrimmage. The Jacksonville Jaguars have not been winning the line of scrimmage for many, many moons.
The Jaguars have to continue the transition from an offense that faced 8-9 guys in the box to stop Maurice Jones-Drew to a team that can throw the ball and run it when needed. The rise of Justin Blackmon and Bryan Anger to the All-Rookie team is a major step in the right direction at a low-point in franchise history. Onward!