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Diner morning news: An offseason of change

Jaguars need to keep making moves to become playoff contenders. Michael Lombardi

Print This May 05, 2010, 11:00 AM EST

QUOTE: “I’ve got a great attitude. I just look forward to a new adventure. God gives us so many adventures, and I've had some great ones. It's been a terrific life.” -- Ernie Harwell

From the Detroit Free Press: “The man who will forever be the voice of the Tigers is gone, and the baseball community is left silent in remembrance. Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away Tuesday at age 92. Harwell succumbed to cancer of the bile duct. Doctors diagnosed the condition as an aggressive form in August, and Harwell and his family decided against surgery at his age. He explained his situation with an extraordinary sense of peace, both to his friends in the community and to fans at Comerica Park when he made one last visit in September. Mr. Harwell will be missed.”

A look at the Jags

The Jacksonville Jaguars seem to be interested in still making moves after the draft to improve the talent level of their team. Tuesday, there was a report they were interested in a backup quarterback and were possibly willing to trade safety Reggie Nelson, their former first-round pick. The Jags are willing to make the move because, in large part, they’ve been extremely disappointed in Nelson on the third level of the defense. He misses too many tackles, jumps on anything that crosses his face and appears to be a liability in the secondary (the Jags allowed 28 touchdown passes last year, which is almost two per game, and 7.6 yards per pass attempt). As a rookie, I thought Nelson was going to be a star in the league, but he hasn’t played well the past two seasons, and the Jags know they can’t tolerate his mistakes in coverage and his missed tackles.

The last half of the season was a disaster for the Jags. Gene Smith, their general manager, talked about how the impact of losing to Cleveland drove all their offseason decisions. In that game, the Browns ran the ball 49 times for more than 200 yards, but for most of the second half of the season, teams had their way with the Jaguars defense. The last three games, they allowed 93 points, and when they need to score to beat the Colts on the final drive of the game, they turned the ball over.

The Jaguars last season were a defense without an identity. They went to a 3-4 to get more pass rush, but that never worked, so all their preparation during the offseason as a 4-3 team was wasted. They never really challenged anyone with their scheme, opting to keep it simple and rely on their own execution. So when they couldn’t dominate in terms of talent, they couldn’t win games.

When the Jags beat Houston (much to the dismay of our own Matt “I love me some Texans” Bowen) to go 7-5 and take control of their playoff destiny, they looked like they had turned the corner on their season. But then they lost four in a row with breakdowns in all facets of the game, and their head coach, Jack Del Rio, ended up on a very hot seat. Now, this year they want to change their defensive style, become more of an attacking 4-3 with quicker, faster players in their front seven. Will it work? Yes, because they’re totally committed to one scheme. Their commitment extends to their player personnel procurement all offseason.

Does this mean the Jags are a better team? As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” The rebuilding is going to take more than one year to make the transformation from a good team to a legitimate playoff team. Each coach, each player must perform 10 percent better than they have at any time in their careers. It will take the players playing well, the coaches coaching well, the personnel department adding the right players, their kicker not going 7 of 16 outside of 40 yards and some good fortune.

The Jags need to keep making moves. They need a backup quarterback in case starter David Garrard breaks down or gets off to a bad start – someone the team can still rally around and believes can win. There’s too much at stake for the Jags to hope that Luke McCown can deliver. Last offseason, the Bucs signed McCown to a big contract, but after a few minicamps, they realized they made a mistake, forcing them to then sign Byron Leftwich, which then proved to be another mistake. (In 2009, the Bucs, had one of the worse offseasons of any team. They signed two quarterbacks who are not there, they franchised Antonio Bryant and re-signed Michael Clayton to a huge deal. All but Clayton are gone, and now they’re trying to make him go away.)

For the Jags to have any chance, they need to keep adding players, and they must find a viable veteran as their backup quarterback or run the risk their season might fall apart.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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