Every year analysts from the evil four-lettered company debate which teams could be considered risers and fallers. For various reasons teams are deemed to be reloading or rebuilding and others are expected to stay on pace with recent years.
To break this down to a Jaguars standpoint, we are going to discuss a few players who could be the new faces of the franchise and who could be on their way out.
Mike Thomas: Thomas exploded on the scene last year and led the Jaguars with 820 receiving yards on 66 receptions and surprised many with his many successful runs on trick plays, netting a 9 yard average. Still those are average numbers, but on a team who has not had an impactful wide receiver since the Thunder & Lightning Era those are promising. The only downfalls is very few of those receptions resulted in touchdowns, only 4, but that may have been due to the successful seasons of Mercedes Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew demanding more balls to them. With the departure of Mike Sims-Walker, and the potential combination of no free agency and the likelihood of a defensive minded draft, Thomas’ role in the offense has the potential will grow. But that may be hampered by the next riser.
Zach Miller: The Jaguars offense deployed many multiple tight end formations last seasons and Miller reaped the benefits. While Mercedes Lewis reaped the statistical benefits, setting franchise records in touchdown receptions by a tight end and tying the single season touchdown mark (10), Miller quietly developed into successful blocker and virtually unknown threat. On the current roster, which will likely add a receiver or two once the league can agree on a new CBA, Miller will likely be David Garrard’s third receiving target.
Jason Hill: The relatively unknown Hill took the Jaguars by storm in the last few weeks of the season, pulling in a 22 yard average reception on 11 receptions. As Sims-Walker is out of the picture, Hill will be the de facto number one receiver despite Thomas being the bigger threat. Hill has the package to be a true number one, but he has to prove that last season was not a fluke.
Honorable Mention: Terrance Knighton, Derek Cox, Tyson Alualu, Eben Britton
Greg Jones: Many will categorize Jones as one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league, and rightfully so. But as previously mentioned, the Jaguars ran very few formations deploying a fullback and his value to the team is plummeting. He is scheduled to make $3.4 million this season and is a free agent in 2013, and there is a slim possibility he could be dealt during the draft. With the stock of Zach Miller rising and the versatility of Mercedes Lewis, both of whom have the ability to play an H-back type of position, the usefulness of Greg Jones is diminishing and could find himself looking for a job.
Rashean Mathis: Mathis’ inconsistent play netted him just one interception in 2010, tying him with second-year defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. With Derek Cox emerging as the future of the Jacksonville secondary and Mathis’ questionable play, 2011 will probably be his last season playing in his home town. Expect Mathis to still have a significant role in the defense this season, but his role probably will diminish late in the season if, and likely when, the Jaguars bring more defensive backs to the roster.
David Garrard: The starting quarterback has been less than stellar since signing his oversized $63 million contract in 2008. Fan support is split and Del Rio has not been shy about his play and has thrown him under the bus repeatedly. Quarterback is potential pick in the draft; however it is unlikely a rookie will be taking snaps for the Jaguars in 2011. Garrard’s job is safe for another season, maybe two, but his stock is certainly falling in the organization and community.