The Jaguars ranked dead last in the league in sack differential last season, generating next to no pressure defensively and struggling mightily to protect quarterback David Garrard. According to team website writer Vic Ketchman, Garrard “was hit more often than any quarterback in the league last year.”
Jacksonville took steps to shore up the pass rush by using its first four draft picks on athletic defensive linemen this April. Offensively, the team hopes to improve from within.
Strength coach Luke Richesson led a rigorous offseason conditioning program that, according to Richesson, resulted in the Jaguars’ roster getting stronger “without question; across the board
2009 No. 8 overall pick Eugene Monroe has shed a whopping 29 pounds since last year. ”He’s 17 percent body fat and he’s brutally strong,” observed Richesson. Monroe, a rookie holdout, will be the Jaguars’ starting left tackle on Opening Day.
“[Right tackle] Eben Britton was outstanding,” added Richesson. ”He stepped up in a leadership role. He’s 310 pounds and rocked up; he has an edge. He dropped body fat; there’s a measurable shift in muscle.”
Center Brad Meester is also down 15 pounds from last season, while mauling guard Vince Manuwai weighs in the 320s for the first time ever.
The Jaguars crumbled down the stretch of last season. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in the final seven games after posting a 5.1 clip in the first nine. After a 6-4 start Jacksonville dropped five of its last six contests, including a four-game losing streak to finish the year.
The team hopes its makeover on both lines will prevent a repeat.