Matt Schaub bounced back after a tough start to last season to command the NFL’s third-ranked offense. The questions about Schaub are not so much about his ability to play at a high level, but more about his ability to suit up for 16 games. Schaub had a career performance in last week's 34-31 victory over the Titans.
The Jaguars were hoping to get play out of David Garrard that more closely represents his 2007 campaign rather than 2008. Garrard is playing for his job this season, as the Jaguars may draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2010 draft assuming he doesn’t correct his mistakes. Up to this point, Garrard looks hesitant and has been inaccurate.
The Jaguars have turned the backfield over to Maurice Jones-Drew, as the dynamic playmaker will no longer have to share the load with the departed Fred Taylor. Behind Jones-Drew, the Jaguars have seventh-round pick Rashad Jennings, and fullback Greg Jones.
Houston features last season’s super rookie, Steve Slaton, who may have been the best first-year running back in the game. Behind Slaton is oft-injured veteran Chris Brown, Ryan Moats, and fullback Vonta Leach.
Slight edge: Jaguars
Perhaps the most talented position group on the team, the Texans boast Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, who could be the very best wideout in the game. To compliment Johnson, Houston has Kevin Walter who has a knack for finding the end zone, and slot-machine David Anderson. Throw in Jacoby Jones and Andre Davis and the Texans are loaded.
The Jaguars revamped their wide receiving corps by letting go four of their top producers from a year ago. They’ve replaced them with veteran Torry Holt, and rookies Jarett Dillard and Mike Thomas. The only holdovers from last season are the talented, but oft-injured Mike Walker and speedster Troy Williamson, who is out for the season with a torn labrum.
Big edge: Texans
Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter vowed to get Marcedes Lewis more involved in the passing game, and the team needs greater production from that position. Aside from the dominant blocking Lewis, the Jaguars are depending on rookie Zach Miller and Ernest Wilford.
Houston may have the most tight end depth in the league, as Pro Bowler Owen Daniels appears to be in great shape and focused. The Texans drafted blocking end Anthony Hill and do-everything guy James Casey, and veteran Joel Dreesen could be a contributor.
We believe this group has the potential to be the best offensive line in franchise history. There is a question of whether or not 2008 first-round pick Duane Brown will be able to be an effective full-time left tackle, but we feel confident in his abilities.
The Jaguars spent much of the offseason with the focus on repairing a very damaged offensive line from a season ago. Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton were both opening day starters as rookies, and the team is returning Vince Manuwai from injury. The offensive line should be a strength in 2009.
The Jaguars have some questions on the defensive line as they will be counting on greater production from last year’s first-day picks, Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. With the loss of Reggie Hayward for the season, the team has more questions than answers at defensive end. On the interior there are just as many questions as John Henderson needs to show that he's not on the decline and the team will be depending on rookie Terrance Knighton and a bigger Derek Landri
Houston may have the best end in the game in Mario Williams, and free agent acquisition Antonio Smith should have a big year because of Williams. Add in second-round pick Connor Barwin and the Texans have their best group of pass rushers in team history. On the inside, Amobi Okoye is looking to bounce back from an injury-filled 2008 campaign. The team acquired former Lion Shaun Cody to go along with Tim Bulman, Frank Okam and DelJuan Robinson.
Big edge: Texans
Houston seemingly has more talented linebackers than spots for them as they have star MLB DeMeco Ryans, along with first-round pick Brian Cushing. The battle for the other outside position will be interesting, as the ultra-talented Zac Diles is coming off a broken leg, and Xavier Adibi was impressive last year as a rookie.
The Jaguars linebackers may be the best position group on the team, and certainly on the defense. Justin Durant will now play the middle, as Daryl Smith will stay outside opposite Clint Ingram. Those three starters are solid, and Durant has the ability to be spectacular. Brian Iwuh will likely be forced to play if one of the starters goes down.
If the Texans have questions on their team it’s in the secondary. Dunta Robinson is the best corner the team has, possibly ever, but what kind of shape will he be in as he missed all of training camp and preseason? Fred Bennett will start opposite Robinson, thanks to Jacques Reeves leg injury. Brice McCain had a solid preseason and Antwaun Molden or rookie Glover Quin could play dime.
The Jaguars corners should be solid as Rashean Mathis had a solid 2008 campaign. Rookie Derek Cox has won the starting job opposite Mathis. Scott Starks will rotate in the role of nickel with free agent Tyron Brackenridge. Also, expect to see Reggie Nelson subbed into some nickel situations.
The Jaguars have oodles of questions at the safety positions as former first-round pick Reggie Nelson regressed last year, and the team let Gerald Sensabaugh walk in free agency. Free agent acquisition Sean Considine has won the strong safety job, and the newly acquired Brian Russell and Gerald Alexander will back up.
The Houston safeties are possibly the weakest position group on the team as the expected starters are Eugene Wilson and Nick Ferguson. Dominique Barber will compete for playing time along with Jon Busing.
The Texans special teams specialists are very good as Kris Brown is one of the league’s most accurate kickers, and Matt Turk has a booming leg. Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones handled kickoff and punt duties respectively a year ago, and will likely serve in that same capacity again.
The Jaguars should have a solid special teams unit with strong-legged kicker Josh Scobee, and punter Adam Podlesh. The return team could feature rookie Mike Thomas, as well as second-year speedster Brian Witherspoon.