Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 25. This week: No. 20.
Where they stand: At 4-4 the Jaguars have the same record as the Texans but one fewer conference win. Jacksonville has been the division’s most erratic team, with a minus-61 point differential. At their worst, they’ve had fans calling for coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback David Garrard to be replaced. At their best, they’ve taken down Indianapolis and buried Dallas. Pass defense has been a big issue, and they’ve now got kids Courtney Greene and Don Carey manning the safety slots and learning as they go. The pass rush is better but the protection’s still an issue. The offensive line’s not been as good as hoped, and the Jaguars have absorbed 18 sacks.
Falling: Derrick Harvey, defensive end. The Jaguars spent far too much to go up and get him in the 2008 draft. Last year they tried to sell that although Harvey wasn't the pass-rusher the team had hoped for, he was developing into a rugged left end who could defend the run and demand some attention. Recently the team has conceded, however, that he’s regressed and he lost his starting job.
Rising: Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu, defensive tackles. The interior duo looks to be ahead of the Eugene Monroe-Eben Britton offensive tackle duo in terms of becoming cornerstones. (Britton’s on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.) Knighton is more than a handful and Alualu has great quickness. They’ve been aided by Cullen and Aaron Kampman, a quality veteran defensive end who signed as a big-ticket free agent. The Knighton-Alualu up arrow extends beyond this season.
Midseason MVP: Marcedes Lewis, tight end. He’s been their biggest threat on offense, with a 13-yard per-catch average that’s less than 2 yards off the pace of the teams’ speed receiver (Tiquan Underwood). Lewis has scored seven of the Jaguars’ 18 touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew has scored just three and Del Rio has talked of how some scoring chances have simply shifted from MJD to Lewis. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter deserves credit for getting Lewis, who’s been better known for his blocking to this point in his career, involved. And Lewis is likely to reap serious financial benefits as he’s in the final year of his deal.
Outlook: Some of those games down the home stretch that looked like the Jaguars would be clear favorites in don’t stack up that way now. Outside the division, Jacksonville hosts Cleveland, Oakland and Washington. The Jags still have four division games, too: two against Houston, at Indianapolis and at Tennessee. Looks like tough sledding for a team that’s been far too hot and cold.