Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Power Rankings: Preseason: 25. This week: 22.
Where they stand: At 4-4 the Jaguars are still in the AFC playoff picture despite frustrating inconsistency. Things have been difficult for the most part, but that’s to be expected for a team that purged the roster of bad seeds and bad contracts, didn’t spend big dollars to bring in any help and has looked to four rookies as starters.
They work hard, have stayed true to their coaches' messages. They have not gotten too frustrated by the lack of fan support. The Jaguars haven’t played in front of a home sellout or had a home game on TV in their market.
Disappointments: Last year’s top two picks needed to blossom this season to give the defensive front a boost. It hasn’t happened. While Derrick Harvey has improved, the team’s downplayed expectations for him to be a big-time sack guy, which is the natural expectation for a defensive end when a team traded into the No. 8 slot to draft him. Fellow defensive end Quentin Groves found his way back into the starting lineup last week, but has ranked as low as third-stringer and special teamer.
If the two were more productive, pass rushing wouldn’t be such a struggle and a lot of things might be easier.
Surprises: Defensive rookies out of non-football powerhouses have been impact guys. Third-round defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, from Temple, has been productive and steady whether he’s been part of a three-man or a four-man defensive line. And third-rounder Derek Cox, from William & Mary, has been mature beyond his years as a starting cornerback, playing with poise and confidence while pulling in as many interceptions as Rashean Mathis (two).
In a broader sense, the success in three games against division rivals in the first four weeks of the season rated as a shock. After a two-point opening day loss at Indianapolis, they won at Houston and knocked off Tennessee.
Outlook: If the Jaguars can get on any sort of roll, they can stay in the playoff picture. They’ve won two in a row only once so far. The next three weeks don’t stack up as especially difficult with games at the Jets, against Buffalo and at San Francisco. But there is no telling what the Jaguars will bring from week to week. One reason for optimism is the team’s switch back to the 4-3, which seems a much more natural scheme for many of the players on defense.
Things have been pretty good offensively with Maurice Jones-Drew's NFL leading 11 touchdowns and Mike Sims-Walker's emergence as a No. 1 receiver. It’s the defense that needs to make a leap for things to go well.