- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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David Garrard is a middle-of-the-road starting quarterback in the NFL. That is neither praise nor harsh criticism. You could do a lot worse and you could certainly do better. But in a way -- much like it is for his head coach and the entire Jacksonville football organization -- this is a make-or-break season for the ninth-year signal-caller.
Garrard is well-built, strong and tough. He can make just about any throw asked of him and has the ability to make plays with his feet while not taking too many unnecessary risks. But even at his age (32), he isn't overly refined, and his ball placement and ability to anticipate a throw is just average. It can also be argued that Garrard is now the weakest of all four starting quarterbacks in the AFC South and is clearly well behind Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub.
But I also contend that Garrard took too much heat for Jacksonville's struggles last season. Overall, his pass protection was horrendous. Maybe the addition of Justin Smiley will help a porous interior group of pass-blockers, and surely the offensive tackles should step their game up in this department in their second seasons in the NFL. Meanwhile, the backs and tights ends are excellent in this capacity.
More weapons are also needed for Garrard to get Jacksonville back to its winning ways. Maurice Jones-Drew is as potent as ever in all phases of his game and the Jaguars look to have found an above-average starting wideout in Mike Sims-Walker, but again, more is needed. At offensive tackle, there is youth and talent. Zach Miller is a potential seam-stretching tight end, but he came out of Nebraska-Omaha, so his learning curve as a rookie last season was quite steep. Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard also are entering Year 2 of their development. Both young wideouts have shown glimpses of being substantial contributors, but Dillard's season was cut short with a broken leg. The same can be said for Troy Williamson in terms of pure ability, but he had to be placed on injured reserve all the way back in September with a shoulder injury. It certainly isn't a stretch to think that someone from this group could really step up his game to help Garrard out in 2010.
Overall, I don't fault Jacksonville for its decision to ignore the quarterback position this offseason. Garrard is someone you can be successful with if his supporting cast is improved. But make no mistake: The pressure is on the Jaguars' quarterback in a crucial season for all involved.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.