- 1) The Big Drama – Make or Break Game for David Garrard?
Other then (undrafted) rookies, who are chasing their dreams, there are very little drama in the preseason (beside somebody suffers a season ending injury). However on Saturday, we might be witnessing a very dramatic game, because if David Garrard can’t outplay rookie Blaine Gabbert, there is a possibility that he loses his starting job at QB. And that could lead to other things as well, since a; he has a 9 million $ salary, and you just don’t sit that much money on the bench, even if the Jaguars can afford it salary cap wise and b, there is a capable backup QB on the roster in Luke McCown, who by the way was the most consistent thrower from the 3 in the entire training camp, and had the best game among the Jaguars QBs so far. And I think the Jaguars got luck with the schedule now, because Buffalo is a perfect opponent to decide this major question (is still Garrard the best option at QB or the rookie can match or outperform him?). The Bills defense is representing a bit tough, but manageable challenge, their secondary have good players (ex jaguar Drayton Florence & Terrence McGee at corner, and Jairus Byrd and Gibril Wilson at safety), but they are not top tier guys. Even Gabbert will see quality players among the backups in veteran Leodis McKelvin and rookie corner Aaron Williams. But no question the player who will be in the spotlight is David Garrard. I still think in the starting job he is still the frontrunner, and with a strong performance, he can cement himself as the Nr. 1 QB on the Jaguars depth chart. For a while… But if he repeats his performance against Atlanta and Gabbert plays as good or has a breakout game, then I think we could have a similar situation to the one in ’07 with Byron Leftwich and David Garrard. There will be a change in the position after the 3rd preseason game. If that happens, I don’t know what the plans with David are. Keeping him on the roster still if something happens to Gabbert (we don’t know how durable he is playing in the NFL) or try to trade/cut him. I know most of the Jaguars fans want change, and want to see a new chapter to begin sooner than later. But I still hope Garrard can win the starting job. I just don’t feel so far, that Gabbert is ready yet. I saw 2 games, where he made some nice things, but some rookie mistakes as well. And quite honestly, I didn’t saw any special things from him just yet. I think in the long term he would benefit to sit a little and learn from Garrard. I hope we will not see drama just yet. But don’t be fool ourselves, this preseason game is bigger than then Game 3 against the Packers were in ’07. For David Garrard (once again) it’s make or break situation. And if he’ll fail to use this last opportunity, he might not get another chance… Side note: Just a thought – don’t forget about Luke McCown…
2) The Battle of the Trenches
The offensive line produced 2 quite shaky games and gave very little help for the QB. Now they facing another serious test about in which direction is their development going. Because although the Bills roster in general is not that strong, their defensive line will represent a quite difficult challenge to Eugene Monroe and co. Brad Meester will face off the maybe best player in the Bills roster NT Kyle Williams, I would love to see him playing a bit against Uche Nwaneri and rookie Will Rackley. I don’t know if the Jaguars will see Shawn Merriman or not, if yes that will be also something to watch. And let’s not forget about the other end, Dwan Edwards as well. Sounds to me like a great test and warm up for the offensive line.
And the Bill’s O-line? Well I want to see the Jaguars rushers get a big day this time. Although the Bills have some solid players in their offensive line like C Eric Wood, they are not exactly representing the same challenge like for example the Titans O-line (which line will be on the field on opening day). LG Andy Levitre is reportedly struggling so far, and the two staring OTs (Demetrius Bell and Eric Pears) are quite far from the biggest task the Jaguars Des will face this season. It is time for the Jaguars pass rushers not just put pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tyler Thigpen (maybe Brad Smith), but to get 1-2 sacks as well, just to tone down those who are try to say, the Jaguars still struggle in the pass rush. Yeah, go and ask Matt Ryan about that… Although Jeremy Mincey is out because of a concussion (the 4th Jaguars this year with that problem so far…)I expect that Austen lane, Matt Roth, and even Aaron Morgan and Larry Hart can show how if they improved or not. If the Jaguars D-line can’t dominate against this O-line then they are no exactly there yet in development as we know thinking.
3) How will the Linebackers and Defensive Backs Perform?
There will be a very interesting “homecoming” in this game. The Jaguars newest MLB Paul Posluszny was the heart and soul of the Bills defense in the last couple of years. Now he is returning as an opponent (we will experience something like that because his predecessor, Kirk Morrison is joined the Buffalo Bills this week, and most likely will play against his former team on Saturday). He and the back seven can once again shown that “good defensive team” what head Coach Jack Del Rio promised in the entire preseason and camp. The Bills have plenty of playmakers on the ground, and in the air. Last season’s pleasant surprise for the Bills WR Stevie Johnson had a 1000+ receiving yard season, I hope Rashean Mathis (or Derek Cox) would have another solid performance against him and David Jones/Roscoe Parrish). On the ground the Bills had a very talented tandem of RB in Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. I wrote a couple of times that I expect big things from the Jaguars run defense (finishing in the Top 10 in that category to be exact), so I hope Knighton and his teammates will limit this 1-2 punch quite effectively.
But the last 2 points will be just sideshow most likely. All eyes will be on the Jaguars QBs. As I mentioned, this could be a very dramatic game in many perspective. I hope I just overhype it now and we will see a more than solid performance from David Garrard, and he will remaining still the starting QB of the Jaguars. And least until the first few weeks on the regular season…
– Zoltan Paksa