The draft has come and gone. All of the major signings from free agency have passed. Rookie mini camps, OTAs, and training camp are up next. New ownership and the new coaching staff have been put into place. The 2012 season is around the corner and it will be opening day before you know it.
I was originally going to write about the new crop of rookies the Jaguars acquired last weekend, but I can’t help but to look ahead. Before I do that I’d like to take a look back.
In 2011, the Jags had a legit top 10 NFL defense. They also had the league’s leading rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew. Let’s not forget about Josh Scobee, one of the NFL’s best kickers. There were some gaps in 2011, however, and if you’re a Jags fan you know of these gaps I speak of. We scored 15.2 points a game, 29th in the league. We had 259.3 yards per game, and 136.2 passing yards per game. Both of these ranked dead last. I would like to commend Gene Smith and Shahid Khan for tackling this glaring hole in the team’s game and then filling them. Besides MJD our offense was just down right terrible last year, and even Jones-Drew wasn’t looking as explosive at times. That’s what happens when you have a one dimensional offense.
Regarding Blaine Gabbert, the jury is still out. I believe Michael Lombardi’s arguement against him has been well-documented. However, Gabbert was a top-10 pick in the 2011 draft, and I personally believe with more weapons Gabbert has the talent and the ability to win some games. His toughness has been questioned with good reason. But let’s be honest here, folks. During free agency and the draft, the front office has done everything in their power to get him some real wide receivers.
Let’s start with what we already had, which wasn’t much. Mike Thomas is a great slot receiver. He’s best when going across the middle, but last year he wasn’t being used properly. This year Blackmon and Robinson will draw plenty of double coverage, making Thomas more effective.
In free agency, the Jaguars acquired both Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans. In 2011, Robinson was a Dallas Cowboy and what a year he had. In 14 games, he snagged 54 balls for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lee Evans had a less than stellar season to put it nicely. I’m sure most of us remember him best in the 2011 AFC Championship against the Patriots, but take a look at his entire body of work. Yes, he is old. Yes, he does have some health concerns, but maybe…just maybe he returns to form in 2012 and can be that deep threat guy.
Many would argue that we paid Robinson way too much. He’s not a number one receiver right? Well thankfully we traded up to get the best wide receiver in the 2012 draft. Enter Justin Blackmon. He’s the type of receiver who affects the game, even when he’s not catching balls. He will demand double coverage allowing Robinson and Thomas to be more productive. He will open up the middle of the field. The second teams begin paying more attention to Robinson, they better look out…because they’re about to get burned.
A dynamic number one receiver who can beat coverage, and snag any ball in his vecinity. A number two who is good at getting open and finding the holes in zone. A slot receiver who excels at going across the middle. A savvy old vet who could possibly still have some gas left in the tank.
Now I could easily spit out Blackmon’s body of work at Oklahoma State. I could talk about his college career, his pro day, his pre-draft visit, but I will refrain from doing so. I’m not concerned about those things. I’m only looking ahead to the future now. We actually have a number one who demands attention. I cannot express how excited I am.
Add our bruising running game into the mix, and this could be a brand new offense. It’s all on Gabbert now. Does he have what it takes? We will find out soon enough.
-David R. Johns