It’s about that time to start guessing who is poised for a breakout season. I think that with the information at hand we can really have more of an educated guess. With the amount of young talent on the Jags’ roster, it’s difficult to narrow down the selections to one player that will really make a jump following their rookie or first couple seasons. I think the Jags have three candidates on the roster to really have breakout seasons.
- DT D’Anthony Smith – I have never been a big proponent of Smith since he has yet to compete after being drafted in the third round of 2010 due to injury. But he is really poised to breakout if Terrance Knighton is not able to compete as well following his offseason eye injury. I expect the coaches to try to work Smith into the defensive tackle rotation more at the start of the season to make sure that Knighton is able to compete through the season. With the addition of Smith, it will be the first time the Jaguars have had a quality rotation tackle for TnT (Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton). Smith has continually been praised by coaches over the past seasons before becoming injured and it may just be his year to put it all together.
- CB Derek Cox – Cox roared onto the scene during his rookie season. A small school 2009 third round pick that GM Gene Smith traded up for, Cox had a lot of pressure to perform. He didn’t disappoint. Four picks, 11 passes defensed, and a fumble recovery later and Cox was looking good. 2010 however showed a major sophomore slump that saw his benching by head coach Jack Del Rio. Last year, Cox was looking good before injury that only allowed him to compete in six games. He’s currently the top quarterback on the roster and should manage plenty of stellar play due to the increased pass rush and better competition through the entire secondary.
- QB Blaine Gabbert – Gabbert either has a breakout season or the Jags get a new quarterback next year. It may not be as drastic as people make it sound, but Gabbert has to perform in 2012, and it looks like he’s ready to do that. He has some new weapons at receiver, he will have a full offseason under his belt, and he has 14 games of starting experience with him. While the sophomore slump seems to be a league-wide phenomena, it is difficult for Gabbert to slump lower than his rookie campaign. The only way he can go is up! And up he will go.
A lot of what these potential breakout players have going for them is mental motivation. Whether it is seeing the field for the first time, recovering and rebounding from injury, or proving his skeptics wrong – these players are going to bring it in 2012. They won’t be the only ones of course. Some other possible candidates will be RB Rashad Jennings (The guy’s got game and was only an injury away from providing some brilliant spell play for Maurice Jones-Drew), DT Terrance Knighton (He’s slimmer, meaner, and in his contract year), and DE Jeremy Mincey (2011 was just a taste).
There is a lot of talent vying for the breakout player spot – expect some solid performances from everyone on the roster.
– Luke N. Sims