We all lovingly remember our time in high school and the superlatives voted on and given out during senior year. Some of us were voted “Most Likely to Succeed” or “Best Dressed” or “Class Clown” or even “Most Likely to Go Streaking Alone”.
Most likely to be the funniest damn man on the planet.
With that said what better time to make some offseason predictions (and pay homage to a true American hero – Frank the Tank) under the veil of impromptu superlatives than the approaching post-OTAs lull. Let’s begin with a topic that has gained steam in the last few days…
Starter Most Likely to Be Cut Before the Beginning of the Season
Mike Thomas, WR
The Jack Del Rio era had two prominent pre-season roster cuts: Byron Leftwich and David Garrard. Mike Thomas isn’t the starting quarterback, but his dismissal from the roster would be rather shocking considering the extension he signed during the season in 2011. I’m also counting the slot receiver as a starter because the new offensive scheme will likely feature a lot of three-receiver sets.
There’s been some grumblings lately that Thomas has been underwhelming in OTAs and he could conceivably be buried in the depth chart behind Lee Evans and Cecil Shorts III. Additionally, if I were giving out the award for “Most Disappointing Performance in 2011,” Mike Thomas would also take home that crown. Although he was miscast as the number one receiver last year, he consistently appeared to run sloppy routes and flat-out give up on some plays. The team also turned to him later in the season to give the return game a spark and he failed to deliver. I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a good chance Thomas won’t be on the roster if he doesn’t pick up his game in training camp.
Most Likely to Make the All-Pro Team
Eugene Monroe, OT
The Jaguars had one representative on the 2011 AP All Pro team – Maurice Jones-Drew. Personally, I’m hoping Rashad Jennings can come back strong this year and spell Maurice Jones-Drew more often so both players can stay fresh for the final push in December. So who else on the Jaguars’ roster can make the leap into the national spotlight? How about Gene Smith’s first pick as GM – Eugene Monroe.
A quick perusal of the 2011 All-Pro team reveals the two tackles were Joe Thomas and Jason Peters. Thomas has been a mainstay on the team since being drafted, but Peters recently re-injured his Achilles’ tendon and likely won’t be available, let alone at full-strength this season. This opens up a spot for Monroe, who played at a Pro-Bowl level for much of 2011 after struggling during the pre-season because of his curious choice to lose too much weight in the offseason. If Monroe can take advantage of the new strength and conditioning program, he should start the 2012 season stronger than ever and turn in an All-Pro performance.
Look for this big man to have a big year.
Most Likely to Receive a Contract Extension Mid-Season
Derek Cox, CB
The Jaguars are scheduled to have a handful of key players reach free-agency after the 2012 season: Eben Britton, Derek Cox, Rashad Jennings, Greg Jones, Terrance Knighton, Daryl Smith, and Rashean Mathis. This award came down to Knighton, Smith, and Cox. While I think all three players will end up resigning with Jaguars, I think the team wants secure the little bit of young talent they have at the cornerback position before Cox gets a chance to test free-agency.
When he was healthy last year, Cox showed he can be a reliable shut-down corner. If Cox can begin the season with some consistency and continue to perform at a high level, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gene and company tried to negotiate an extension before the end of the season. If Knighton can begin the season at full-strength, he could also be a strong candidate for a mid-season extension.
Most Likely to Prove Everybody Wrong
Blaine Gabbert, QB
The Jaguars are being counted out by the national media and sports “experts” everywhere. Vegas thinks the Jaguars have the worst odds of winning the super bowl (100 to 1) and they recently listed the Jags’ over/under as 5.5 games, with some people already taking the under. Jacksonville is consistently ranked near the bottom 5 of most pre-season power rankings and talk of the Jaguars as a playoff team is considered a joke. With a top 6 defense and the league-leading rusher, why are the Jaguars being dismissed so unanimously? The answer is simple: Blaine Gabbert.
In a quarterback-driven league, if nobody trusts your quarterback, nobody thinks you can succeed. To this effect, people like Don Banks are already predicting that Gabbert won’t even make it out of the pre-season with the starting job.
In reality, it’s downright absurd for anyone who has been paying attention to the Jaguars’ offseason to think Blaine won’t improve to some extent. Gene Smith overhauled the coaching staff and provided expertise and wisdom geared towards improving Blaine. Gene signed two free-agent wide receivers and drafted the top receiver in the draft to improve Blaine Gabbert. What’s been the theme of the offseason? Improve Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert is an intelligent, hard-working kid who is going to learn and grow this offseason. He may not put up pro-bowl numbers, but he’s going to show a drastic improvement – enough I think to solidify his stake as the franchise quarterback.
I’ll revisit this topic after the season to see how smart or incompetent I look. Let me know if you think of anymore superlatives in the comments below.