This week the Jaguars travel to Baltimore for week three of the preseason. What can be expected are a few developing story lines, as the roster will face the most intense analysis to prove who will have a job, as well as who is at the front of the line.
Blaine Gabbert has a firm hold on the position, so examining his play will more likely than not come from the media. After two games, he seems to have better poise and footwork, as well as the ability to step up in the pocket to throw even though he might get hit. While these are preseason games that don’t count, it still matters as it is encouraging to see that Gabbert now looks prepared and focused and not scared and skittish. Playing against the Ravens is a good test to see these skills on display, especially if there are any second half adjustments to be made. As far as Chad Henne and Jordan Palmer are concerned, the Jaguars will make strides at evaluating both, but Henne may ultimately win out this duel as more was invested in him as a backup. Unless the Jags are looking to carry three quarterbacks this season, expect more time for Henne.
After all the news about Maurice Jones-Drew this week, it feels a bit exhausting to talk more about him. While MJD is on hiatus, Rashad Jennings has clearly been running on all cylinders, averaging a healthy 5.1 average per carry on 23 attempts. The better he does, the more difficult the MJD situation becomes. However I still don’t see a trade for Jones-Drew, he’s too good. The rest of the lineup includes Montell Owens who will remain on the roster as a special teams monster. The fight for the third slot will be interesting to see as Keith Toston has shown big play ability but currently has a hamstring injury. If Jalen Parmele, DuJuan Harris, or Richard Murphy step it up this week in his absence, the depth chart could easily change.
Justin Blackmon should get the ball early and often, and it should be time for him to get a deep ball his way sooner or later. Establishing this connection is key, and its easy to see why with his big play ability. Laurent Robinson has experienced an up and down camp, but he won’t b allowed to fail with the amount invested in him. The last thing the Jaguars want is another Jerry Porter. Thomas has been a pleasurable surprise as he seems “ all in” himself. This cast is rounded out by Brian Robiskie (who leads in receptions thus far), Cecil Shorts, and Chastin West who will fight for the remaining spots. Mike Brown and Kevin Elliott might just end up on the practice squad.
Greg Jones is a premier fullback, even if its not a premier position. Brock Bolen is his back up but don’t expect this to change at all.
Marcedes Lewis had a disappointing 2011 season, but should have a better year this year. He does only have two receptions thus far, but once the season kicks in, he will provide Gabbert a big target as a safety valve. If I was Zach Miller or Zach Potter, I would be afraid…very afraid. Colin Cloherty has proven he can move the chains and is a good target for Gabbert. All of these players are in their contract year, but Cloherty has not been injured. If Cloherty can rack up some more yards Thursday, consider him on the depth chart.
The line proved its worth last week against the Saints, giving Gabbert ample amount of time which allowed him to go 13/16 for 112 yards and two touchdowns. The line is still missing Eugene Monroe and Will Rackley but hasn’t been terrible. Cameron Bradfield is currently at left tackle, so watching him against the blitz will determine his stock. During the second half the two’s will take the field. Of these linemen, only half will be taken so it’s important to watch if any of these players allow sacks or pressure to Palmer and Henne.
The defensive line has been reinforced with more meat with 7th round Jeris Pendleton and D’Anthony Smith returning. Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton will be the season starters even though C.J. Mosley has started through the preseason. Jeremy Miney has shown he can get to the quarterback, but Andre Branch only has a few pressures to his name. Getting to Joe Flacco will solidify Branch’s role opposite Mincey as he has been stout against the run.
The backer position has experienced a bit of turmoil, but nothing worth worrying about. Clint Session is still suffering concussion symptoms and reserve backer Russell Allen has taken his spot. While the starters are solid, the backups need to show they can provide depth for the team. Julian Stanford has been highly praised this offseason but has not shown it on the field yet. Rookie Brandon Marshall seems to be in the same situation. The second half will be important for these two players to see who has their name above the other on the depth chart.
The cornerback group will be interesting to watch as Rashean Mathis will take the field for the first time this season. Seeing if he can perform at a high level will be important in establishing the pecking order for the season. Following his injury he was given a one year “prove it” contract. If he can flash, he will stay as either the left corner or nickel. If he fails, it could cut short his days in teal. While Derek Cox is nursing a hamstring injury, William Middleton will most likely start in his place as he is the best candidate to play against Torrey Smith. With Dwight Lowery and Dawan Landry at locks for safety, the play of Courtney Green, Chris Prosinski and Rod Issac will determine which two stay.
Scobee is a kicking machine, and Bryan Anger is projected to be one as well, even if the Jaguars are the only ones who think he should be a third round pick. A few coffin corner punts would help ease our minds or maybe even a Shane Lechler 80 yard punt would suffice. Either way, every fourth down is another chance to see why the Jaguars covet this player so much.
– Antonio Furgiuele
Tags: Andre Branch Blaine Gabbert Brandon Marshall Brian Robiskie Brock Bolen Bryan Anger C.J. Mosley Cameron Bradfield Cecil Shorts Chad Henne Chastin West Chris Prosinski Clint Session Colin Cloherty Courtney Green D'Anthony Smith Dawan Landry Derek Cox DuJuan Harris Dwight Lowery Eugene Monroe Greg Jones Jalen Parmele Jeremy Mincey Jeris Pendelton Jerry Porter Joe Flacco Jordan Palmer Josh Scobee Julian Stanford Justin Blackmon Keith Toston Kevin Elliot Laurent Robinson Marcedes Lewis Maurice Jones-drew Mike Brown Mike Thomas Montell Owens Rashad Jennings Rashean Mathis Richard Murphy Rod Issac Russell Allen Shane Lechler Terrance Knighton Torrey Smith Tyson Alualu Will Rackley William Middleton Zach Miller Zach Potter