With one week already in the books, the Jaguars have to deal with more than most teams. The offensive line has sustained injuries to Cameron Bradfield, Eben Britton, and Uche Nwaneri. Starting linebackers Daryl Smith and Clint Session were injured prior to the season, along with starting corner Derek Cox and running back Rashad Jennings. The Jaguars also lost to the Minnesota Vikings in overtime, after a great touchdown grab to Cecil Shorts III in the fourth quarter should have won them the game; and now they have to play the Houston Texans. I can’t tell if this looks more like 2008 or 2011, because its only week 2.
Every year NFL analysts come up with projection of win/loss records for every team, and for the past few years the Jaguars rank dead last in the AFC South with an average of 5 wins or less. Analysts judge the team based on their quarterback play, and offensive firepower, among other things, to come up with these ratios. For the past few years, they have been correct. However they are not for the right reasons. Injuries cannot be predicted. Rashad Jennings wasn’t supposed to go down in the first quarter.
Another reason has been Blaine Gabbert. He has been labeled a bust before taking the field year two. It’s already apparent that the so called “craven” or “skittish” quarterback is not the same player as last year. He is standing tall in the pocket and driving the ball down field. You would never think he was the “happy feet” quarterback from the shotgun offense of Mizzou. He is able to make the plays because of his new receivers who, unlike last year, are finding separation and yards after the catch. Gabbert’s performance was not predicted to improve this drastically.
His rookie season was filled with sluggo and short routes that make me question if Dirk Koetter was trying get Del Rio fired and take the reigns as head coach. The receiving core has also been an issue since Jimmy Smith retired, leaving the team with a group of receivers that had more issues than sports illustrated. Laurent Robinson’s signing still left question marks on the media’s head, where a guy who could only perform well in the presence of others, was just a desperate attempt in which the Jaguars overpaid. Laurent Robinson had one catch in the preseason and leads in receptions after week one. Mike Thomas was a player that quit and Cecil Shorts III was just as forgettable, but Blackmon is supposed to be the shining star that probably had the media add in another win to the column. Yet Gabbert distributes the ball like a great quarterback would, finding who ever is open, like Marcedes Lewis on his one yard touchdown grab or Shorts’ beautiful touchdown with twenty seconds to go. Did the analysts think the offense would be this efficient?
As the Jaguars await the arrival of the Texans, they prepare for a game in which they may be without significant starters once again. They are playing a team that is efficient in all levels of the game. The projected winner of the AFC South. Yet I have learned to take opinions for what they’re worth, but to let them go once the game starts. They are opinions after all, not facts.
- Antonio Furgiuele