The backlash from last week’s preseason game from media and fans has been somewhat astounding to me. It was the first preseason game of the year. Remember last year’s preseason when the Jaguars looked halfway decent only to go on and have a franchise worst 2-14 season? Shows you how much preseason matters.
Yup. In the eyes of many, the Jacksonville Jaguars are already dead and they haven’t even taken a regular season snap yet. So much is being emphasized on the ugly recent past and the unknown future that we often forget exactly what is going on at the current moment with the Jags.
Instead of becoming a victim of the moment myself and claiming the season already lost, I am going to do a run down of sorts on things that we actually know.
- First I will focus on the positive. The obvious positive to me seems to slip the minds of most people. The Jaguars have stayed healthy this year so far in training camp and preseason. Health is the most important factor on any team. Cyprien and Blackmon just returned from the NFI and PUP lists. Jones-Drew is being held back for cautionary reasons due to his healing Lisfranc fracture, but according to coaches he could have easily played Saturday. I applaud the front office and coaching staff for being careful with these difference makers. Cyprien and Blackmon both returned to practice this week which is a huge plus for this young team struggling to find its niche. Cecil Shorts and Luke Joeckel remain day to day, and while it’s not an ideal situation for either one, it’s better than suffering a Jeremy Maclin or Danario Alexander type catastrophe. This front office and coaching staff has showed that they are in absolutely no rush to force impact players back before they reach full health.
- 27-3 isn’t encouraging, but did anyone else notice just how good the first team defensive line looked? Sen’Derrick Marks had a sack, but the entire defensive line looked to be able to collapse the pocket on a consistent basis, leaving Tannehill less than comfortable and on the move. The return game will look much better this year with the help of rookies Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson. Neither one did anything truly explosive, but both show the traits of being playmakers. It’s apparent that given the right moment, both have the ability to make a play.
- Gus Bradley is consistent. He sticks to his guns. He preaches competition at every position and he’s done just that. Just last week WR Charly Martin was claimed off waivers. Journeyman OG Pat McQuistan was added as well and just yesterday LB Andy Studebaker was signed. Not necessarily blockbuster moves, but it’s a steady churn that will affect those respected positions on the roster. This is how you improve a young team. Consistent roster churning by providing young competition on a regular basis.
- Now for the bad…the quarterback play hasn’t been up to par. Completing 5 passes for 19 yards and an interception (even though Will Ta’ufo’ou should have caught that ball) is a far cry from acceptable. Chad Henne did a little better, but it’s been well-documented that he did so against the 2nd team defense. What concerns me is that Gabbert is continuing to have less-than-good practices, so much to the point that Marcedes Lewis called a meeting after yesterday’s practice to let everyone know, “this won’t do.” The only thing that we can hope for is that Gabbert and Henne continue to battle it out in practice and the remaining preseason games, making some kind of improvement. That’s all there is to it.
- The young players overall on this team are making an impact. Rookie CB Dwayne Gratz had an interception on Friday night, and with Russell Allen sidelined for the time being, UDFA LaRoy Reynolds is running with the first team. 2012 UDFA Ryan Davis is said to be pushing 2012 2nd round pick Andre Branch for playing time at the LEO spot.
And really, that’s just some of what we know so far. The Jaguars were blown out last Friday, mainly by Miami’s backups. This was the first NFL experience for many players on the Jaguars roster, and while the depth doesn’t look very good, the offense still looks stagnant, and the quarterback play has been driving everyone to the brink of insanity, there are many, many improvements that have already been made.
-David R. Johns