I’m taking a hiatus from my usual preseason game break down today. You see it everywhere. The Jaguars play a preseason game. Analyze what went right. Analyze what went wrong. Rinse. Repeat.
I could talk about the pressure the Jaguars defensive line appeared to apply on a consistent basis. I could talk about how Chad Henne truly is an underrated option as a backup quarterback and how several teams would be very happy to have him as their number 2 signal caller. I could talk about how Jordan Todman has made quite the name for himself this preseason and further stated his case with an explosive 63 yard scamper for a score.
But you can find that anywhere. Yeah, it will be presented in different ways, but how many times can you read the same stats in various forms over and over again before you get the point?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun breaking down who did what and how did this player perform, etc.. However, this is a fan site, and after looking at site after site, whether it be the Jaguars mothership, bigcatcountry, or even the Jaguars facebook page it’s obvious that most fans don’t care about the details. They simply want one thing: wins.
Will the Jaguars be any good this year?
There’s no one on this planet who can honestly answer that. Fans have grown impatient, now more than ever in our instant society. We’re so used to everything being right there, all of the answers, anytime all the time, 24-7. When something isn’t instantaneous, as a people we tend to become bored and disengaged. No one cares about the process. They only care about the results.
But football, the game we all know and love so much, isn’t about “instant.” There’s no such thing as a microwave dinner football team and there’s not an app that can calculate x, y and z to tell you if your favorite team will be successful this year.
My advice? There are entirely too many fans out there who are already upset, already disengaged over preseason. There are even fans out there who were actually disappointed about the Saturday night dress rehearsal because we didn’t “win.” Preseason isn’t about winning. It’s about roster evaluation. It’s about getting schemes into place. It’s about the process which we have seemed to forget about all of a sudden.
The process for the Jaguars has been simple. Get faster. Get younger. Create competition at all positions. The process for the Jaguars has not been spend, spend, spend and reach, reach, reach. Buying talent via free agency doesn’t make your team better.
The Jaguars have gotten younger. There’s many people I know who are worried about the inexperience of these young players. Well we had plenty of experience last year. Rashean Mathis was very experienced. So were players like Dawaan Landry and Laurent Robinson was coming off the biggest year of his career. Do you catch my drift?
The players who had either started for this team or who were key role players over the last few years were purged in the early spring. These were the players who were responsible for the 2-14 season. Not Luke Joeckel. Not Jonathan Cyprien.
Now many pundits would just say “Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are our quarterbacks so yada yada ya…”
To those pundits I say: get over it. No, the front office decided against going out and getting an old Carson Palmer. They decided against Alex Smith, who might have only been good because he was playing on a superior team with loads of talent. Thank goodness they decided against Matt Flynn. I’m not sure if that’s going to work out in Oakland.
Now early on in the draft process I was of the belief that the Jaguars should take a long look at the rookie quarterbacks. As a matter of fact, I wanted the Jaguars to draft one of these guys. As the draft season rolled along, however, I wised up and realized that the last thing the Jaguars needed to do was reach. Did anyone see Geno Smith last Saturday night? 3 INTs. Yeah. It’s preseason. It doesn’t matter, but Geno would have been another project, another piece in this process if Caldwell did decide to go in that direction. He would not have fit this “win now” mentality that seemingly all NFL fans have adopted.
The pass rush only racked up 20 sacks last year. There’s no one premier pass rusher on this year’s roster. Jason Babin is the closest thing, which isn’t saying very much. The Jaguars didn’t have a premier pass rusher last year. Rookie Andre Branch underperformed, and he really hasn’t had that great of a camp this year. Instead of going out and getting John Abraham or a Dwight Freeney, Caldwell instead decided to improve the entire rotation. How did he do this? He beefed up the middle with free agent defensive tackles, Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller. In another somewhat surprising move, Bradley moved Alualu to strongside defensive end.
The secondary was seemingly taken advantage of down after down last season. Some of this can be attributed to the lack of a pass rush, but really we had old cornerbacks in Mathis and Ross. Derek Cox was good, but he was an injury risk. I liked Landry, but apparently he simply didn’t fit in Bradley’s plans. The secondary saw a massive overhaul. Free agent cornerbacks Alan Ball and Marcus Trufant were brought in. SS Jonathan Cyprien was drafted 33rd overall. CB Dwayne Gratz was taken in the 3rd round. FS Josh Evans was drafted in the 6th, and even both 7th round picks were spent on DBs. It feels like I’ve written this over and over again, but the defensive backs have to be physical in this scheme. It’s obvious that these young players have had a full offseason playing Bradley and Babich’s defense. Yes, we will see blown assignments this year, but we will also see a secondary that has a very high ceiling as a group. Each week will be a learning experience, and I fully expect this unit to continue to do nothing but get better and better.
Offensively, the return of Maurice Jones-Drew is an automatic boost. Jones-Drew is primed and ready for a big year. I like the protection that our bookend tackles in Eugene Monroe and No. 2 overall selection Luke Joeckel have been able to provide. Losing Justin Blackmon for the first 4 games is going to hurt. On Saturday night he reminded us as to just how explosive he can be. I really want to see Shorts and Blackmon on the field together, but unfortunately I will have to wait until October.
Blaine Gabbert is our starting quarterback. Say what you will. It is what it is. Gabbert has done absolutely nothing to garner even an ounce of good faith. BUT…
This is probably the best situation he’s ever walked into starting the regular season. His rookie season, he was thrown to the wolves when Garrard was all of a sudden let go. Last year was the Mike Mularkey year, and we know how that ended. This year Gabbert is working with a coach whose best years are ahead of him, not behind him unlike Mularkey. I believe that Gabbert has the tools to succeed in Jedd Fisch’s offensive system. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from the unit overall so far. No, it’s not some explosive down-the-field threat, but it’s an up to date system that is very capable of moving the ball down the field.
Will these changes translate into wins? No one can say. What we can say is that major changes took place with the Jaguars this year, changes that needed to happen. It’s all a part of the process. There is no “instant win” button that a team can push for a division title and trip to the playoffs. So be patient…we don’t know what this team will do until the regular season starts. Then we can start talking about if they’re any “good” or not.
-David R. Johns