More Opportunities Coming For Young Players
By David Johns
The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off of a bye week and are heading into a week 10 matchup with division rival, 4-4 Tennessee Titans. The Titans have been somewhat of a surprise this season, and as usual will present a number of matchup problems for the Jaguars. First and foremost of those threats being Chris Johnson.
Nov 3, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) runs with the ball as St. Louis Rams strong safety Darian Stewart (20) defends during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Johnson is coming off a 23 att, 150 yard effort with 2 TDs, leading the way to a 28-21 win over the St. Louis Rams. Johnson looked every bit the CJ2K threat of old. He looked elusive, explosive and every other adjective that is thrown around this day and age to describe a running back who looks very, very good. Against a Jaguars defense that is being gashed by the run as of late, stopping Johnson should and will be top priority. While this game seems slightly more winnable compared to playing the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, the Jaguars must execute more efficiently and play mistake-free football in order to actually “be in the game.”
The bye week could not have come at a better time. Since playing their best game of the season against the Denver Broncos, the Jaguars have put up some real stinkers against the Chargers and 49ers. The play regressed, as will be the case with young teams, and the Jaguars just haven’t been able to avoid bone-headed mistakes, playing some of the sloppiest football imaginable. Speaking of sloppy, Justin Blackmon continues to get sloppy and he has earned himself an indefinite suspension and a trip to rehab.
In the midst of this mess, Bradley and Caldwell have not faltered. There have been no blame games, no stories of locker room discord. There are no complaints, only solutions to help this team moving forward.
A big part of the solution for the Jacksonville Jaguars, from now to the end of the season and into the foreseeable future, will be the young players.
Maurice Jones-Drew has been getting better, but really and truly it’s obvious that he’s not going to inject life into this rushing offense. What does the coaching staff do? Denard Robinson is promoted to the immediate No. 2 back ahead of Justin Forsett and Jordan Todman. Robinson was one of the most electric players in college football during his tenure at Michigan, accumulating 6,250 yards passing, 49 TDs, 39 INTs and a 138.6 passer rating as a QB and 4,495 and 42 TDs rushing. Coming into this year’s draft season, Robinson made the switch to WR. He ran a 4.43 40 yard dash at the NFL scouting combine showcasing what the Jaguars so desperately needed…speed. Robinson was selected in the 5th round of this year’s draft. There was a lot of speculation as to what kind of role he would play. He’s been tried at several different spots, so much to the point he was listed as OW(Offensive Weapon). He has a more definitive role moving forward-running back. Promoting Robinson to the immediate backup to Maurice Jones-Drew shows Bradley’s commitment to getting this young playmaker involved. This is Robinson’s chance to showcase his talent.
With Justin Blackmon out indefinitely, first year receiver Mike Brown will start opposite Cecil Shorts. Over the last two weeks, Brown has 8 grabs for 163 yards and 1 TD. Mike Brown was not a highly toted rookie like Robinson. Brown didn’t even play WR at Liberty. He was a college QB, and at Liberty for that matter. Last year after the draft, Brown was one of the workout guys brought in who played his way to a contract. Since then, he’s gone from practice squad, to being activated during the final weeks of last season, to now being counted on to be a key piece of the offense. Brown is a player Jags brass has felt good about for some time. Brown was actually singled out by Caldwell, with Caldwell saying he had been impressed with Brown’s work during spring practices. Now, Brown will have his opportunity.
The foundation continues to be laid. More young players are getting involved and being relied upon to play larger roles. Heading into the second half of the season, the young guns better be ready to step up because it’s quite obvious that any one of their numbers could be called on any given Sunday.
-David R. Johns