Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks Blake Bortles (5) and Chad Henne (7) chat during the first day of minicamp at Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars preseason week two. It’s finally here. I’ve watched the Jags win against the Buccaneers multiple times now and I’m ready for the Chicago Bears. But are the Jaguars? All should be answered by halftime tonight. For the Jags to show continued growth in the Bradley era, there are a few key things that will have to occur. Here is a short list of things that I think is key to this team maturing to being regular season ready.
- Chad Henne need to continue being error free – Everybody, including Henne, knows this is Blake Bortle’s team. Henne is playing a very important role at this time for the team’s future. He doesn’t need to take them to new heights. If he did, that would be great. What he doesn’t need to do is add to the defeated nature that the Jags have had for a few years now. Get in there. Give your best. Stay contained within your ability and have faith in a vastly improving defense.
- Toby Gerhart needs to show he is ready to be “The Man” – Not much more to add to this. The running game was non-existent last week. I don’t know if Gerhart would have made a difference. The Bucs have a pretty nice front seven. The Bears, on the other hand, do not. I’m expending, even with the Jags suspect o-line play, ample opportunities for our running game to shine. Is Gerhart ready for the bright lights that come with being an NFL starter? He has shown brightly in sporadic duty as Adrian Peterson’s backup…Now it’s time to prove, preseason or not, that you will be our workhorse for the next four years.
- Marqise Lee needs to show he can grow up fast – Marqise caused something to happen this week that I never thought would occur. Gus Bradley was openly critical of a player. That Lee, in one preseason game, put a glitch in Bradley’s perpetual “Professor Positive” attitude, is both telling and alarming. I had concerns about Lee coming into the league because so many scouts questioned his heart. He went from being one of the most sought after wideouts in college football to being seen as a player who kind of shut down when things went bad at USC. Bradley ended up re-clarifying his comments to seem less critical but I think a point was made. I expect Lee to step on that field tonight and show that he not only can take criticism, but that he is ready to be an NFL wide receiver.
- The O-Line needs to straight up play like men! – Last week was mostly a train wreck. Jail breaks on on five step dropbacks. Lineman being knocked on their asses with just basic bull rushes. No running game…period. TWO SHOTGUN SNAPS OVER THE QB’S HEAD!!!!! Friggin ridiculous!!! It is becoming clear why Mike Brewster went undrafted last year. I’m glad to see the Jags have signed another center this week. An offensive line is like a see-saw. Without a a steady middle, it just won’t work. Chicago had one of the worse rushing defenses in the NFC last year and haven’t done a lot to improve. Let’s take advantage so our passing game won’t be so important.
- Blake Bortles…Just keep being you! – You looked great. Threw great. Had great pocket presence. You were enthusiastic and confident, which the players fed off of. Long story short…You already look pro ready and I look at the future with extreme confidence.
- Make sure we have a good rotation for Sen’Derrick Marks – I know it was only a preseason game. If you combine it with the play at the end of last season though, Marks is playing as good as any DT in the NFL. Pro Football Weekly stated he rated the highest of any player last week. Not just other DTs. ANY PLAYER IN FOOTBALL. That’s how dominate he was. A player like that needs to be protected. Roy Miller, when healthy, is a great partner. I’m calling out Abry Jones and Ziggy Hood. I want Marks to be able to rotate out of the game once in awhile and the team not suffer. Get out there tonight and show coach Bradley that he can have faith that the DT postions are handled.
- Whoever plays MLB tonight, do realize this is also an audition – Paul Posluszny will not even be in Chicago tonight supposedly. Nathan Stupar, LaRoy Reynolds, J.T. Thomas, maybe even Dakota Watson will line up at MLB tonight with Poz injured. Big shoes to fill for sure. What these players need to keep in mind is this. Poz’s contract is up after this year and the Jags may not be able to afford him. Whoever gets time tonight could be playing for the starting middle linebacker position in 2015. NO PRESSURE!!!
- Welcome back Alan Ball – I don’t know how much he will play tonight, if at all. I just know that with the pass rush showing improvement, a player like Ball is going to have a field day. He covers like glue and I fell will more than double the 3 INTs he had last year if he can stay healthy. He also brings a veteran’s presence to the DB’s. Great to have you back, Alan!
- Pass rushers…Cutler doesn’t like to be hit! – Last week’s pass rush and pressure was inspiring. It felt good to see it happening to the other guys! But the Bears’ o-line is a different beast. It is a complete carry over from last year. They didn’t lose one starter. So you know they will be formidable. The good news is that Cutler is not a scrambler. I think if he raced a pregnant woman, he would come in third! (I know…old joke) I do know this. You hit Cutler, it messes with his mind. If I’m defensive coordinator before game, I would tell them if they have a shot at Cutler, TAKE IT, even if you’ll be flagged. That’s just smart football.
- Someone PLEASE step up and be a special teams returner – OK…this has gone on long enough. I don’t think we’ve had a kickoff return for a TD since MJD was a rookie. I also hate to admit I believe we have NEVER had a punt returned for a TD. It’s time. It’s WELL past time. Look how invigorated the defense was by the pick six last week. A great kickoff or punt return would do a lot for this young team. Find someone with the right combination of fearlessness, yet responsible, and let him pump up this team!!!
Well that’s it. I’m actually taking a lot of stock in this game because I think the Bears are going to be a playoff team this year. This will be a good barometerof how we are progressing. Especially on defense.
Tell me if I have missed anything you think is key. Send me a comment! Thanks for reading and GO JAGS!!!!!!
Written by Michael McDonald
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