by Cole Pepper
August 9, 2013
The Jaguars open the preseason tonight against the Miami Dolphins. Here are the eight most important things to watch:
- 1s vs. 1s-Final scores of preseason games are meaningless. However, it can be valuable to keep an eye on how the first team does against the opponents first team. Often, the score is not indicitave of how things went. You must use your eyes.
- Offensive Line-Regardless of who is under center, the Jaguars line must do a better job of pass protection. In camp, there have been signs that protection will be improved. There was a decent amount of pressure in last Saturday’s scrimmage, so we’ll keep an eye on how the first team line especially holds up against Miami’s pass rush. That being said, don’t expect to see much in the way of exotic pressures from the Dolphins, even though this is their second preseason game, having played last week in the Hall of Fame game against the Cowboys.
- Quarterbacks-This is certainly the top story line of camp, but its looking more an more like it will be Blaine Gabbert. Not because he’s been spectacular, he just been pretty good, maybe a step better than Chad Henne. I believe, as most do, that Henne would have to substantially outplay Gabbert to get the starting job. That being said, if he performs in games, Henne will be given the chance. Gabbert starts, but both will play behind the starting offensive line.
- Which receiver steps up? Justin Blackmon (groin) and Cecil Shorts (calf) will not play. That means that there will be plenty of opportunities for the likes of Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, Jordan Shipley, Mohamed Massaquoi, Toney Clemons, et al to flash. So far, Sanders and Brown have been the best of that bunch. How many receivers will the Jaguars keep? Probably six, but one or two of those spots may be determined by the ability to contribute on special teams.
- Pass Rush-Can someone other than Jason Babin get to the quarterback? Gus Bradley said this week that he wouldn’t blitz much, if at all in this first game. He’s looking for defensive linemen to win one on one battles.
- Deep Coverage-Particularly when Mike Wallace is in there, how will the Jaguars hold up? Gus Bradley’s defense features a lot more press coverage than the Jaguars have run in the past which is a risk-reward approach. They risk giving up a big play deep, but the reward is that it could lead to sacks if the coverage is tight early in the play.
- Returns-Its tough to simulate the adrenaline rush of the return game when you aren’t going to be tackled. Its always interesting to see who can handle kicks and punts in this first preseason game.
- Gus Bradley’s demeanor-I sensed a little bit of tightness for the first time from Bradley on Thursday. He’s never been a head coach and this will be his first game in that role. Will his energy and enthusiasm remain? I suspect so, but it will be worth watching to see how he behaves on the sideline.