Takeaways From Jaguars 28-2 Loss to Chiefs

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by Cole Pepper
September 8, 2013

The Jaguars lost the season opener to the Kansas City Chiefs 28-2. Here are my takeaways from the game.

Pass protection-There were many problems for the Jaguars offense, but this was the biggest issue. When the Jaguars passed (and they passed too often), they didn’t protect well at all. Blaine Gabbert was sacked six times and pressured many more. When the Jaguars were in obvious passing situations, the Chiefs either pressured Gabbert, or they rushed three and dropped eight into coverage. The Jaguars couldn’t do anything about it.

Pass Rush-We assume this is going to be an issue all year log. Gus Bradley prefers to rush four. In the second half, he mixed in a few blitzes with varying success. I think that Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich will have to dial up more blitzes if they are going to manufacture pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Aside from the lack of pass pressure, i thought the defense looked sort of okay (I’m looking for positives, here). They faced too many short fields as a result of poor special teams play and turnovers.

Quarterback Play-Gabbert wasn’t very good. The eye test tells you that and the stats confirm it (16/35, 121 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions). It did not appear that the thumb was an issue for Gabbert until he cut his hand, requiring 15 stitches, with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Some decision making problems were exacerbated by poor protection and drops from a number of guys who were very reliable in the preseason (Ace Sanders, Allen Reisner, even Cecil Shorts failed to hang on to one). Gabbert just isn’t good enough at this point to overcome a lack of help around him. There was another issue that I had with the offensive approach. Read on.

Run/Pass Inbalance-In his first regular season game as an NFL offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch called 44 pass plays and 20 run plays with a quarterback playing with broken thumb. Maurice Jones-Drew carried only 15 times. This with an offense that played without Justin Blackmon (league suspension) and Marcedes Lewis (calf). Why put so much of the game on Gabbert’s shoudlers? It doesn’t make sense to me.

PODCAST: Sam and Cole Discuss the Game

Putting It Into Perspective
Above all other topics, this season is about finding out if Blaine Gabbert is the Jaguars quarterback of the future. In that context, you can put every game on Gabbert’s shoulders. But if Gabbert continues to play like he did against the Chiefs, its going to be a tough sell to leave him out there. Maybe his thumb was a bigger factor that it appeared, maybe Lewis and Blackmon will make that kind of a difference when they are back in there and maybe Jedd Fisch just needs a little more time to learn how NFL defenses will respond to the Jaguars offense. Or maybe, this team is worse than it was last year. After one week, that sure seems like a possibility.

Jaguars Name Gabbert Starting Quarterback

by Cole Pepper
August 19, 2013

Blaine Gabbert is the Jaguars starting quarterback. He just won’t play for a while.

Head coach Gus Bradley named Gabbert as the starting quarterback today, but said that Gabbert has a hairline fracture in his right thumb. The injury occurred in the first half of Saturday night’s game preseason game against the Jets. Initially, an X-Ray did not reveal a break, but a later MRI showed the fracture.

Gabbert will be out the rest of the preseason, but Bradley expects him to return in time for the week of preparation before the Jaguars season opener against Kansas City.

After Gabbert’s performance against the Jets (13 of 16, 165 yards and a touchdown), it was clear that he had taken command of the quarterback competition with Chad Henne. It was only a matter of time (and health) before Gabbert was named the starter.

“It’s a nice opportunity but it doesn’t end here,” Gabbert said. “Gus preaches competition.”

Bradley complimented Gabbert’s improvement in leadership, practice performance and command of the offense in addition to his ability throwing the football.

“He can stretch the field with his talents, vertically and horizontally,” Bradley said. “He’s taken ownership of the offense.”

Henne figures to play quite a bit this Saturday when the Jaguars host the Eagles in the third preseason game.

“I would think that Chad would get a lot of reps,” Bradley said, although the staff has not yet met to discuss the number of plays. He did expect the starters to play into the third quarter.

For now, Gabbert is wearing a hard splint on the injured hand.

Takeaways from Jaguars-Jets Game

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Cole and Sam’s post-game Podcast

by Cole Pepper
August 18, 2013

The Jaguars lost to the Jets 37-13, but the final score was not indicative of the improvement the first team showed, particularly on offense. Here are my takeaways from preseason game number two:

Gabbert vs. Henne-The quarterback battle is over. Gabbert, if healthy (more on that later), will certainly get the bulk of the snaps with the first team offense next Saturday when the Jaguars host the Eagles. While Gabbert shined against the Jets, Henne wasn’t nearly as effective, completing just four of ten passes and throwing an interception. Gabbert will be the starter, even if he isn’t as effective as he was against the Jets.

Offensive Stars Return-Both Maurice Jones-Drew (3 carries for 9 yards, 1 catch for 20 yards) and Justin Blackmon (4 receptions, 46 yards) made their preseason debuts. Both looked good. Jones-Drew, of course, is gearing up for the season opener, while Blackmon will have to sit out the first four games of the season, but it was a positive for the Jaguars to see both looking like legitimate weapons.

Protection-With Luke Joeckel sitting out the game with a hip injury and Marcedes Lewis a late scratch due to a calf strain, the pass protection was good enough. The run blocking was inconsistent, however. That will be an area that the offensive line will need to improve.

Pass Rush-Against the Jets first team, the Jaguars pass rush was not as impressive as what we saw last week. Jeremy Mincey recorded a sack in the second quarter, but that was an exception to the rule. Clearly, the Jaguars pass rush has the potential to be much better than last year, but so far, it has been inconsistent in the preseason.

Offensive Tempo-Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has been preaching an uptempo approach in camp, but that hasn’t been seen until Saturday night. The Jaguars first team offense (minus Joeckel, Lewis and Shorts), wasted little time getting in and out of the huddle and at times, Gabbert was calling plays at the line. He looked much more in control and the pace of play kept the Jets defense on their heels. If this is a sign of things to come, the Jaguars should be, at very least, a more exciting offense to watch this year.

Deep coverage-Both rookies Dwayne Gratz and Jonathan Cyprien were flagged and targeted by Mark Sanchez. This is going to happen at times this year. When you have rookies in the defensive backfield, even talented ones, they are going to struggle from time to time. Not to sink into coach-speak, but it truly is going to be

Play of the Game-When you don’t score a touchdown in your first preseason game, the first time hitting pay dirt matters. The Jaguars did that on their first drive when Gabbert found tight end Allen Reisner on a roll-out. Reisner took it in for the touchdown.

Star of the Game-Clearly, its Gabbert. After struggling last week, Gabbert completed 13 of 16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. Now the big question is, how bad is the injured thumb. X-rays came back negative for a break, but we’ll have to wait until later in the week to find out if Gabbert will be ready to play Saturday or if he’ll miss more substantial time.

Podcast: Cole and Sam Discuss the Jaguars QB Battle

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Our midweek podcast addressing the question: who should start at quarterback for the Jaguars in the second preseason game against the Jets? Also, talk about how much work Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Blackmon need in the preseason. Enjoy.

What’s Important Tonight for Jaguars vs. Dolphins

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Brad Meester and the rest of the Jaguars starting offensive line will work with both Chad Henne and the starter Blaine Gabbert tonight. (photo by Bobby King)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

What the Scrimmage Will Mean This Time Next Week

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All in all, the Jaguars enjoyed a positive Saturday night during the annual scrimmage. (photo by Bobby King)

by Cole Pepper
August 4, 2013

The Jaguars Saturday night scrimmage drew a team-estimated 19,000 fans to EverBank Field. What did we learn and how much will it matter next week when the Jaguars will have had their first preseason game in the books?

For head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell, it will matter. For fans, it will matter less.

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The Jaguars estimated over 19,000 people attended Saturday night’s scrimmage. (photo by Cole Pepper)

That being said, here’s what we learned Saturday night:

Even without the chance to hit the quarterback, the pass rush has the potential to be at least adequate. Jason Babin and Sen’Derrick Marks showed up in the pass rush. Marks turned in two straight disruptive plays at one point. Clearly, the Jaguars will need more than those two guys, but to this point in camp, Babin had been limited and nobody else was getting consistent pressure against the first team offensive line.

Speaking of the offensive line, Luke Joeckel continues to be solid. There was one play where a defender beat him around the end, but it appeared that Denard Robinson was supposed to chip on the pass rusher and did not, leading to pressure on the quarterback. Joeckel may be more comfortable at left tackle still, but he’ll be just fine at right tackle and he’ll be the starter from day one.

Robinson showed off his speed during a kickoff return for a touchdown and Ace Sanders brought the crowd to its feet on a punt return, but remember, there was no threat of being tackled. This was a ‘thud” practice. Still, you can see the potential. I want to see more, especially when the coverage teams arrive with bad intentions.

Sanders was not just a star in the return game, he continues to catch everything that’s thrown his way at wide receiver. If he can continue to do that, the Jaguars may have found their slot receiver and guy who can make a difference offensively.

Rookie Ace Sanders continues to open eyes at Jaguars training camp
Rookie Ace Sanders continues to open eyes at Jaguars training camp. (photo by Bobby King)

It was good to see Marcedes Lewis be sent into the pass pattern. On a goal-line play, Lewis caught a corner route for a touchdown. The improvement of the offensive line should allow Lewis to be used more in the passing game. The Jaguars hope that trend continues.

I thought both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne looked better. Not great, but decent. The Jaguars will take that for now. It’s a step in the right direction. I believe that Gabbert is still leading the competition (although the coaches aren’t saying), but he hasn’t distanced himself from Henne to assure the outcome. In a perfect world, the Jaguars would know who their starter will be by the third preseason game, so he can get the most important preseason snaps with the first team.

All in all, it was a good night for the Jaguars all around. A great crowd, solid performances from some areas that need to be better and plenty to build on.

Then again, I might totally change my mind this time next week.

Jaguars Scrimmage: What I’l Be Watching For Tonight

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Luke Joeckel (76) has been very steady in his first NFL training camp. Will he continue to star during Saturday night’s scrimmage? (photo by Bobby King)

by Cole Pepper
August 3, 2013

The Jaguars hold their annual scrimmage inside EverBank Field tonight. The festivities will begin at 6:45pm.  Head coach Gus Bradley says he will treat it like a practice, more than a “live” scrimmage. Most of the work will be scripted for specific situations (red zone, 2 minute drill, etc.) and the 1s (the players currently working with the first team) will work against 1s, 2s against 2s, etc. Here’s what I’ll be looking for tonight:

  1. Quarterback play – Won’t everybody be watching for this? So far in camp, when Blaine Gabbert has been good, he’s been better than Chad Henne, but when Gabbert has been bad, he’s been really bad.
  2. Wide Receivers-Despite looking human the last two days, Cecil Shorts is a given. With Justin Blackmon out, there is a significant opportunity for somebody to step up and solidify a roster spot. So far, rookie Ace Sanders and first year receiver Mike Brown have made the biggest splash. Veterans Jordan Shipley and Mohamed Massaquoi could use tonight’s scrimmage to close the gap in the battle for playing time. Some receiver has an opportunity to play quite a bit in the first four games of the regular season while Blackmon is sitting out under league suspension.
  3. Denard Robinson-I’m not the first to say this, and I won’t be the last. Expectations of Robinson are too high. Every time he touches the ball at camp, people draw a breath and even a 5 yard run around the end elicits “ooh and ahhs.” He hasn’t even been the best rookie in camp (Ace Sanders and Luke Joeckel have been). Yes, he has potential to make big plays, but so far in camp, they have been few and far between. I want to see how he does “under the lights” and see how many plays he runs as a running back, as a wide out and from the wildcat formation.
  4. Pass Rush-Other than the occasional Jason Babin charge around the outside, the Jaguars pass rush has been non-existent in camp. Is that a sign that the offensive line has dramatically improved? Or is it, as head coach Gus Bradley opined, that the Jaguars just don’t feel like going hard after the quarterbacks wearing the red shirts? The quarterback will not be live during the scrimmage, so we may see the same issues, but I would like to see some kind of one-on-one win by a defensive end.
  5. Cornerbacks-Alan Ball has clearly been the most productive in camp. Even matched up with Cecil Shorts, Ball has made some plays. You can see the physical talent of rookie Dwayne Gratz, but he has experienced some growing pains in camp. Other’s I’ll be watching include veteran Marcus Trufant, and anyone who is matched up with Shorts. That’s the best test for a cornerback.
  6. Luke Joeckel-So far, it’s tough to find anything to criticize about the #2 overall pick. He worked at left tackle Friday when Eugene Monroe was given a veterans day off. Joeckel figures to be back to right tackle tonight and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can do more than just hold his own.
  7. Special Teams-Unfortunately, there will be no live special teams work, only “thud” work, meaning that return men won’t be tackled, but they will be hit. Sanders has worked a lot as the punt returner, and I expect him to ultimately win the job, but the kick off return spot is wide open with Denard Robinson the early leader. Also, the Jaguars now have three long snappers in camp after signing Luke Ingram. They can’t keep Ingram, Carson Tinker and incumbent Jeremy Cain for long, can they?