Jacksonville Jaguars: Observations from the Practice Field

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Jacksonville Jaguars: Observations from the Practice Field
photo courtesy of David M. Levin

I was a fan this morning (Wednesday) at the Jaguars training camp. As I usually do, I take a few days to watch the team go through drills and draw my own conclusions about the team before relying on other reports and prognostications.

It’s the reporter in me. While I trust what the higher-ups tend to say from time to time (those who have way more experience than I do and those who have been in the business a lot longer), nothing beats being able to see things firsthand and making judgments based on the mind’s eye.

You cannot help but see many chapters in the saga that is Jacksonville Jaguars football—from the inexperience of quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who at times looks the part and other times looks like he is as scared as a teen on his first date, or the receivers, who looked pretty good in the morning drills but there still isn’t that “wow” factor yet when it comes to making the huge play or making the fans in the stands stand up and take notice.

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I thought that for the most part, Gabbert looked good in drills. But there wasn’t a lot of contact, and when he threw a ball, there were instances when it was on target, when it sailed away from the target or when it just looked like a wounded duck.

I had heard on 1010XL from other fans and sideline reporters that Gabbert was still gun-shy and took off from the pocket when he felt pressure. This is “practice,” and there are not a lot of live bullets being thrown around of mad pass-rushers coming to make sure you eat the grass you stand on.

Gabbert needs to be hit over and over again so he knows that it will happen in a live game. It is the only way for him to absorb the punishment and, most of all, develop a spine and backbone.

I was impressed with the work of receiver Brian Robiskie, who looked the part today. Robiskie, a tall, lanky receiver the Jaguars signed from Cleveland in the middle of last season, could make this team and therefore put others expected to make the squad in jeopardy. Chastin West also looked good in pass-catching drills, but don’t count on him making the club this season.

Also, tight end Marcedes Lewis looked like he was focusing on football more this season and could be the Pro Bowl tight end of 2010 that the Jaguars hoped he would be last season. Lewis could be the safety blanket Gabbert needs on third down and the touchdown threat in the red zone this team lacked in 2011.

Defensively, I did not see much in the way of linemen, but I had a great chance to see the secondary play against the receivers in one-on-one drills.

Will Middleton and Derek Cox looked fresh and ready. Ashton Youboty was a pleasant surprise. Cox, who I think can have a Pro Bowl season, needs to stay healthy to fulfill his potential for the first time. Injuries have sidelined his progress. I also want to see Rashean Mathis and his surgically repaired knee and see what can happen for the elder statesmen of this team.

And it was good to see Eben Britton compete in scrimmages. This time last year, Britton was on the sideline, wondering if he would play at all on the offensive line because of a back problem. Right now, with Will Rackley going down with an ankle injury yesterday, having a healthy Britton on the line means one less thing for the team to worry about for the time being.

It will be interesting to see what happens Friday night when the team scrimmages under the lights and plays in pads.

Will we see more fire and desire? Will we see rookie receiver Justin Blackmon in uniform, since he is the only unsigned first-round draft pick right now? And when will the Maurice Jones-Drew saga end?

While it is all but assured he will not be in camp this week, the team still will need No. 32 on the field if it is to compete for any kind of postseason position in 2012.

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