The Jacksonville Jaguars have found plenty of ways to make the national news in the first week of camp, but not all of it has been good. Here are the top stories so far.
Chaotic Outside, Calm Inside
There are two Jaguars teams right now. The first is the one some members of the media would have you see. These Jags are in complete disarray and on the verge of becoming a national joke.
Then there are the other Jaguars. These Jaguars are actually practicing at training camp and enjoying a relatively calm preseason despite some distractions.
These are the real Jacksonville Jaguars.
The dual hold outs of Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Blackmon have been the big story, and it's obvious why. They are the marquee names for the franchise. No matter how ultimately unnecessary the delay was in getting Blackmon signed, no one can argue the locker room has been in turmoil because of it.
The daily reports from Jaguars camp have been remarkably positive. Players and coaches seem upbeat. There hasn't been much hand-wringing or panic. Other than the Blaine Gabbert Question (which I'll address in a moment), all the focus of the team has been on getting better.
When head coach Mike Mularkey threatened fines for players who talked about injuries, it caused a stir in the media, but the players didn't seem to mind.
There's no evil dictator. There aren't any locker room mobs forming. There is just a young team with a new scheme trying to get better.
The iconic moment for the Jaguars in this training camp isn't the hold outs. It's the celebration of family.
The Jury is Still Out on Gabbert
Just like last week, the mixed reports on Blaine Gabbert continue to file in.
Coaches continue to heap praise on him (hat tip to Jessica Blaylock), and he looked good at scrimmage. Meanwhile there are still practices where he comes apart and his scrimmage performance was based mostly on very short throws.
There's nothing to say about this. Gabbert has to face a tough defense every day in practice. He doesn't have the same advantage that an Andrew Luck does in Indianapolis. Luck faces the worst secondary in football every day and looks like an All-Pro.
Gabbert has to play guys who actually know what they are doing.
The Jacksonville secondary is going to make a lot of guys look bad this year.
Andre Branch is a Hit in Camp
Any time a second-round pick lands a starting job for a good defense on the first depth chart released, it's a great sign.
While it's true the Jaguars will likely have to tamp down expectations for Blackmon, they can ramp them up for Branch.
He's already shown himself to be a disrupting force in the backfield for the Jaguars and can add a new dimension for a defense that was strong last year without fielding a dominant pass rush.
Mathis Is Making a Dream Come True
He's penciled in as a starting corner right now with Aaron Ross backing him up.
As I said before camp, if Mathis plays so well that he has to be on the field, it only means good things for the Jaguars. Ross would be a very good third corner and would start for many teams.
It's just one more sign that the Jaguars defense will be tough to contend with in 2012.
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