When to Watch
The Jaguars got as intriguing a schedule as the league could possibly dole out for the preseason. All four teams on their slate are interesting.
Given the fact that Blaine Gabbert has firm control over the starting job, however, there won't be a lot of intrigue in the second half of games.
Obviously, everyone will want to see Eli Manning against the Jaguars defense in the first quarter on Friday, but the second half will be largely unwatchable.
The Saints will likely attack the Jags defense for an entire half in the second week, and there should be players to watch deep into the third quarter, even if they aren't starters.
Week 3 presents the fearsome Ravens against the Jaguars offense. This is a rematch of one of the worst games of the 2011 NFL season, but also one of the few bright spots for Jacksonville. If you want to gauge Gabbert's development, you'll stay tuned until he comes out of the game late in the third quarter.
The Falcons are something of a regional rival, but it's likely the marquee players won't play for more than a series or two, if that. By late in the first half, there will be nothing left to see, as players will just be playing out the string on their time with the Jaguars for most of the second half.
Who To Watch
Oh, you wanted more than that?
Honestly, everything comes down to his play this year, so all eyes will be on him. Of course, you'll also want to see how Laurent Robinson develops as a No. 1 receiver.
It will be interesting to see Justin Blackmon take his first snaps, but it looks like that won't happen until Week 2 at the soonest.
If you are among the legion of Gabbert-deniers, you'll be interested in the performance of Chad Henne too. He's been mediocre in OTAs and minicamp, but a strong preseason could make things interesting down the road.
How many games will the Jaguars win in the preseason?
The Jaguars defense had to be stung by the criticism levied by NFL.com writer Gregg Rosenthal when he called them a fourth-tier defense that overachieved last year. There's every bit as much evidence that the Texans overachieved as the Jaguars, but Rosenthal thinks they are elite.
The Jaguars get to face some elite offenses this preseason, and the defense should be in a foul mood. This is a great chance to gauge the secondary against some of the best passers in the game.
Also in the spotlight will be the running game. Maurice Jones-Drew wouldn't be ready to play until at least Week 3 even if he came back this week. That means Rashad Jennings will be testing his mettle behind the Jags line. That should get especially interesting when pitted against the Ravens in Week 3.
If Jones-Drew does end his holdout, obviously all the attention will be on him, but that's still a long way off.
That's a Hall of Famer every week (and yes, I think Eli is getting in).
When your team plays a great player in the regular season, it's torture because you know they might lose because of his exploits. However, in the preseason, you can just sit back and say, "Wow!"
Preseason football isn't good for much, but it is great for enjoying elite players at no cost to your fandom.
What It Means
Repeat after me: Preseason results mean nothing.
I mean less than nothing.
I mean the opposite of something.
In fact, winning in the preseason actually has a slight negative correlation with winning in the regular season.
The Jaguars' goals this preseason are all about gaining confidence and momentum heading into the regular season. Normally, I dismiss both of those concepts. There's not much evidence that they exist.
However, if the Jags come out strong in the preseason, they put pressure back on Jones-Drew to end his holdout. They give Gabbert confidence that he can succeed. They set the team up for the new year.
Whether they win or lose is utterly irrelevant. There is no evidence of any benefit of any kind to winning preseason games. They do want to come out and be competitive, though.
If the Jaguars go 0-4, it reveals nothing about the team. If they go 4-0, it reveals nothing about the team.
Coaches want three things out of the preseason, and nothing else matters:
- Good health
- Good play that's crisp and free of mental mistakes
- To evaluate players
Win or lose, preseason is time to enjoy the return of football without the weekly stress of the game's effect on the standings.
Good play and good health will trump the scoreboard every time.