With that said, there will be a lot to watch for as this will be the first opportunity for fans and front office alike to watch their team play against an opponent at game speed.
As far as what to watch for from the Jaguars, expect the play-calling to be simple. Head coach Mike Mularkey is putting into place a very complex system, a lot more so than last season’s offense. It is not fully installed yet, so don’t expect to see a final product on the field.
One of the positions to look at is quarterback. It is a quarterback-driven league, and Blaine Gabbert has to improve upon his play from last year. A major issue with Gabbert was throwing off his back foot, some say because of his tentativeness in the pocket. During OTAs, Gabbert made tremendous progress, and has continued to improve during training camp.
The Jaguars will be watching Gabbert’s presence in the pocket and his footwork. This is going to be the first opportunity to evaluate Gabbert in a game situation since last year. He will need to improve his footwork and take a shorter stride so that he can keep his eyes over the line, set his feet, and drive an accurate pass down field.
Gabbert’s receivers will get a lot of attention as well. Laurent Robinson made some plays in the scrimmage game, and is making improvements since the early reports of dropped balls in training camp.
On the defensive side of the ball, Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu are the starters, but behind them are a group of solid football players looking to earn a spot on the roster. D’Anthony Smith is a guy to watch. He was selected by the Jaguars in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft, but has not been able to play in a game due to injuries.
Look for improvement from the defensive end position, as Aaron Morgan and second-round pick Andre Branch join Jeremy Mincey to bring pressure from the outside.
On the back end of the defense, watch the Jaguars' defensive backfield cover the Giants' wide receivers. Rashean Mathis, Derrick Cox, and Aaron Ross will be playing for starting positions; the loser will presumably play the slot receiver.
A quick note: Winning or losing doesn’t matter, but how the players play will matter. It matters to the Jaguars; it matters to the Giants; it matters to every other team in the NFL that will be watching these games.
The players aren’t just playing for a spot on their respective teams; they are fighting for an opportunity to get noticed by scouts from other teams. Those players that get cut from these two teams may end up on the roster of another club. Guys playing in the latter stages of the game will all be showing an intensity that makes the preseason opener meaningful.
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