With training camp speeding by, it's time to check in with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mercifully, the "Camp Chaos" story is finally dying the ignominious death it deserves, so let's find out what is really going on.
Justin Blackmon Adds a New Dimension to the Offense
Getting Blackmon into camp may have taken longer than it should have, but no one is worried about that now. All the focus is on getting this guy on the field with the starting offense.
Why is it so urgent?
Blackmon brings elite ball-skills and a dynamic component to an offense that has threatened to be pedestrian early. It's probably not fair to expect Blaine Gabbert to become some kind of mad bomber given the instability in the offensive line and his own youth.
Blackmon solves that problem.
He has the ability to snag less than accurate passes and turn them into long gains with his remarkable speed in traffic. On August 13th, he showed everyone just what the Jags have been missing.
Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union was duly impressed and shared the thoughts of Rashean Mathis about Blackmon,
When the ball is in his vicinity, [Blackmon] is going to bring it down, said Jaguars’ cornerback Rashean Mathis. Once he gets over the conditioning hump, he’s going to be good. He reminds me a lot of Keyshawn Johnson. He didn’t always blow by you. But he’s a guy you can count on to bring the ball down.
Blackmon won't solve every problem facing the Jaguars, but he could well solve the biggest ones.
There's no update on the Maurice Jones-Drew holdout other than to say that it isn't ending any time soon, and the Jaguars seem particularly unmotivated to give him what he wants.
And why should they?
Rashad Jennings has been solid in camp and in the first preseason game. His performance has placed the pressure squarely on Jones-Drew to return rather than on the Jaguars to capitulate to his demands.
There is room for concern, however. Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union reported that the Jaguars' backup running back is now Montell Owens.
All it would take to flip the script is a ding to Jennings.
It's one thing to enter the season with a proven NFL runner at starter, even if he was a backup before. It's quite another to line Montell Owens up behind Gabbert and ask him to carry the load for what should be a run-heavy scheme.
As long as Jennings doesn't turn an ankle or pull a hamstring, the Jaguars are prepared to let Jones-Drew stew.
If anything goes wrong, however, their resolve will be sorely tested.
Offensive Line Dancing
The Jaguars' offensive line did not play well at all against the Giants, and Gabbert took a beating. The issue is looking to be a trouble spot deep into the preseason.
Eben Britton has been moved to guard, and the right tackle spot is currently being manned by Cameron Bradfield, who was an undrafted rookie last year.
The Jags have been beset by injuries and played defensive tackle Drew Nowak at guard some against the Giants. The team is already down by three players at the guard and center positions due to camp injuries.
Regardless of how Gabbert's performance against the Giants is parsed, no one will disagree that giving him time and space to throw is paramount if the Jaguars want to field a respectable offensive attack.
With Blackmon in camp and the Jones-Drew drama relegated to the back burner by the play of Jennings, the health and cohesiveness of the offensive line is now the single biggest issue for the Jaguars to resolve before the start of the regular season.