Two straight games of facing tough QBs in the NFL is perfect for a team like Jacksonville who needs the tough competition to see which players can rise up and which ones are not quite fit for the team.
Week 1 showcased a few players on the Jaguars who really stepped up their game, including QB Blaine Gabbert and RB Rashad Jennings.
Looking very solid on their first offensive drive of the game, the Jaguars momentarily silenced critics who said that Gabbert could not become an effective quarterback. Gabbert led the team right down the field and capped it off with a touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts.
After that drive and up to the end of the first half, there weren't too many positives to come out. The starting squad on the Giants outplayed the Jaguars, but it was a good start to the 2012 year in Jacksonville; a lot of hope came out just after the first drive.
Heading into Week 2 of the preseason, the Jaguars will have a new weapon joining them on the field in Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon will have all eyes on him this Friday and is expected to showcase the talents that got him selected fifth overall in the draft.
With Lee Evans getting cut after the game last week, the wide receiving group is starting to narrow down. Starters look to be Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon with Mike Thomas in the slot. Backing up those guys will be Cecil Shorts, Brian Robiskie and Kevin Elliot.
Another player to keep a close eye on is LT Cameron Bradfield, a second-year tackle, who saw starting time at RT in the Giants game.
Moving Eben Britton to guard was just a temporary move, but with news today that Eugene Monroe was carted off with what is being called a "non-serious" injury, you just never know when Bradfield will be expected to come in and play come the regular season.
A pretty significant loss for this team was backup center John Estes, who this team sees as the eventual replacement for Brad Meester.
Estes took a spill at the end of the first half and is not expected back possibly for the entire season, moving undrafted rookie Mike Brewster behind Meester.
Brewster will need to prove that he is a capable backup, as he was expected to be drafted but signed with Jacksonville once he fell off the radar come draft day.
Players expected back this week include Tyson Alualu, who should get eight to 10 plays and CB Rashean Mathis who may play, but Mike Mularkey is debating that, seeing how they're playing on turf in New Orleans.
CB Derek Cox was lost for two weeks after an injury sustained last Friday, and G Will Rackley is expected back by possibly next week to help the offensive line.
I was relatively surprised that Kevin Elliot did not see much time last week, so I would expect to see him a lot on special teams as well as working with the starters for a play or two. Elliot is a guy who was signed as an undrafted free agent but is expected to make the roster for the regular season.
Coaches are hopeful that TE Marcedes Lewis can continue his brilliant play from training camp, and despite Mularkey's original comments (via Vita Stellino of The Florida Times-Union) about him being a little out of shape, he is now singing high praises of Lewis' incredible athletic ability.
Andre Branch showed great potential in his first game but is a guy to watch closely to see if he is the answer at right end. Branch has great speed for his size and has proven to be more effective against the run than many thought he would be coming out of college.
Lastly, Bryan Anger quieted every critic who said he was not worth the third-round pick after his first game as a Jaguar.
Anger punted a couple beauties, but also helped with a punt that led to a botched catch and fumble and eventual TD for Jacksonville. This guy is the real deal and gives the Jaguars a big weapon with the field-position battle.
Friday night is Game 2 of four for the Jaguars in what may be shaping up to be a surprising season for the young team. I hope to see two major things happen: the first-team defense step up and play like an elite defense for the first quarter, and Justin Blackmon prove he is the guy this team thought he could be.
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