Maurice Jones-Drew and Jags Head to Minnesota for First Game of Season
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With the preseason behind us, the Jaguars have their 53-man roster and it includes the most known player on the team, Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew and the Jaguars play at 1:00pm EST on Sunday in Minnesota against the Vikings, a team eerily similar to the Jaguars.
With a second year quarterback, an all-star running back, and a pretty tough defense, the Vikings will be a great first matchup for the hungry Jaguars.
Starting with QB Christian Ponder, the Vikings have a passing attack that is looking for massive improvement from a year ago.
Ponder had similar numbers to Blaine Gabbert a year ago, with 1,853 passing yards totaling 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 70.1 quarterback rating.
Winning wasn't exactly Ponder's strength a season ago, but the Vikings come in with possibly the best rushing end in the game with Jared Allen.
Coming off an incredibly impressive 22 sack season, Allen will give the Jaguars' starting left tackle Eugene Monroe problems all game long.
Sunday will be great way to determine Monroe's progression from a season ago, where he was once again good but not great. Keeping Allen away from Gabbert will help put him in that next category.
Possibly the most intriguing storyline heading into the game will be whether or not running back Adrian Peterson will get the start.
Who will win the game on Sunday?
Peterson is coming off of an ACL and MCL tear from a year ago, and has put himself back near game day shape in what may the most impressive time period anyone has come back.
Although he may not possess his usual speed and cutting abilities right away, Peterson is still a very dangerous back.
If Peterson cannot go, Stanford sensation Toby Gerhart will step in to the starting spot.
Gerhart ran for over five hundred yards a season ago, while having a 4.9 yard per carry average.
The wide receivers on the Vikings don't go much further than Percy Harvin.
Harvin is a very speedy and dangerous receiver who will see plenty of Aaron Ross throughout the day.
Ross will have his hands full with Derek Cox, who is reportedly not ready to play, and Rashean Mathis still making his way back from injury by only playing on pressing downs. Sounds like Kevin Rutland will also be getting the start over William Middleton.
The Jaguars have announced that Rashad Jennings will get the start at running back, with Maurice Jones-Drew seeing third downs.
I find it hard to believe that Jones-Drew will be on the bench if the team gets down a quick 14-0, but I also don't see the Vikings getting that kind of early lead.
Jennings looked great in the preseason, but still has a lot to prove in the regular season. I think the Jennings and Jones-Drew backfield could become one of the better tandems in the NFL.
Gabbert will need to come out to a strong start in this game, as he has a lot riding on his shoulders.
Receivers Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, and Mike Thomas look to start the season with a bang, and show that they are among the better wide receiver groups in the NFL.
With Thomas back in the slot, he will become a very dangerous threat—something he was proving throughout the preseason.
Laurent Robinson had a pretty rough preseason, but as a veteran you should not put as much into it as a young guy.
Robinson and Gabbert still need to get on the same page, but I expect him to start showing his consistency and red zone ability now with the regular season here.
Marcedes Lewis will need to start his rebounding from a dreadful 2011 season.
With nobody even close to pushing him for playing time at tight end, Lewis has the intangibles to be a Pro-Bowl tight end.
Blackmon is the guy that every Jags fan is expecting to give this team an edge that they have not had since Jimmy Smith.
Blackmon's speed, size, and hands make him as dangerous as any other guy on the field Sunday, and I would not be surprised if he starts off his career with a 100 yard game.
Losing some players to the injured reserve has put a sour taste in the offensive line's mouth, but the team has played very well.
Despite losing Will Rackley, John Estes, and Jason Spitz for the year, tackle Cameron Bradfield and Eben Britton have done a very nice job with the remaining group of Brad Meester, Eugene Monroe and Uche Nwaneri.
Undrafted rookie talents will also get their first look at the regular season on Sunday.
With four players on the roster that went undrafted this year, the Jaguars have four guys that have already proven that they can be an asset on the team in the preseason.
Guard/center Mike Brewster, wide receiver Kevin Elliot, linebacker Julian Stanford, and safety Antwon Blake will need to be ready to play at any time with the lack of depth at certain positions.
Elliot and Stanford will get work right away on special teams. Brewster will be a first option backup at either guard position, as well as center.
Defensively, the Jaguars expect the same type of play as last year, but even better.
With new additions Andre Branch and Aaron Ross, the Jaguars have a similar look as last season, but should be able to create more pressure on quarterbacks than they did a season ago.
Veterans Jeremy Mincey, Daryl Smith and Paul Posluszny will be the true leaders out on the field, and should be expected to get this team in position for a solid defense all year long.
The Jaguars should be able to come out strong and gain some confidence against a Minnesota team that is nowhere near the elite of the NFL.
A strong showing on both offense and defense will be a great way to start the year off, and the Vikings are a team this can be done against.
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