Football is back, and this one counts. Every change that the Jacksonville Jaguars made during the offseason will be evaluated against an NFL team for the first time, including a new coaching staff, new starters at key positions, and a new offensive scheme.
Blaine Gabbert will be under the microscope to see whether he will improve upon a rookie season not worth mentioning, and continue the success he saw in the preseason. The second year is very telling, and you can really judge a player based on the difference between their first and second year.
Whether as a result of Maurice Jones-Drew’s absence or not, Blaine Gabbert has proven to his teammates that he is a leader. This was evident by being named an offensive captain, along with longtime veteran center, Brad Meester.
As Alfie Crow, Manager of www.bigcatcountry.com reports, Maurice Jones-Drew recently commented on the difference in Gabbert, “On Monday I messed up a couple of times, and he was like ‘No, no no. We will do it this way. It’s just like this play from last year, but we call it this...He is able to break it down for me where I can adjust a little bit faster. When you have a quarterback that’s like that at a young age, you expect nothing but from greatness from him.”
Leadership will play a part, but he will need to prove more than that to achieve “greatness.” He needs to consistently exhibit the necessary physical skills to be a starting quarterback if he wants to step towards that goal. It will mean having stronger fundamentals, to shorten the last step of his drop, stay tall in the pocket and deliver an accurate pass.
Can he do it? Yes. Will he do it? We’ll see.
Gabbert will need strong play from a wide receiver corps built to help him succeed.
The Jaguars signed veteran wide receiver, Laurent Robinson, after a breakout 2011 season with the Dallas Cowboys. During this year’s draft, the Jaguars traded up to select two-time Biletnikoff award winner Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State University.
They will be facing last year’s twenty-sixth ranked defense against the pass. This does not mean they should be disregarded as an easy opponent. Remember, they had to face Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford twice last year.
They did lead the NFL in sacks last year, with 50. They get after the quarterback, which is the fundamental goal on defense. This type of defense could be the biggest task for Blaine Gabbert to show his improvement upon last year. People believed Gabbert was scared in the pocket last season; we’ll see if he keeps his fundamentals intact against a high pressure rush like that of the Vikings.
Statistically, the Vikings defense was a lot better against the run, almost breaking into the top ten in the league. Running back Rashad Jennings, who is listed as number one of the depth chart, will have his work cut out for him.
Four Down Territory
First Down: This is the first matchup against the Vikings since 2008, and the fifth matchup in the series. The Vikings lead 3-1, with the one loss coming from December 2001.
Second Down: Adrian Peterson is likely a game time decision, and may not play. But, an important note is that he is listed at the top of the depth chart, ahead of Toby Gerhart and Matt Asiata, and is not ruled out.
Third Down: Eugene Monroe will face Jared Allen, who led the NFL in sacks last year, with 22.
Fourth Down: Coach Mularkey’s offense faced the Vikings last year and scored 24 points in a win against a Vikings' team that was without Adrian Peterson.