Week 1: Jaguars vs. Vikings Position Breakdown
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A quick look at each position with a grade sounded fair to me. Whoever has the advantage should be the winning team.
Let's get started.
Jaguars QB: Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert has all the tools but is incredibly raw. He has shown a bunch of improvement since Week 17 of last season, and he will finally get to showcase those talents in a regular season game. Gabbert's receivers are better than a year ago and he just got MJD back.
Vikings QB: Christian Ponder
Ponder is a second-year quarterback, like Gabbert, and posted similar numbers a season ago. Although winning was not his thing, Ponder showed glimpses of being a reliable starter. His mobility makes him a dangerous threat, as his only reliable option to throw to is Percy Harvin. Ponder vs. Gabbert will be fun to watch.
Running Backs: Jaguars
Who is the key to the Jaguars winning the game?
Jaguars RB: Rashad Jennings, Maurice Jones-Drew
Jennings gets the start, and Jones-Drew gets to see third down. For how long? Not too sure, but Mike Mularkey sounds more and more confident every day regarding Jones-Drew's ability to learn the offense quickly. MJD was the rushing leader a year ago and Jennings was solid in the preseason. This group will be the Jags' strong point on offense come Sunday.
Vikings RB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart
Sounds like Peterson may start on Sunday, but he will be limited. Coming off of both an MCL and ACL tear, he will need to slowly become a 20-touch runner or he might do more serious damage.
Gerhart is a big downhill running back that is bound to bang up the Jaguars defense. Gerhart doesn't quite possess the receiving skills or speed of Jennings, which gives the Jags a slight advantage between the duos.
Jaguars FB: Greg Jones
Jones is the best blocking fullback in the league and one heck of a strong force. He has the ability to run on short yardage as well as catch, but may only get one or two touches. Jones is tough to beat and, as the best pure blocking fullback in the game, gives the Jags a slight edge.
Vikings FB: Jerome Felton
Felton is a pretty good fullback and he comes to Minnesota from Indianapolis. A journeyman joining his fourth team since being drafted in 2008, Felton is helpful to the offense but not near the player Greg Jones is.
Wide Receivers: Jaguars
Jaguars WR: Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas
On paper, it looks much better than a season ago, and so far Blackmon has proved he's the real deal. Laurent Robinson has question marks heading into the regular season, as Kevin Ogletree made it look as if anybody could be the Cowboys' third receiver and rack up the stats. Robinson will need to show the red zone ability he did in Dallas in order to decrease the negativity that may follow his rather large contract signing.
Mike Thomas should return back to similar form as two seasons ago with his slot role. This is a group that is hard to grade so early, so it'd be unfair to give them too high of a grade.
Vikings WR: Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu
Harvin leads the way for a mediocre group. Free-agent signing Jerome Simpson will be helpful when he returns, but the group heading into battle on Sunday isn't as stellar as it would be with him. Harvin is explosive, and can take one all the way at any given time.
Jenkins and Aromashodu are capable receivers, but neither are starting quality. They may be able to take advantage of Derek Cox's absence and Rashean Mathis coming back from injury.
Tight End: Vikings
Jaguars TE: Marcedes Lewis
Lewis is still a good TE but really went downhill fast last year. Despite still being one of the top blocking TEs, fans and media look for the fancy numbers when it comes to tight end. Failing to score a touchdown in sixteen games last year, Lewis looks to get one early this year to take the pressure off. Despite a down year, Lewis should still be expected to be a top tight end this season
Vikings TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson
Rudolph gives the Vikings a speedy and versatile tight end who has yet to reach his potential. With the help of John Carlson allowing a two-tight end set, the Vikings may be able to utilize both players frequently on Sunday. Each position is more than just the starter, and at tight end, it is a safe bet to assume the Vikings have the edge.
Offensive Line: Tie
Jaguars Offensive Line: Eugene Monroe, Uche Nwaneri, Brad Meester, Eben Britton, Cameron Bradfield
The Jaguars are already battling a bunch of injuries up front, but their starting squad is pretty well intact. Monroe will have his hands full with Jared Allen, while Brian Robison and Kevin Williams are pretty talented as well.
Bradfield really looks like a pretty good right tackle, and he will be one of those unknown guys who may make an impact this year. Britton is back with a lot to prove, and Meester and Nwaneri are both very solid players. They're good group, but not dominant by any means.
Vikings Offensive Line: Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt
Led by rookie Matt Kalil, the Vikings have a pretty decent offensive line. Charlie Johnson and John Sullivan are veterans that will need to give Christian Ponder time against the tough defensive front of Jacksonville. Kalil will be tested quickly with both Jeremy Mincey and Andre Branch looking to get key matchups with him. He may be a big factor in the outcome of the game.
Defensive Line: Vikings
Jaguars Defensive Line: Jeremy Mincey, Andre Branch, Tyson Alualu, C.J. Mosley (Terrance Knighton)
The Jaguars defensive line is one of this team's strong points heading into the year. Mincey is a proven pass-rusher, while Alualu and Knighton make a great duo at tackle. Mosley is listed as the starter, but that doesn't mean much with the amount of rotating the team will do.
Andre Branch is looking to start off his pro career with a nice game against a decent line. A quick sack might do wonders to his confidence.
Vikings Defensive Line: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Brian Robison
What more is there to say than Jared Allen? Allen is an incredibly gifted defensive end who has a great chance of giving Blaine Gabbert trouble all day. Coming off of a 22-sack season, he leads a solid line with another key player in Kevin Williams.
Letroy Guion is a young guy who had shown decent potential last year. Roy Robison came in last year after replacing Ray Edwards and did a great job with eight sacks. He gives the team a great edge-rusher on the other side of Allen.
Jaguars Linebackers: Paul Posluszny, Russell Allen, Kyle Bosworth
After hearing that Daryl Smith injured himself and is already ruled out of Week 1's game, Jags fans are holding their breath that he will be back for the Texans in Week 2. Kyle Bosworth will enter the game as the starter, and is a capable player. The good thing is that he worked with the first team all preseason long in place of Smith.
Posluszny and Allen are pretty solid linebackers who are looking for big seasons. Russell Allen has a chance to really earn some attention with a solid year, but missing both Smith and Clint Sessions hurts this team heading into the season.
Vikings Linebackers: Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley
With Greenway and Henderson, the Vikings have a pretty good group of linebackers. Brinkley will look to make the most of his starting opportunity at middle linebacker. Greenway is one of the better linebackers in the NFC, so the Vikings have a tough defense with a couple of really solid players that will need to be kept under control in order to give Jacksonville a good chance of winning.
Defensive Backs: Jaguars
Jaguars Secondary: Aaron Ross, Kevin Rutland, Rashean Mathis, Dwight Lowery, Dawan Landry
With a big missing piece in Derek Cox, the Jaguars sure are happy they signed Ross. Ross and Rutland will be tested, especially Rutland, a second-year, undrafted, free-agent signing. Mathis will only play on pressing downs, so the Jaguars will definitely not be a full force. Lowery and Landry make a pretty solid group of safeties in the backfield that will need to keep Harvin under control.
Vikings Secondary: Chris Cook, Antoine Winfield, Mistral Raymond, Harrison Smith
The Vikings secondary is the obvious weakness in their defense and may allow for Gabbert to start off the season pretty hot. Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield give the Vikings a decent pair of cornerbacks, while having two very young safeties in second year pro Mistral Raymond and rookie Harrison Smith. There's plenty of potential there, but they have yet to show any sign of real domination in the secondary.
Special Teams: Tie
Jaguars Special Teams: Josh Scobee, Bryan Anger, Mike Thomas
The Jaguars have one of the better kickers in the league and may now have a pretty good punter in Bryan Anger. Mike Thomas looked good in the preseason on punt returns, and should help with the field-position battle.
Vikings Special Teams: Blair Walsh, Chris Kluwe, Percy Harvin
With their own rookie kicker in sixth-rounder Blair Walsh, the Vikings think they have a pretty good kicker. Chris Kluwe is a very solid punter and Percy Harvin is one of the more talented playmakers in the NFL.
Tallying them up, the results are: Jaguars four, Vikings three and three ties.
With this information, I expect the Jaguars to pull it out, but it should be a very close game.
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