By: Eric Serna
Talk about a slap back into reality. If there was ever a time to remember this team has a LONG way to go, it was watching this loss to the Miami Dolphins. It was a preseason game. A game without Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts III, Maurice Jones-Drew and Johnathan Cyprien. But somehow, I felt more energy from the team, and even the fans, from the scrimmage the previous week. I really hate to look into too much of the first preseason game, but it felt like you were watching a team that was a faster version of the previous 2-14 team. from last year. Although it was mainly negatives, there were some positive notes. Here are some quick hits on the game Inside Edge Sports attended, and what we need to see for next week’s game against the New York Jets.
- It all starts and ends with Blaine Gabbert. He is supposed to be the guy this year. I didn’t see that at all in the huddle. There was no energy, almost seemed to have no care at all for what was going on. You could also see it in his play, finishing with 5 out of 10 passes for 19 yards and an INT. You read that correctly, 19 yards. Mind you, there were some drops. But 5 passes for 19 yards? That is unacceptable. That stat alone tells you the Jaguars were back to their old bag of tricks a.k.a. the dump and run offense (We are looking at you Jedd Fisch). And the INT was a pass that was thrown behind his target, which led to it being tipped and picked off. I don’t know if he thinks the job is 100% his already, but he needs to step up. Because next week…..
- Chad Henne proved he deserves a start against the Jets. This QB battle is not a landslide. I’ve mentioned it before that it was possible: Henne has a legit chance to start this year. He went 8 of 11 for 87 yards. Showing a better command on the offense and leading the team down field, he led the Jaguars to what would be the only points of the game. Although he was unable to lead the team into the end zone, it was the best showing of all the Jaguar quarterbacks.
- Aside from Luke Joeckel getting OWNED by Cameron Wake on one play, the offensive line looked good in pass protection. To be fair, Joeckel was going up against what many believe to be one of the best pass rushers in the league (including myself). The run blocking could have been a little better, but overall was one of the only bright spots in this game.
- First four regular season games are looking much harder now. The simple reason for that is the receiver play. We will have Shorts, and hopefully Ace Sanders can fix up some things in his game like route running. But aside from that, absolutely no one showed enough to warrant playing time in the regular season when Blackmon is suspended. Taking into consideration the bad quarterback play, no receiver had more then 25 yards total. That cannot be the case when we are without one of our top play-makers. And since I’ve brought him up…
- Justin Blackmon is becoming this generation’s version of Keyshawn Johnson, or guys like Terrell Owens. Which is a shame because he hasn’t proven anything at this level, except for a nice finish to an overall underwhelming rookie season. He’s in the news for off the field issues, ones that are much more serious in this day and age. And on top of that, he is an immature kid who has the longest leash possible because of his draft status. Although Gus Bradley has downplayed the altercation during the game (in which Blackmon wasn’t even dressed to play), it’s only a matter of time before Blackmon says something stupid to draw attention, or creates a scene on the sidelines. It’s the person he is. Unless he is close to being a Top 5 receiver in the league, this team and fanbase will both ship him out of town sooner rather then later.
- Johnathan Cyprien is already badly needed. I would like to make something very, very clear. Chris Prosinski should not be starting. Like…..EVER. He was one of the worst players in the loss to the Dolphins. The secondary had highs and lows. There was obvious talent, but you could quickly identify this defensive backfield is full of rookies or young developing corners and safeties. Other then Dwayne Gratz, Dwight Lowery and arguably Josh Evans later on in the game, there was something missing, leading to Miami making big plays through the air. I believe that missing piece was Cyprien.
- Don’t read too much into the defensive lines performance. The Jaguars ran a four man rush almost the entire game. In fact, the Jaguars only blitzed twice, which lead to a INT and a sack. Despite the Miami offensive line being very suspect, the Jaguars brought pressure, just not consistently enough throughout the game. This defense will show promise once they go with more looks with the blitz and different coverage schemes.
- Jaguars best impression of Miami was turnovers. Coming into this game, the Dolphins were coming off the HOF game, in which we watched them give away crucial turnovers. And there was some more turnovers by them this game. But the Jaguars were much more costly, helping the lopsided score lean towards Miami. The previously mentioned Gabbert pick, a terrible decision making throw by Mike Kafka, and two fumbled punts. Along with 7 penalties, it was not a pretty game at all. This obviously cannot continue.
- Gus Bradley looks like an NFL coach. The more I see of Bradley, the more he really fits the look of a NFL head coach. He looked legit in the grey Jaguar shirt with his staff. No…..seriously. Me and James were talking about it throughout the entire game. He truly looks the part on the sideline, with a passion and stature that puts Mike Murlarky and even Jack Del Rio to shame. It took some time, but I know we made the right choice in choosing Bradley over any of the other candidates for this job.
- What did I say about Denard Robinson? The Jaguars are going to overuse him. It’s already started. Robinson was on the field often, despite running the ball just 9 times for 32 yards. My problem is that for what seemed to be half of his runs, he was taking the ball in between the guard and tackle. WHY!? Robinson is best in open space, with maybe a pitch or a counter to the outside. When he is running in the inside gaps of the offensive line he will take the biggest hits. For the first preseason game, he was on the field a whole lot more then I expected. Not sure if that says more on how the Jags will use him going forward, or the fact that the running back depth behind MJD is almost non-existent at this time without him and Justin Forsett playing (although Jordan Todman slightly impressed).
So what do the Jacksonville Jaguars need to do for Preseason Game 2 against the New York Jets?
The Jaguars need to show they are not afraid to throw the ball. We need to see progress from the defense with more blitzes on a very weak team at quarterback. With the lack of receivers as well, the Jaguars have a very favorable match-up. Chad Henne must show he can lead this team into scoring position to have a serious shot at starting from Week 1 of the regular season. Blaine Gabbert just has to perform up to par against what will be the Jets second string starters, and focus on impressing the coaching staff in what should be a start in Week 3. Playmakers like Justin Blackmon and Johnathan Cyprien need to be in the lineup to show they deserve what is essentially a locked up starter spot for both of them. The speed was shown in this first preseason game, now it needs to be used and executed. Special teams should shine, and the deep ball needs to appear at some point in the game. Playing against a defense that is not to be taken lightly, turnovers must be limited on the offensive side of the ball.
So there you have it! This is a hard look into the first preseason game. A lot of promise was built up and then crashed down, but this is not a season breaker. There are three whole preseason games to try different things, or have players break out and make an impact. We got a lot of great insight from Cat at FinNation who joined us for our podcast leading up to the game. Be sure to check that out on BlogTalkRadio or download the Sticher app and search for InsideEdgeSports. We are doing our Gridiron Season, so we will have the date and time for the next podcast leading up to the Jaguars vs the Jets. Make sure to follow me @EricAlmighty1 and let me know in the comment section below if you agree or disagree with my thoughts on this last Jaguars game!