By: James Johnson
Alright, so I know what you’re thinking if you only could catch the score to the Jags last game against the Jets: “Another blowout loss by the Jags!” But those who watched Saturday’s game know better. I believe part of the reason for such a lopsided score was due to the Jets playing their starters for three quarters, while the Jags played their starters for only two. That said, I really didn’t pay too much attention to the score, but more to the personnel and how they played against their opposition. I recently had time to go back and watch Saturday’s game play-by-play a take a few notes to share with you all. As usual, there was some good and bad to come from Saturday’s preseason game as I highlighted both below. I also decided to cut up some plays to give you all an NFL Network-like analysis on some of the game’s key highlights. So with out further ado, here is my breakdown of Saturday’s game. Enjoy!
1.) Blaine Gabbert put on a show!
Yes, I said Blaine Gabbert put on a show! To many people’s surprise he actually showed up against the Jets, and as a result he was named the team’s starting QB Monday morning by Gus Bradley. As you all know, this year’s biggest and most important competition was that between Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. With neither player separating himself from the other, it appears the job was Gabbert’s to lose seeing as the staff would like to find out if he can be the franchise guy he was drafted to be. His performance Saturday was a step in that direction and was the push he needed to separate himself from Henne. He was 13 of 16 (81.3%, each of his throws can be seen in the video below) for 165 yards with 1 TD in terms of passing and ended the game with a 130.5 passer rating. Henne on the other hand struggled as he was 4 of 10 (40%) in the passing game with 1 interception.
The bad news is that Gabbert injured his thumb on what would’ve been his last play of the game. He was diagnosed with that the team called a “hairline fracture” today and will sit out the remainder of the preseason. As for the good news, the x-rays on Gabbert’s thumb came back negative so it’s not an injury that will require any surgery.
2.) MJD looks to have his burst back.
Man was it nice to see MJD back! He too had a good game in the limited snaps he was given. He had a nice 6 yard carry between the tackles and a nice 30 yard gain from a dump-off pass he caught in the flats from Gabbert. In both plays he showcased great explosiveness and showed Jags fans what they had already seen in camp transferred to the field. One concern I had about him was if he could run between the tackles in the zone scheme, and I didn’t see enough carries out of him to make that call Saturday as the team rightfully played it safe with him. I believe he’ll be just fine this year in the new scheme and that my questions about him in this scheme will be answered soon enough.
3.) Justin Blackmon and the WR’s group as a whole looked great as well.
Blackmon looked great in his 2013 debut against the Jets. He had some rather interesting battles with Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie, giving them both fits with his strength and YAC abilities (especially Milliner). He ended the game with 4 catches for 46 yards.
As you’ll see in the Gabbert video above, both Ace Sanders and Mike Brown complimented Blackmon well as offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch put them in a lot of YAC situations (with Denard Robinson as well) where they’d be thrown the ball in one-on-one situations to then make the defender miss. His game-plan worked flawlessly for the starters as it appears the Jets simply couldn’t keep up with the speed of the Jaguars. Sanders also caught a nice 35 yard pass from Gabbert down the middle to cap the game off. If you all recall, Eric and I expressed our interest in seeing more vertical passes like this and it was good to see that out of this offense. Though I’d STILL like to see more passes downfield, Jedd Fisch called a great and exiting game in my opinion and I believe once Cecil Shorts gets back we’ll see more out him in terms of downfield throws.
5.) Robinson showcases his speed, AND vision again.
Just as he flashed against the Dolphins, Robinson again showed that once he gets to the outside he can make people miss and burn you with his speed. He also showed me something that I believe people may misunderstand about him–he has great vision when running between the tackles. My buddy Eric has expressed that he doesn’t believe Robinson should be run between the tackles and I have to somewhat disagree. I do agree that he currently doesn’t have the size to be run between the tackles, but with some added weight he maybe able to become a guy that can get it done in between the tackles due to his vision. Below is one of the plays in particular I drew up on my tablet in which he made several cuts off of his blockers for an 8 yard gain. As you’ll also notice in a zone blocking scheme RB’s generally need to have a good sense of direction change (examples: Arian Foster, and Alfred Morris who are both in zone-blocking offenses), and it appears Robinson may have that in his repertoire.
7.) Free agent additions Geno Hayes and Trufant played well under the radar.
Geno Hayes caught my eye with multiple open field tackles, both of which prevented big time plays. One was against a Jets RB in which he was one-on-one with which prevented a first down, and the other was on Sanchez preventing a touchdown in the red-zone. Trufant also made a splash in the red-zone as he picked of Sanchez in the Jags end-zone in the 2nd quarter, and blanketed a couple other defenders with solid coverage in the red-zone. Though I’m not sure if Trufant will make it to the final 53 man roster I’m sure he certainly caught Gus Bradley’s eyes this week.
8.) The early struggles on defense due to the Jets run blocking.
Early in the game the defense struggled to stop the run. After evaluating each play in which the Jets got a nice gain, I noticed that their offensive line did a great job of getting to the second level (the Jags linebackers). As all the football nerds (myself included) out there know, part of the defensive line’s responsibility is to keep the offense lineman off of the smaller guys behind them, and the Jags struggled with that early in the game.Two of the defensive linemen that struggled at times were Sen’Derrick Marks and Tyson Alualu who on a few occasions were “washed down” (as NFL personnel call it) by the Jets offensive line in this game. The Jets linemen would then move to Poz, Hayes, and Reynolds. As a result the Jets came away with big chunks of yardage in the run game. Below is a play I cut up to show you all exactly what I’m talking about.
9.) The pass-rush from the DE’s was almost nonexistent.
The Jags only came away from this game with only two sacks from Jeremy Mincey and Abry Jones (Go Dawgs!). Sen’Derrick Marks (who struggled this week in my opinion) also created some pressure from the DT spot at times, but aside from them the pass-rush just wasn’t there. D’Brickashaw Ferguson shut down Jason Babin and Andre Branch at the LEO position as it appears the Jags may have to get creative with getting pressure on the QB. If they can’t find a way to do so it appears as if the Jags will go through yet another season with pass-rushing issues.
10.) Cyprien rookie debut wasn’t exactly one he’ll want to remember.
It just wasn’t Cyprien’s day when you go back and look at the errors he made. It all started when he tripped in coverage against Cumberland which led to a TD. But his problems didn’t stop there, he was later flagged for pass interference and a couple plays later for illegal use of hands. As bad as it seemed, I simply believe he simply might have been overwhelmed by the spot light. He simply needs to settle down a bit and play just as he did at camp. Once he does that he’ll be fine.
11.) Special Teams woes continue.
Tobias Palmer’s fumble issues continued from the Dolphins game as he fumbled yet another punt which was recovered by the deep in the Jaguars territory. It will be interesting to see if Gus Bradley and co gives him one last chance to redeem himself in this Saturday against the Eagles. The Jags also struggled with kickoff duties as the Jets had multiple returns past the 20 yard line
Henne, Scott, and Kafka looked like, well….
After the Gabbert and the starters were benched, there pretty much wasn’t anything to really be exited about in terms of QB depth. Henne, as I mentioned earlier, had a 40% completion rate with an interception while Matt Scott and Mike Kafka barley had any stats worth posting. However, there are some positives to come from this–each of the players will get more playtime and more time on the field being that Gabbert will sit out the remainder of the preseason. Hopefully they will all use their opportunities to make a name for themselves with just two preseason games left because they’ve been almost nonexistent so far (specifically Scott and Kafka).
In closing, I honestly believe there was more positives to come from this game than negatives when you consider what the starters did in their limited amount of time. However, when the starters weren’t on the field it wasn’t pretty even though the Jags second string did face the Jets starters for a quarter. Hopefully in Saturday’s game against the Eagles we’ll see a bit more production out of them with the limited amount of time they’ll get. For more on the upcoming preseason game against Philly my good friend Phil Smith and I will be hosting this week’s episode of Gridiron Season tomorrow at 6:00 P.M. EST. We’ll be joined by Dave Bennett of 3dphillysports.com to talk on the Eagles and Jags match-up. You can keep tabs with Phil and I on Twitter (@J_1010xl and @PhiltheFilipino), as well as Dave (@DaveB_3DPhilly) for the latest on tomorrows podcast which can be found on Blogtalkradio.com