By: Eric Serna
This was a fun game for Jaguars fans. From what was a terrible game at home against Miami, to a couple of flashes from the first team against New York, this game was what we needed to see. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jacksonville Jaguars showed they have the talent to be a challenge to some teams this year. In what will now be an underdog role, all the proper steps are being taken to advance this team and it’s players into the next level: the regular season. But there are A LOT of things that need to be fixed or worked on for the Jaguars to be something other then a 2-14 team becoming a middle tier team. Here some some quick hits on what the Jaguars need to improve on for next week’s showdown against the Atlanta Falcons, and then on into the regular season.
- Chad Henne looked up and down….again. Let’s just get this out of the way, since quarterback was the last thing anyone cared about this week with Blaine Gabbert being named the starter for Week 1. Henne has not impressed at all this preseason, and actually looks to have regressed in some way every week (Do NOT be fooled by the stats for the night: 11-18 for 106 yards, 2 TDs 1 INT). Under pressure the entire night, you couldn’t ask too much. And he did well with those points being made. But there was more bad decision making and at times, he just looked lost. He will be the backup this year, but if Gabbert can become more then an average quarterback this year, I think the Jaguars should focus on bringing in competition for the backup spot next year. Although I still think this year, he is the Jaguars best hope in the event of an injury at QB compared to anyone else that is available in free agency, or even on this roster (as fun as #FreeMattScott was, he has proven he is strictly a developmental project).
- Such a shame Justin Blackmon is going to be suspended for the first 4 games of the year. He had 4 catches for 50 yards with a TD, but every catch he made he OWNED the ball. His handle on the ball and ability to get open was impressive, even an improvement from last year where he let a couple balls get away from him (minus one drop that he took his eyes off of). On the field, he looks very impressive. Of course, he got a lot of looks this game with Henne, where Gabbert seems to have more of a security blanket in Cecil Shorts III, based off both quarterbacks play last year. But it is obvious without him, this team loses a weapon that cannot be replaced by another body (even fan favorite Ace Sanders).
- Will Rackley goes down with a knee injury. This isn’t a time to panic, but with Rackley out, Mike Brewster did not play at a high level as his replacement. The Jaguars really need to grab another body at the guard spot, regardless if Rackley will not miss time. The entire OL as a whole gave up pressure to the Eagles defense multiple times, giving up 3 sacks in the first half. Going into the second half, Uche Nwaneri was even thrown around on a couple plays.
- Jordan Todman has secured the backup spot at running back. Rushing for 108 yards on eight carries, including an incredible burst of speed on a 63 yard TD run, there is no one to compete with. Justin Forsett seemed destined to take the backup role, but has not been able to play at all with a lingering toe injury. Denard Robinson will be lining up in different roles and will take some carries, but with the way Todman has played this preseason, I think it should be the other way around in some instances in fact. I say that simply because….
- The Jaguars need to STOP running Robinson inside. I know they can’t be predictable and always throw or run to the outside every carry Robinson gets. But I have seen way too many times in three preseason games that the Jags are pounding Robinson in the middle or in between the tackles, and that is not generating much success. He can make plays with his legs and in open space. That is where he needs to be somewhat isolated to so he can get those big play yards. The Jaguars offense has improved in every aspect as far as rushing and passing. But Robinson is a lone dud in a group of players showing what they can do, and the reason is simple.
- Pass rush showing it’s true colors? After some flashes of what this defense can do, we now know this defense will play hard, and they will play fast. Although there was “only” two sacks on the first team reps, there was constant pressure all night. The Jaguars had a tie game early on, mostly in part to bad decision making by Henne. But if you watched the game, the Jaguars clearly had control of the entire first half (even into the second half). There was a lot of impressive takeaways from tonight’s game. But there was one glaring issue….
- Mobile QB’s and TE’s will run this team if they continue to play like they did tonight in real game situations. Michael Vick was under pressure, but once he got out of the pocket, he seemed to almost do anything he wanted. Run, throw, check his options. This defense is well tailored to attack a pocket QB, but a mobile QB showed tonight there are some obvious flaws that need to be worked on. Adding to that list is tight ends. I don’t know why, but even though it wasn’t just tight ends being left open on some defensive miscues, it seemed like Brent Celek was the one catching the ball when it mattered. Something to look at in the future to see if the Jaguars adjust.
- Special Teams needs to improve. With Ace Sanders not returning punts, no one showed any potential as a returner. I would be shocked if anyone else other then Sanders or Robinson take kicks or punts in the regular season. And there was some big runs given up on the kick returns by the Eagles. Nothing to alarm everyone yet, but another thing the Jags will be looking to improve on going into the final preseason game.
- Defensive shout outs to Dwayne Gratz who had a nice pick on a bad pass by Vick. I love watching this guy play, he has a “swag” and an on field attitude I think Gus Bradley has already embraced. Also another shout out to Geno Hayes, who is standing out as a solid linebacker for the Jaguars just making the plays he is supposed to be making.
Now I know it just sounds like I am nitpicking on all the negatives, but don’t get me wrong: This team is going to be better then 2-14 from a year ago. I am pointing these things out because like my fellow Jaguar fans, I do NOT want this team to miss out on a strong draft pick in the top picks of the 2014 Draft to be a 8-8 team picking in the middle of the pack. I want this team to push the Texans and the Colts (sorry Titans) for the division title, or a playoff spot. I said it after the first preseason game, this team has a long way to go. But with each game, the distance is getting closer within reach. And this team has a lot to be excited for, as well as it’s fanbase. Let me know what YOU think in the poll down below.
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