Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

“Better and Improved”: The Jaguars Buzzwords

We saw what looked to be about as close to regular season game speed in the Jaguars Eagles game Saturday night. Bodies were flying around and the hits were real. The starters played into the 3rd quarter and looked respectable, leaving the game leading 24-16.

Two guys, Jordan Todman and Allen Reisner continue to look like guys who just continue to make plays no matter what’s the situation or who else is in their. Playing with the first team, Reisner made a nice catch for a TD and sealed the end on a 63-yard TD run by Todman. The 1st year running back out of Connecticut ran for more than 100 yards and looked like he solidified his spot on the team. He’s been productive from the running back spot and he can contribute on special teams as well.

Both of those guys are the type of player who hasn’t emerged for the Jaguars in the recent past. Players who have been in the league but are available because they haven’t been overwhelming anywhere else. If the Jaguars can get production out of either of those players it’s a bonus.

Luke Joeckel played most of the first half and had good and bad moments but he was healthy enough to play, and that was the important part.

There wasn’t that much emphasis on the quarterback since Blaine Gabbert has been named as the starter but Chad Henne was adequate and continues to be the ideal backup guy. The offensive philosophy is just right for the up tempo style of play. The quarterback needs to get the ball to the guy who’s open RIGHT NOW, instead of checking for something better downfield. Both Gabbert and Henne have looked effective when they take that approach.

Defensively, there was more pressure on the quarterback but it’s hard to really gauge how they’re doing because the opposition was Michael Vick, and he can make anybody look bad running out of the pocket. Jeremy Mincey looks like he’s taking it personally that he’s not considered a starter, and that’s good. There was an Andre Branch sighting on a sack, and the usually solid play by the linebacking corps is going to be a plus.

The defensive backfield looked young at times but those are the growing pains the team will put up with if they develop the way they hope. Dwayne Gratz had another interception, this time on a throw away by Vick but no matter. Wouldn’t it be nice if he turns out to be a guy that the ball just seems to find in those situations? The Jaguars haven’t had one of those in a while.

The team still has some issues on special teams coverage. Too many long returns on both kickoffs and punts. You hope that settles down once they get their regular personell in there instead of a lot of different guys who are just trying to make the team.

Next Thursday you might see Joeckel and perhaps Justin Blackmon play against the Falcons but that might be it among starters on offense. On defense, they might still want to get Johnathan Cyprien some playing time and perhaps some other young DB’s.

The first cuts are Tuesday, down to 75 so that means just 15 guys will be released. After that it’s 22 cuts down to the 53 man roster. That comes after the Atlanta game.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars 2013: It’s Not About Winning

It’s a luxury Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell enjoy in 2013 the virtually no other coach and GM tandem has in the NFL: They don’t have to win.

When Shad Khan bought the team in 2012, then General Manager Gene Smith thought the Jaguars were just a few pieces away from being competitive. When he hired Mike Mularkey as the Head Coach the two of them assessed the roster and thought that through the draft and free agency they might make the Jaguars competitive last year. With that as their template, they told Khan that spending a little money and moving up in the draft would give the Jaguars the pieces they needed to be in the mix at the end of the year. So Khan agreed to spend about $60 million to acquire Aaron Ross, Laurent Robinson and re-sign Jeremy Mincey. They also picked Justin Blackmon in the first round of the draft, filling a glaring need at WR.

And for their money and efforts?

The Jaguars had a two-win season.

It wasn’t that the team only one two games. It was that Khan, as a first year owner, had given the people he put in charge the tools they asked for and they didn’t get it done. So he decided the decision-making was flawed and changed the management team.

In 2013, Bradley and Caldwell didn’t make any promises or even say they’d be competitive this year when it comes to wins and losses. Bradley always says, “We’ll compete till the end,” but there’s never any talk about wins in the Jaguars offices. Because if you lower the expectations, and say you have a plan, there will be a honeymoon period.

How long?

Hard to say but they all know they won’t win this year and any kind of success will be a bonus. Next year they’ll have to be vastly improved and in year three they’ll be expected to compete for the division title. That’s not to say that they can’t catch lightning in a bottle. Look at what the Colts did last year with a rookie quarterback and no expectations.

So while it’s hard to predict what measure of success the Jaguars might have, these guys have some time to get it right.


Not a lot. But some.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Assessment: Is “Not Terrible” Fair?

One of our producers was commenting on one of their colleagues the other day with the assessment, “We’ll, they’re not doing terrible.” We all laughed, but it might be a pretty good assessment of the Jaguars progress so far in 2013. Improved and better and they’re “not doing terrible.”

For the Jaguars first exhibition game against Miami, it was our first look at the team under Gus Bradley in a game situation. As expected, Bradley said, “I liked how we competed on both sides of the ball and as coaches, that’s what we’re looking for. The game showed them improved in some areas but a lot of the same problems. When it was the 1’s vs. the 1’s, the Jaguars defense seemed to hold their own and even put some pressure on the quarterback. Sen’Derrick Marks had an early sack and looked like he could be a factor in a phase of the game the Jaguars have been lacking in since, well it seems since Tony Brackens retired. We saw good effort on defense, some good pass defense and a generally you could see that they should be better.

Offensively, Blaine Gabbert was inconsistent, certainly not the player he’s been in camp for the last 10 days. A good throw looked like it was dropped by Mike Brown and another by Ace Sanders but he airmailed a couple of throws (that comes from hurrying and not setting your feet) and fired one to the fullback on a simple out route that was slightly behind the receiver as well. It was tipped in the air and intercepted and led to the first TD of the game. While you could easily say the fullback should have caught the ball, it’s those little things that Gabbert said this week he wanted to concentrate on.

“Go out and compete, work on the little things and score some points,” is how he put it on Thursday when Gus Bradley named him the starter. He has unbelievable physical skills and I’ve called him a “seductive” player in practice because when you watch him in that setting you wonder how the Jaguars ever lose. In his first two years, and now after the first preseason appearance, he still hasn’t been able to translate that onto the field. Chad Henne was better but nothing spectacular. He managed the game the way you would expect him to and led the Jaguars to their only scoring drive of the night.

Neither quarterback did anything that would change what the coaches are thinking after the first two weeks of training camp. Obviously, Gabbert played without the receivers expected to start in the regular season (Shorts and eventually Blackmon) and Henne played some, but not all of his time with the first team. He went against the Dolphins second team defense as well.

On the bright side, Ace Sanders showed why they drafted him with both punt return ability and as a pass catcher. He fields punts fluidly and makes the first guy miss. Then he’s moving up field looking for positive yardage. You could tell even in this game that he doesn’t have that blazing speed you’d like in a guy doing that job, but he’s certainly an improvement over anybody in teal and black over the last decade or so. He’ll be electric but maybe not a game breaker.

Denard Robinson is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands and it’ll be interesting to see how they try to get him involved in the offense. He nearly got his head taken off when the Jaguars put him in their version of the Wildcat formation but coming out of the backfield he found openings and showed some of that burst you saw when he was in college.

It’s still training camp, so they’ll be back to work on Sunday. “It’s preseason,” Bradley said after the game. “And that’s what preseason is for. We need to clean things up and we’ll work on that and challenge our players to do that. The more comfort level they get in these situations the better it’ll be.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Camp: No Surprises But Not Routine

In the first 5 days of camp I’ve seen Gus Bradley just light up one of his players. I’ve seen a quarterback go down like a ton of bricks. I’ve seen Denard Robinson look clueless and like a Pro Bowler – all within 5 minutes. And I’ve seen Cecil Shorts have the best camp of anybody.

Which means it’s been a pretty typical camp when it comes to work and production. Not too many surprises and not much unexpected. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to be upbeat about.

Bradley’s heated dressing down of one of his linebackers in practice isn’t completely new. He’s a defensive coach, coming off a defensive coordinators job and now running a camp as a head coach for the first time. He wants it right. And he wants it right now. Bradley has said all along that it would be up-tempo, uncomfortable and hot and it’s been all three. So the players have to keep up and perform at a high level over and over. Every movement is recorded for review in practice and with every job up for grabs, it could be the little things that are the difference between staying on the team or leaving or being a backup or a starter.

If there is a quarterback competition going on, Chad Henne might have a slight edge but all of this posturing early in camp isn’t going to determine who starts or even who plays the most once the regular season starts. We’ve seen Gabbert be brilliant in practice but not be able to transfer that kind of production on to the field in games. Gabbert went down at the end of practice Monday when he was clipped on the ankle by an offensive lineman but was back on the field Wednesday.

We’ve seen Henne be a serviceable quarterback who might not get you beat, but he hasn’t shown that he’s the “franchise” guy who can win a game nearly by himself. The coaches are putting a lot of heat on the quarterbacks to perform and we’ve seen them be sharp and not so much in practice. But Bradley always says he’s looking for who can bounce back from adversity as well as who can put two and three good practices together.

When it comes to that, it’s hard not to overlook three guys: Cecil Shorts, Mike Brown and Luke Joeckel. I asked my photographer, Matt Kingston if he thought Shorts had gotten taller. “No,” he said, “that’s just what better looks like.” (It’s my favorite quote of camp so far.) But he’s exactly right. Shorts is by far the most consistent and best receiver on the field. Sharp routes, open on deep balls and maybe one drop in five days. He’s had a great camp.

Near him is Mike Brown at WR. Bradley singled him out on Monday saying “He’s put some good practices together back to back. He’s doing a real nice job.” And Joeckel is, according to Bradley, the “quietest number two pick ever in camp.” And he’s right. Joeckel has been plugged in at the right tackle spot and looks like he’s been there ten years. Knows the plays, works hard, listens and performs. In other words, just what you were hoping to get with the number two pick.

And everybody’s paying attention at camp when Denard Robinson lines up in the backfield. It’s been called a “wildcat” formation but Robinson brings so much more to the position than just somebody who’s a run threat. He’s the most dynamic player on the field (with Ace Sanders a close second) and it’s fascinating to see all the things he can do. The Jaguars are right to call him an “OW” (offensive weapon) because he’s certainly that.

Week one of practice is a good time to establish a routine for both coaches and players and to get a sense of expectations. It’s the second week where the players start to separate themselves as contenders or pretenders. We’ll know more about that perhaps after the scrimmage on Saturday night.