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.”