With the Jacksonville Jaguars starting Training Camp practices today, we at Jaguars 101 figured that we would break down five stories to follow as you sit on those Florida Blue Practice Field bleachers in the 95-degree heat. Enjoy.
5. How Does Eben Britton Look?
Eben Britton's absence was felt immensely last season as his backup, Guy Whimper was apparently taken down by a sniper's bullet every time he dropped back to pass block. Britton has been the victim of a dislocated shoulder, a freak weightlifting injury, and a rare infection from the back surgery resulting from said injury. If he looks completely healthy in training camp and the preseason, then Blaine Gabbert will probably have little to worry about in terms of pass protection.
4. Bryan Anger's Punts
Early reviews have proclaimed that Anger's punts are worthy of being called awesome, one has to be curious to see if he can translate his punting prowess to the field when the lights actually come on.
3. Who Will Emerge from the Receiving Corps?
There have been a few significant offseason additions in the Jaguars receiving corps, most notably Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon. We will not only watch how these two players will adapt to this offense, but we will watch who will scrap for the final few spots.
First up is Mike Thomas, who was the leading WR during the disastrous 2011 season. He may have had a strong first month of the season, but once he received his contract extension he seemed to loaf on routes and now he has to re-earn his spot in the lineup. Cecil Shorts was a 4th round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft who impressed many during his first training camp, but disappeared during the regular season, only amassing 2 catches for 30 yards. Finally, there is Lee Evans, who is a savvy veteran that is trying to revive his career after a disappointing year in Baltimore. It will be an interesting group to watch.
2. Life with or Without Maurice Jones-Drew
One of the most dominant stories going into Jaguars training camp is whether Maurice Jones-Drew will show up to camp on time. While there is no concrete evidence of his decision as of yet, we should probably assume that MJD is going to stay out of camp.That would mean that Rashad Jennings would be taking first team reps. He has done an adequate job of filling in for Jones-Drew when he has been called upon, but he is just coming off of a season-ending injury, which is always a bit of a red flag. Still, Mojo has little leverage with a functional backup, a GM and an owner that is willing to draw a line in the sand, and a shrinking base of fan support.
1. Blaine Gabbert's Progress
The biggest story for the Jaguars this offseason will be Gabbert's progress from last year. Why? Because it will be the biggest determining factor in this team's success for the next decade. Not Maurice Jones-Drew. You can find decent running backs anywhere, but all in all, they have shorter careers and they have less of an overall impact on the game itself. Gabbert has already shown signs of improvement during mini camp with a more balanced stride while dropping back. Now, we just need to see an improvement in his accuracy and pocket presence during the preseason. After all, everyone can be great in shorts, but it is a whole different world when the lights come on and your opponent is trying to separate your head from your shoulders.
If Gabbert can play at a decent level, this team could easily become a contender for the playoffs. After all, the difference between 5-11 and 9-7 are the results of close games. and in 2011, the Jaguars were often on the wrong side of those close games due to poor punting (Carolina and Cincinnati), poor clock management (Cleveland), and a total lack of ability to move the ball on offense (Houston, Pittsburgh).
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