After a 6 month hiatus from the gloriousness that is football, it is finally back and there is no better way to start the Mike Mularkey era than a matchup with former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin. As dozens of players begin fighting for their professional lives tonight, here are 10 players that you should keep your eyes on.
10. P Bryan Anger
Anyone who has watched Bryan Anger in practice has seen that he can absolutely crush some punts. Just don't forget to have a timer on hand so that you can count the hangtime.
9. LB Julian Stanford
This undrafted free agent rookie out of Wagner has been a pleasant surprise at camp. He flies to the ball and has flashed at every practice that I've seen. He just might be this year's Russell Allen.
8. TE Marcedes Lewis
Marcedes Lewis had a very disappointing year in 2011 and it was his performance in the first preseason game that foreshadowed the drop-tastic season that followed. If he can find a way to consistently hold onto the ball, this offense will truly be in good hands (pun intended).
7. WR Kevin Elliott
Kevin Elliott, an undrafted free agent rookie from Florida A&M, has also flashed in camp in almost every practice. He's big, he's pretty strong and he fights for the ball in the air. If he can translate that to the field, he could be a serious asset for this team.
6. DT Tyson Alualu
Alualu hasn't really been as dominant as fellow 2010 NFL draftee DT Ndamukong Suh, but he has been a stalwart figure in this defense, despite a nagging knee issue. He had surgery on the knee during this offseason and the time has come to show everyone why he was selected with the 10th overall pick.
5. DE Andre Branch
Andre Branch has had an impressive camp so far. How impressive? DL coach Joe Cullen has been practically drooling over his his raw talent for the position and some former Jaguars have compared him to all-time Jaguars sack leader Tony Brackens.
4. OT Cameron Bradfield
Cqameron Bradfield made the team last year as an undrafted free agent and impressed the staf s much that they decided to keep him on the team He impressed everyone further by holding his own during his first career start against the Pittsburgh Steelers.Tonight, he will be startiong at right tackle against the ferocious pass rush of the New York Giants.
3. WR Cecil Shorts
Cecil Shorts has been an enigma since he was drafted last year in the 4th round. He was spectacular in training camp and then he disappeared when the season started, only managing two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. We cold easily blame the poor coaching of Johnny Cox, but with the Jaguars' track record of failing to find good wide receivers since the signings of Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell in the mid-90s, one has to wonder if this pick was a lemon. Still, it'd be wonderful if Shorts turned out to be the next Victor Cruz.
2. RB Rashad Jennings
Rashad Jennings is easily the most overlooked player on the roster right now. Many people tha don't really know about the Jaguars think that we have no depth behind Maurice Jones-Drew and that the Jaguars running game will fall flat due to his absence.Jennings might not get Jones-Drew's recognition, but he does have te necessary skills to be a great player in this league. He can run between the tackles, fight for extra yardage successfully, and catch the ball out of the backfield. These skills will surely be on display tonight.
1. QB Blaine Gabbert
Of course the most important payer to keep your eyes on is Blaine Gabbert, whose successes and failures will have a direct impact on lthe long-term future of this team. There are way too many questions that need to be answered tonight. Will Gabbertbeable to hang around in the pocket will the pass rush all around him? Has his footwork and accuracy improved ? Does he make accurate reads at the line of scrimmage and adjust accordingly? Does his eye level stay up while on the run and does he make smart decisions while heading towards that sideline? We will all see the results of 6 or 7 months worth of hard work and preparation.
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