In the Jaguars’ first preseason game against the Giants, Blaine Gabbert looked better than he did at any point last season, Rashad Jennings carried the load with surprising success and optimism was the highest it’s been in about 5 years. Still, the Jaguars left a lot to be desired following their preseason victory. Here’s your 5 things to watch in tonight’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
1) Justin Blackmon
Keep in mind that Justin Blackmon has not been with the team long enough to be completely up to speed as you watch this game. Because of that, keep expectations modest, and look for him to do the fundamental things right, such as finishing plays, making crisp cuts, etc. Obviously, we’re all hoping for a big performance from Blackmon, but if he has a quiet night, it’s not a big deal.
2) Watch that pass rush
Against the Giants, the Jaguars were very limited in their ability to rush the passer. That needs to improve as the preseason goes on. The Saints are another NFC powerhouse, and getting to Drew Brees, et al. is essential to slowing down their offensive attack.
3) Slow down the Saints’ pass rush
The Saints aren’t necessarily known for putting an enormous amount of pressure on the quarterback, but it’s been a point of emphasis this offseason on the Jaguars’ end. Blaine Gabbert looked miles better than he ever did in 2011 last week when handling pressure, but he still needs to gain confidence in his offensive line.
4) Get some turnovers
In today’s NFL, it’s not enough to simply control the ball on offense. You have to be able to take the ball away from your opponent. The Jaguars should be looking to come up with a couple of takeaways at the Saints’ expense. The fact of the matter is that you don’t beat great teams like the Saints without taking the ball away. The Jaguars have to get better in that regard.
5) Keep an eye on Blaine Gabbert
Today I saved my obligatory Blaine Gabbert reference for last. I’ve hammered on this over and over again, but it’s also important. Gabbert looked far more comfortable last week than he did in 2011 running the Jaguars offense. Let’s hope that continues and progresses tonight.
I’ll be tweeting throughout the game (or at least the first half). You can follow me @The_Jaggernaut, and don’t forget to “Like” The Jaggernaut on Facebook for some engaging conversation. Spread the word!