Tonight the Jaguars kick off their 2012 campaign by hosting the New York Giants at Everbank Field.
The Jaguars have consistently been ranked as one of the worst teams in the NFL, largely due to a perception that Blaine Gabbert can’t get it done as their starting quarterback.
Jacksonville will be looking to establish an identity early on, and that leads us into our first point of mention.
1) Establish the run with Rashad Jennings
Maurice Jones-Drew may not be with the team right now, but backup running back Rashad Jennings could be a starting runner on a lot of teams, and right now, the starting job is his. The Jaguars will look to him to provide their offense with some balance in an effort to stall the Giants’ pass rush.
2) Protect the passer
Jennings plays a big part in protecting Gabbert, but ultimately, that responsibility comes down to Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri and Cameron Bradfield (Will Rackley is out). The Jaguars are fielding what should be a solid group, but their pass protection can be suspect at times. That needs to change tonight.
3) Blaine Gabbert needs to hit a rhythm
I’m putting the Blaine Gabbert section in the middle simply because I think the media (and indeed The Jaggernaut) has played up his importance enough already. We all know it’s his make-or-break year. He just needs to go out and prove himself every chance he gets. This is one of those chances.
4) All eyes on the defensive line
It’s no secret that the Jaguars’ biggest defensive weakness last season was their inability to get to the quarterback. While their level of pressure was far better last year than it was two seasons ago, it still wasn’t good enough. We should get a good look at Andre Branch and Jeremy Mincey’s ability to rush the passer.
5) Watch special teams
Once the starters have exited the game for the night, we should be turning our attention to the Jaguars’ special teams units. 3rd round selection, and a punter no-less, Bryan Anger should be on full display, and you can count on one Jaguars blogger keeping a close eye on his kicks. Also keep an eye on kick coverages, as the guys gunning down the field are often those fringe players that could be cut at any moment.
Honorable Mention) Chad Henne
I just want to make a note that we should be watching backup quarterback Chad Henne very closely as well. If Gabbert can’t live up to expectations or simply goes down due to injury, this is the Jaguars’ plan B, and we might as well take note of how well he’s taking in the Jaguars’ offense.