Preseason Preview: Jaguars at Ravens

Over the past few days, between the news of the Jaguars playing one home game each season in London from 2013 to 2016, and the drama surrounding holdout running back Maurice Jones-Drew, it’s been somewhat pushed to the side that the team does actually play a game this week. Tonight, the Jacksonville Jaguars will take the field against the Baltimore Ravens in the third game of the 2012 preseason. The last time these two teams met was last season, when the Jaguars upset the Ravens in Jacksonville on Monday Night Football by a score of 12-7, in a game where Josh Scobee tied an NFL game record by kicking three field goals of more than fifty yards.

While the stakes aren’t nearly as high tonight as they were last season, it’s still an important game for the Jaguars, to see how they stack up against one of the premier franchises in the league. Over the past two weeks, against the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints, the Jaguars offense has looked much improved than it was last season, when it was ranked last in the league. Jacksonville’s offense, collectively, has scored eight touchdowns in these two preseason games, and will look to carry that momentum into M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore tonight. As we all know, the third preseason game is the proverbial “dress rehearsal,” so expect the starters to play deep into the second half.

The most intriguing player to watch in this game may be wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who made his preseason debut against the Saints last week, catching a 16-yard touchdown strike from Blaine Gabbert on the opening drive. Despite limited practice time, due to being the last rookie in the league to sign a contract, Blackmon looked sharp. It will be interesting to see how Mike Mularkey and company utilize Blackmon against a traditionally tough defense in Baltimore. Hopefully, Jaguars fans can continue to see that chemistry between Gabbert and Blackmon further develop in this game.

Jacksonville will be without four starters for this game. Eugene Monroe will miss his second consecutive preseason game, following a head injury that he suffered in practice prior to last week’s game at New Orleans. Derek Cox, who suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason opener against the New York Giants, will also miss tonight’s game, as well as Daryl Smith, who is nursing a groin injury. Lastly, Will Rackley, who suffered a high ankle sprain in training camp late last month, will be held out again. Returning to the lineup tonight will be cornerback Rashean Mathis, who suffered a season-ending leg injury on the road against the Indianapolis Colts last year.

Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:30 pm EST. Next week, the Jaguars will return home to Jacksonville to host the Atlanta Falcons at Everbank Field, in the final game of the preseason.