With the first official preseason game set to get underway later this evening in Canton, Ohio, football season is just around the corner. The Jacksonville Jaguars open up their preseason action August 9th, against the Miami Dolphins and there will be many things to watch for. In my mind, there are five keys to the Jags first action of the 2013 season.
5. Can the Jags rush the quarterback?
The Jaguars are known around the NFL as a team that can’t sack the quarterback. In 2012, the Jags ranked dead last in the league in sacks with a measly 20. The Raiders, who were 31st, still finished with 5 more at 25. With a line that couldn’t possibly get any worse, it does look improved coming into this season. A healthy Jeremy Mincey and Jason Babin will provide veteran leadership and experience, but don’t expect to see these guys play much next week. Against the Dolphins you will see a rotation of guys at the defensive tackle position which is still unsure through training camp. Another thing to watch will be 4th year player Tyson Alualu who will be transitioning from DT to DE.
4. Will the Jags be able to protect the quarterback?
Switching topics from defensive to offensive line, much is still in question as to how the Jags will line up. The tackles look to be set, with veteran Eugene Monroe guarding the left side, and rookie Luke Joeckel guarding right. At center, Brad Meester will be out there again in his 14th season. However, at guard the Jags have some options, and it all begins with the two men who didn’t play a snap all last season. Uche Nwaneri and Will Rackley should start, but it will be interesting to see who the Jags rotate in next week. It will not only be key to see the line block for the quarterbacks, but create holes for the backs as well.
3. How will the Jags use Denard Robinson and Ace Sanders?
In the 4th and 5th round of this year’s draft the Jaguars drafted two speedsters set to improve the lackluster offense of a year ago. Sanders has already shown flashes of his return game through training camp, and will look to do the same against the Dolphins. With Robinson, look for the Jags to show glimpses of a wildcat package that will be used often come the regular season. Regardless of how they’re used, these two rookies will bring firepower to the offense.
2. Will we see the Maurice Jones-Drew of old?
After an injury filled 2012 season, and an offseason of uncertainty, Drew is said to be 100 percent and ready to go. Being the first preseason game,don’t expect to see the star running back for more than a series or two. Jaguar fans everywhere will look to see if Drew can show speed, agility and the ability to attack defenders as he did 2 years ago. No. 32 will once again be back on the field, and we’ll get to see a glimpse of what he’s got left in the tank.
1. Who will shine at quarterback?
It is no secret the Jags currently have an intense battle at quarterback brewing. The youngster Blaine Gabbert and veteran Chad Henne will each get their turns with the first team offense next week, and they both intend to put on a show. It will be good to see who connects with the receivers and who looks most comfortable leading the offense. Starting next Friday, both QB’s will have 4 games to prove why they should start week 1 under center, and they will not only have to win over the coaches and teammates but Jaguar fans as well.