My Jaguars Journal – Mending the Harm of The 2011 Lockout – QB, WRs Should Improve

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterback Blaine Gabbert did not have a very good season last year. Many variables contributed to his lackluster premiere, but the single factor that worked most against him having at least a good season was the lockout of players, by management. Having said this, I still think he had a fair year, all things considered. Not great, or even good, but fair. What I liked most was what appears to be his carefulness with the ball. There were times when the ball handling got a bit wild, but for the better part of the season he was careful. My best example of this is the whooping the Jaguars put on the Ravens, in Gabbert’s first Monday Night Football win.  Gabbert contributed to this win by not being sloppy with the ball; i.e. he did not lose the game like so many rookies do under the scope of a national audience. Ray Lewis even came over and shook his hand. That is pretty high praise. Need I say more?

We should see a huge difference in Gabbert’s play this season. He is having the advantage of a full offseason, of  team activities, and mini camps this year that he did not have last year. During this time, he will be better able to adjust, to the offensive minded new Head Coach, Mike Mularkey‘s system, than he was to the defensive minded Jack Del Rio‘s system. Gabbert will also be able to take full advantage of the instructions, work outs, and conditioning his Quarterback Coach is putting him through, during this offseason. Conversely, not working with a Quarterback Coach, in the offseason last year, worked against Gabbert, as did the lack of an entire offseason program, due to the lockout. Moreover, working under an offensive minded coach will help Gabbert perform at a higher level. I expect the totality, of the training, and conditioning he is receiving, in this offseason, to bring a much improved, and better acclimated Blaine Gabbert, onto the field, lining up under center, in the 2012 season.

With the addition of Wide Receivers from Free Agency, and the draft Gabbert will have more, and hopefully better weapons to utilize down field. Jaguars fans have had dashed hopes at the Wide Receiver position since Jimmy Smith retired. I am hoping the addition of Blackmon via the draft, and Robinson via Free Agency will be the beginning, of bringing the greatness back, to these positions. A greatness that peaked when the Jaguars were fortunate enough to have a duo called “Thunder & Lightning”, in the combination of Jimmy Smith, and Keenan McCardell. Those were great days for Jaguars fans. If one was not open, former Jaguars QB Mark Brunell could throw to the other. Both of these players were tremendous athletes who constantly worked to get open, and stayed focused. The Jaguars have also signed additional players this year, at Wide Receiver, from the undrafted free agency pool. I hope out of all of these picks, and selections, along with whatever Wide Receivers are left over from last season, the team lines up a consistent down field, and slot threat, on the field this season. The only disappointment for this fan was the failure of the team to sign RFA Mario Manningham, of the Giants. Those who watched the Super Bowl should remember him by the great sideline catch he made to win the game. The Jaguars need players like that at WR, players with poise. I am keeping my hopes up that Owner Shad Khan, GM Gene Smith, and Head Coach Mike Mularkey have amassed a much improved Wide Receiver Corps , for the 2012 season. I expect no less.

Just so no one thinks I have forgotten. Tight End Marcedes Lewis is a big part of a successful offense. He is a big man, and he has soft hands. His is a good blocker, and a great Tight End. He struggled last year with dropped balls. I hope this is worked out in training camp, and he comes back this year better than he has ever been. I hope we get someone as good as he is lining up opposite him in the two TE formation, as well as backing him up. There has not been much said about this position, but I am sure there is much going on behind the scenes. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to catch game winning touchdowns. Consistency, consistency, consistency are the key words for him to remember coming into the 2012 season. He needs to stay healthy, and if he does get hurt I hope the team can do better than to field a re-tread from the past. We need a good backup for Lewis. Having said all of this, Marcedes has the makings of a future hall of fame Tight End, so long as he comes out playing quality football, on a consistent basis.

The running back situation seems to be solid, at this point; however, the team needs to be sure we have someone, somewhere, who can step in, and be a solid running back, in the event Jones – Drew gets hurt. Anyone who has followed his career knows he has played hurt, on several occasions. This should show the team the need for a solid back up Running Back, if nothing else does. Jones – Drew should not have to play hurt. He does so because he has the heart of a champion, and knows the team has better chances to win, if he is in, even playing hurt. I hope Coach Mularkey will put a stop to this dangerous practice, and have a solid back up, in case Jones – Drew does gets hurt, he can take time to heal, so he can be at peak performance, in the stretch, and hopefully the playoffs.

An improved Quarterback, a much improved Wide Receiver Corps, good blocks & catches from the Tight Ends, and a consistent performance, from the running game, should equal more points, for the Jaguars. More points should equate to more wins, depending on the level of play from the defense. I expect a high level of play from the defense, along with well conditioned, and healthy personnel. The team needs to come out playing great football, stay healthy, and peak in the last half of the season; including the playoffs. Anything less will be a disappointment, to say the least.

I will discuss Offensive Line issues, and the entire defense in my next “Jaguars Journal”.

Go Jags!

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