There will certainly be Broncos #15 jerseys in the crowd, but don't sell the Jacksonville fans short. The Jaguars will be the home team. The well-hidden truth is that Tebow didn't sell all that many tickets for this game. The Jaguars didn't sell any single-game seats for Sunday and those tickets that were purchased were by season ticket holders and "half-packs." Amazingly, the "half-pack" that didn't include the Denver game far outsold the ones which did.
Tell me a little bit about the improvements Jacksonville's made on the defensive line this year and what type of success do you see them having against the Broncos questionable running game at this stage?
The Jaguars had one of the worst defensive lines in football a season ago and they decided to spend much of their offseason focus on fixing it. They acquired Aaron Kampman via free agency and spent their first four draft picks on the line in Tyson Alualu, D'Anthony Smith, Larry Hart and Austen Lane. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is in his second season and he could be a top-five player at his position. Still, the Jaguars line is built more to rush the passer rather than stop the run, so they could be vulnerable if what is left of the Broncos offensive line can get bodies-on-bodies.
One of the most interesting matchups will be DE Aaron Kampman going up against Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady, with both players coming off recent knee surgery. What's Kampman shown this preseason and how effective do you think he'll be in the pass rush in his first game out?
Aaron Kampman's recovery has truly been amazing. The guy had ACL surgery in December and he was ready to go pretty much full-speed at the start of training camp. Kampman by his own admission still isn't at 100%, but he's the best defensive end that the team has had since Tony Brackens. Ryan Clady is a tall-task for any end as he was probably the best left tackle in the game a season ago. Without knowing the true severity of each player's injuries and how far along they are in their recoveries, I'll give an advantage to Clady.
Maurice Jones-Drew is undoubtedly one on the biggest weapons Jacksonville brings – going against a Broncos first team defense that held up fairly well during the preseason. How do you see this one playing out and will Garrard continue the run first approach that's proven to be so successful in the previous meetings?
The Jaguars have to use the "ground and pound" philosophy because that's all that works for them. Although the team's receiving corps is better than it's been in nearly a decade, quarterback David Garrard can only go through one read and if the game is dependant on his arm, it plays into the Broncos hands very strongly. Jacksonville will try and run at all costs and if they can establish the run they will utilize the play-action game. Most teams tend to wear down in the heat and humidity in Jacksonville in September, and the Jaguars are hoping to just wear down the Broncos on the ground.
What's the biggest concern Jacksonville has heading into this game and win or lose, what kind of impact does opening day have for the remainder of the Jaguars 2010 season?
The Jaguars have several concerns entering this game and this season, both offensively and defensively. On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback David Garrard has led the NFL in red zone turnovers over the past two seasons, and he must be careful with the football if they will have any success. Defensively, the Jaguars safety tandem of Anthony Smith and Sean Considine may be the worst pair in the league, and that will limit the team to what they can do defensively, in terms of blitzing.
Neither team is going to win their division or get eliminated from the playoffs upon the outcome of Sunday's contest, but this game is very big for the Jaguars. Jacksonville will be playing in front of a full-house and they need to show some first-time ticket buyers why they should come back. They must also convince the large contingent of Florida Gators fans that not selecting Tim Tebow was the proper course of action. Jacksonville has to travel to San Diego next week, followed by home dates against the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, all playoff teams from a year ago. They desperately need this victory to keep from getting behind the proverbial eight-ball early in the season.
Charlie Bernstein is the host of CB Sports on ESPN Radio 1420 in St. Augustine, and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
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