Walking Wounded Return Tonight

Jaguars fans will get to see defensive end Aaron Kampman and running back Maurice Jones-Drew for the first time this season. The team hopes to put together a better performance than they did Saturday night.

The Jaguars opened training camp with a lot of questions marks surrounding the team.

They enter the regular season with many of those questions unanswered, mainly because they haven't gotten their full team on the field yet.

The best offensive player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and one of their best defensive players, Aaron Kampman, spent the camp rehabbing injuries. Neither played before the final preseason game.

They also didn't get their starting defensive line on the field at the same time in a game.

Their right tackle, Eben Britton, missed most of camp with a back injury.

And if the third game is the dress rehearsal, it was not a good one for the Jaguars.

The first stringers fell behind 17-0 and then the backups couldn't hold a 15-point fourth period lead in a 35-32 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills.

"Not the beginning or ending that we were looking for," said coach Jack Del Rio.

Their pass defense was shredded by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who hadn't put a touchdown on the board in their first two preseason games. The Jaguars passing game was erratic as the first stringers got only one first down in their first three series.

The Jaguars put little pressure on Fitzpatrick and Del Rio said, "The quarterback looked a little too comfortable tonight, so we didn't really like looking at that."

The Jaguars were the only team in the league without a sack in their first three preseason games.

And David Garrard was not impressive in the second and third games after sitting out the first game with a back injury. His 60.8 passer rating was the same one rookie Blaine Gabbert had. But Gabbert isn't ready so the team will sink or swim with Garrard. And getting Jones-Drew back on a full-time basis for the regular season could give the offense a new look.

"Maurice is a special player," Garrard said. "So it definitely makes a difference. We're expecting a lot from (Jones-Drew), a lot from Marcedes (Lewis), a lot from the offensive line and a lot from myself. Just a lot from everybody if we want to be a championship team."

Garrard also liked the fact that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter kept sending in long pass plays.

"I'm excited about taking those shots," Garrard said.

The problem is he missed them, notably when he had Mike Thomas open for a touchdown down the right sideline and overthrew him.

"I just missed him," Garrard said. "Those are the things that you work on constantly during training camp."

Garrard isn't noted for being a good long thrower.

But they seem intent on trying them.

Garrard said, "We're going to get that opportunity quite often this year and we're going to be taking them (deep shots)."

Then there's the question of the pass rush.

When Del Rio was asked if it's going to improve, he said, "I'm not very good at predictions. We feel like we affected the guy last week (Matt Ryan). We didn't affect him very well tonight."

When Del Rio was asked if he wasn't that concerned about the pass rush, he said, "I just don't feel like getting riled up right now."

It remains to be seen if the return of some of their injured players will make a difference.

"It definitely hurt us a little us a little bit not to have a couple of our guys. Jeremy Mincey and Tyson Alualu are some big-time playmakers for us who can get pressure on the quarterbacks. To not have those guys, they were definitely missed," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said.

The Jaguars also had trouble giving up big plays last year and the Bills also made big plays downfield by isolating running back Fred Jackson on Posluszny for 30 yards and receiver Stevie Johnson on cornerback Rashean Mathis for a 52-yard touchdown strike.

Posluszny is noted as a good run defender who sometimes has problems in coverage, but he said he can make the play.

"I feel like the quarterback is going to have to put the ball on the money (to beat him) and I feel I can get the job done. It's tough. It's not easy for any linebacker to line up on a No. 2 receiver even though he's a running back," he said.

He added, "If the coaches feel I can't get the job done, they'll make an adjustment."

The good news for the Jaguars is they have time to make adjustments. Since they face Tennessee, Carolina and Cincinnati in the first, third and fifth games sandwiched around games with the Jets and Saints, they have a good shot at starting out no worse than 3-2 after five games.

They then start of five week stretch of at Pittsburgh, home on Monday night against Baltimore, at Houston, bye and at Indianapolis. That stretch will likely make or break their season.

And there is a lot at stake this year.

If the Jaguars don't make the playoffs, Del Rio and his staff could be fired and the Jaguars will start over.


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