WEEK 8: vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Date: Sunday, Oct. 28. Time: noon. TV: CBS.
2011 record: 5-11. Points scored: 243 (28th). Points against: 329 (11th).
Noteworthy: The Jaguars seemingly have been rebuilding since 1999, with just two playoff seasons and five seasons of 10-plus losses during that span. Jacksonville is trying to find out if Blaine Gabbert can be a legitimate quarterback or if he'll be yet another first-round bust, and they're hoping that their sixth-ranked defense from a season ago can equal their 2011 exploits to keep one of the league's worst offenses competitive in games. The series: The wind chill was minus-12 when the Jaguars won their only trip to Green Bay, 28-25 in 2004.
TRAINING CAMP GOALS
1. Solidify the passing game. This phase of the Jaguars' offense should be light-years ahead of where it was a year ago now that Gabbert has a year's experience behind him and is receiving much better coaching than what he got in his rookie season. Add in the fact that he has three receivers who are better than anyone the Jaguars had on their roster a year ago and it means Jacksonville no longer will occupy the 32nd spot in team passing. Tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller should be more valuable this year in that they'll be used in a more effective manner. A healthy Eben Britton returning to his starting spot at right tackle strengthens the offensive line and should give Gabbert better protection than he had a year ago.
2. Build the quality and depth of the defensive line. There were far too many holes along the defensive front a year ago, even with Jacksonville finishing with a No. 6 overall ranking on defense. Of the nine linemen that finished the season with the Jaguars, only four are considered sure bets to be on this year's roster. The tackles, Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu, are young and talented but have concerns. Knighton had eye surgery after an off-the-field fracas at a nightclub in April and Alualu had knee surgery after the season. Jeremy Mincey signed a contract extension and is set at one end and C.J. Mosley is solid as a backup at tackle. But beyond that, the Jaguars will have to find a mix of veterans and rookies to fill in at the other starting end spot and for depth.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Wide receiver Justin Blackmon. In Blackmon's case, he'll need to be watched on and off the field. There's no denying his talent. He has NFL-type hands, speed, leaping ability and mental toughness. That's why the Jaguars moved up the draft board to take him as the No. 5 overall pick. On the downside, there were too many occasions during the team's spring drills where Blackmon was confused about his route. He was able to get away with such a deficiency in college based on his skills alone. That won't fly at this level. Plus, Blackmon's arrest for aggravated DUI the weekend after team OTAs ended is a major concern. His indiscretion - the second such happening in a 15-month time frame - is an indication the team will have to monitor his time away from the field.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You can tie the Jaguars' chances of improving on a 5-11 record a year ago directly to Gabbert's improvement. He finished at or near the bottom of the quarterback rankings in most categories last year in his rookie season. Despite some woeful numbers and performances, the Jaguars have not lost confidence in their 22-year-old quarterback. They feel with the proper coaching, with an improved group of receivers and with a year's experience at this level, he'll be better. Gabbert will have all three items with him entering the season. If he improves like the staff feels he will, the Jaguars will, as well. If he doesn't progress, it will be another long season for the team.
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