Tomorrow night the season officially starts for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though it is only a pre-season football game, there will be a lot that Jaguars fans will want to see Friday Night.
First and foremost I think the first team offense needs to be able to mount a scoring drive. In the past, we've seen the first team offense struggle to move the football. I don't expect Maurice Jones-Drew or Mike Sims-Walker to get a ton of playing time, but there should be enough firepower in their back ups to be sufficient for a pre-season game. Also, when I say scoring drive, I'm not talking about 45+ yard field goals.
David Garrard by all accounts had a strong ending to the joint practice sessions in Flowery Branch with the Atlanta Falcons. Early in training camp Garrard was up and down with his performance, but he ended it on a strong note in Atlanta. David Garrard needs to take that strong performance and carry it into the pre-season game and the couple series he will play. Much was made in the off-season about Garrard rededicating himself and preparing better than he had in years past, but so far it looks like the same up-and-down David. If he can string together the strong practices from Atlanta into a nice performance tomorrow night, it will be a very good sign in his maturation process and a great sign going forward. I know people hate when I say it, but this football team goes as Garrard goes.
Now, if he goes out and takes sacks and throws an interception... don't panic either. It's still just pre-season and game planning is at a minimum. Unfortunately for David Garrard, it appears if starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton will be held out of the game, leaving UDFA Kevin Haslem and veteran Jordan Black as the starting tackles. Even I can give David Garrard a pass with those guys working against Trent Cole and Brandon Graham.
Like David Garrard, I would like to see Mike Thomas take what he's done so far in training camp and show it in a live game. So far he has a death grip on the number two wide receiver position, and I believe he can lock it down with a strong performance. We will also need to see some of the other receivers like Troy Williamson and Tiquan Underwood do something. Head Coach Jack Del Rio has mentioned Williamson has turned it on since training camp has started, and it would be nice to see him carry that over into a game.
On the defensive side of the football, everyone wants to see a pass rush. I don't think I need to get into this too much, but someone needs to get a sack and someone needs to get pressure on a consistent basis. Simple as that. The Jaguars will be without first round pick Tyson Alualu however, which is very disappointing. I was pumped to watch him after watching a replay of the Cal vs. Minnesota game, where Alualu played outside linebacker, defensive end, and nosetackle at various times in the game.
The real thing to watch in the secondary will be the safety battle. We've talked about this almost as much as the quarterbacks, but it's a much more dire situation. Outside of Gerald Alexander it's a crapshoot. I have Anthony Smith as the starter, which he will be on Friday, but Sean Considine made a strong push in the scrimmage. Behind Alexander it looks like it's a battle between Tyron Brackenridge and Reggie Nelson for the back up position. Neither has really made any splashes in camp, but someone will need to in the game. It might be do or die time for Nelson.
Oh, and yes I did reference the best show on television in the title on purpose. Football season means a new season is right around the corner.