Here it is, the moment we've all been waiting for. It feels odd to say that about a preseason game, since we so often brush these games under the rug, but the truth is, this is an exciting and important day for the franchise. We get a chance to see the 2011 Jaguars in live, game action for the first time ever. So, what should the fans be looking for?
1. Blaine Gabbert's Decision Making: The rookie QB of the golden hair will get his shot very early. Unfortunately, that shot is coming against a Bill Belichick defense which is know for confounding and confusing even the best quarterbacks. Gabbert has a great arm with all the strength you could ask for and once he gets the little timing things worked out with his receivers, he'll do great. For now, all we need is to know that he sees the field and can find the open man. Even if he can't get the ball there every time, if he can read a Belichick defense after just a week and a half... wow.2. Right Tackle play: This could be a big one. When Britton was drafted, there were some who thought he lacked the foot quickness to be a great Tackle. When he's played in his career, he's struggled against speed rushers. He won't be playing this week with back soreness (read: sub-par play). The Jaguars have added Tony Moll in recent days, who is a big, beefy tackle who played for the Packers and Ravens. Him, along with Daniel Baldridge (who's gigantic and powerful) should make the RT position less of a worry. The team will be cycling those guys as well as Guy Whimper into the RT spot today. It's something to watch out for.
3. WRs, Jason Hill specifically: Wide Receiver has been an area of concern for a great many fans this offseason. The Jaguars have chosen to avoid big-name pickups, or really any pickups, and rely on their unproven guys to at receiver. With Thomas and Shorts, we've heard positive things, but there's been less chatter about Jarrett Dillard or Jason Hill. Gene Smith commented on Jason Hill, saying he's probably being affected by the Florida humidity. For those who don't speak Coach, that roughly translates as "I'm giving him a little time to sort this out, but he better sort it out quick." He'll be the number one starter during tonight's game.
Bonus pick: Euguene Monroe. I've watched him the last few preseasons and it is so. much. fun. He has incredibly quick footwork, especially for a guy his size. You can watch him for just a few plays and see how good he could be in pass protection.
1. New Guys: The Jaguars added two punishing linebackers in Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, as well as Dawan Landry at safety. So far, they've had minimal time out on the field, but in this game we should see a defense that's totally unrecognizable from last year. Good thing, too. Just keep your eyes open for numbers 51, 55, and 26. Odds are, they'll be all over the place.
2. Austen Lane: Just what everyone else is saying. Last year, Lane had a pretty average rookie year. Of course, he's had an impressive camp, to the point where he had coaches and fans raving about his potential for the upcoming year. Let's see if he can turn that potential into production. The rest of the pass rush is important as well. The Jaguars would like to build a NY Giants-esque defensive line, rotating players constantly in and out to keep them fresh. If Jeremy Mincey or even undrafted rookie Mark Schiechl can get some pass rush as well, the Jags could be a 40 sack team this coming year.
3.Derek Cox: Personally, I think Cox has a lot of talent at the CB position, however he had some troubles early in the season that got him benched by the coaches. It's never too early to check up on a guy with all the talent in the world. The Pats have a legendary QB, but pretty average receivers. Can Cox stick his man and not get beat?
BONUS PICK: Rashean Mathis vs. Chad Ochocinco. Back in his Cincinnati days, Ochocinco stirred up a little beef with Rashean. He kept a chart in the locker room, listing who he was going to torch each week with an empty check box next to each name. When he faced the Jaguars, he was quoted as saying " 'Shean Mathis, you know him?" (pause for dramatic effect) "Me neither..." Needless to say, Rashean did not appreciate that statement. It'll be interesting to see if Rashean remembers this incident. For a while, I had forgotten about it myself.
All in all, this is just a preseason game, so good or bad, there's not much that can be taken away from the game. What you want to see is players doing their jobs. The score doesn't matter, what matters is how well the players can know what they are supposed to do and not get hurt. The Jaguars are travelling to New England without five of their most valuable players in Aaron Kampman, Maurice Jones-Drew, David Garrard, Marcedes Lewis and Terrance Knighton. This isn't a game to want to win, just a game to take a few notes on.