|Date:||August 11th, 2011
|Time:||7:30 PM EST
|SBN Coverage:||Pats Pulpit|
And so it begins...
With the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game that was set to be played August 7, the matchup of the Patriots and Jaguars coupled with the matchup of the Ravens and Eagles will officially kickoff the 2011 preseason.
The principle and most interesting storyline of the night will be the performance of the first round pick of the Jaguars, Blaine Gabbert. Although he has about two weeks of practice and a team scrimmage under his belt, this will be his first real debut with the Jaguars. For most of the nation, this will be their first time seeing Gabbert in action.
While he will certainly be under the microscope, there is little doubt that his hair will live up to the billing:
Also interesting to watch, will be the performance of the Jacksonville pass rush. Despite adding four defensive ends to the roster through veteran free agency, the draft and undrafted free agency in the 2010 offseason and nearly doubling their 2009 sack total, the Jaguars still finished in a tie for 31st in sacks.
Reports from those that have attended training camp have indicated that there has been growth from Austen Lane and Aaron Morgan. Aaron Kampman has also made progress on his recovery from a second ACL tear in as many years. However, the addition of Matt Roth to the defensive line rotation provides some interesting possibilities in the rotation and creates another potential camp battle for a starting spot.
Tonight's game also provides the debut of the revamped Jaguars linebacking corps, featuring the new additions of Paul Posluszny and Clint Session. Unfortunately there isn't much proven depth after the three starting linebackers, so the performance of the second and third team players will be interesting.
On the topic of unproven, the group of Jacksonville wide receivers will certainly be analyzed and scutinized. Third year receiver Mike Thomas is arguably the only receiver with any kind of rapport with the team strong enough to warrant the trust of the fans. The other expected starter, Jason Hill, has been a disappointment in camp thus far. Behind them is rookie Cecil Shorts, the oft-injured Jarett Dillard, special teams ace Kassim Osgood and a slew of undrafted rookies among others.
Ultimately fans should expect sloppiness. During a usual season, players would have had mini-camps and OTA's to get and stay in shape. Rookies and free agents would have also had plenty of time to look over their playbooks and work with coaches to bring themselves up to speed. Instead we will watch what happens when players have just a handful of days to learn what's going on. I'd be willing to bet that not all of them will.
Regardless, football is back and I'm excited to see Sunshine in action.