The Jacksonville Jaguars will enjoy the luxury of not having to face another loss this weekend, as the team takes some time to refresh their bodies during their mandatory bye week. As they prepare themselves for the remaining 11 games of the season, (my God we have to sit through 11 more games of this?!...sigh), the biggest question around the fan base is, "What can be done to save this season?".
While the answer to that question is likely, "Nothing", today we'll take a look at three things that while unlikely to happen, CAN get this old derailed train back on the tracks and heading toward looking like a NFL caliber team again.
So with that said, and with these having as much a chance at happening as a Nirvana reunion, humor yourself with the following three things needed to happen in order for the Jaguars to salvage the 2012 season.
1. Who's Your MotherF***er?
Free agent acquisition Lauren Robinson has made a lot of appearances at local sporting events in Jacksonville since his signing in March, unfortunately most of them haven't been in a Jaguars uniform at EverBank Field thus far. Following his third concussion this season, I've basically written off Robinson for at least the rest of this season. That means more playing time for the likes of Cecil Shorts and Kevin Elliott, and with that, needs to come production from the two young players and first round pick Justin Blackmon. With Robinson out against Chicago, the Jaguars did have success for 2 1/2 quarters, using Shorts and Elliott on the perimeter and letting Blackmon do what he does best in the slot. Shorts has thus far proven to be your best receiver and a legitimate deep threat when given the opportunity, so it's time to use him as such. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is a threat in the deep middle/seam as well, and has been open time and time again in the first five games. If this trio of receivers and Lewis can continue to get open with consistency and make plays that specifically Shorts and Lewis have flashed this season, then Blaine Gabbert should be able to have some confidence in his guys enough to keep evolving the passing game into a more vertical attack. Whether it translates into wins, who knows, but a more downfield approach has proven this season to make the Jags a much more competitive team on the field.
2. Calm Down, MotherF***er
Speaking of the offense, and the passing game in particular, Blaine Gabbert has shown for the most part that the mechanics and sloppy pocket presence that plagued him in 2011 have been pretty much worked out. Unfortunately, another issue has now reared it's head with the second year quarterback, and that is Gabbert's rushing of throws by hurrying up his "internal clock". This has led to some accuracy issues, but mostly the biggest loss from this has been Gabbert missing potential big plays down field instead choosing to just take the first read in order to avoid a potential hit. The offensive line didn't play as bad against Chicago as it had a week prior versus the Bengals, and if the line can gain some consistency going forward, it's going to be on Gabbert to settle down and find the right guy to make the play downfield. He's shown what can happen when he settles down and goes through his progressions, with regularity the offense can get rolling.
3. Hit That MotherF***er!
Let's face it, the term "Jaguars pass rush" has become an oxymoron over the last few years and it doesn't show any signs of changing. Veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey, who signed a nice sized contract to stay with the Jags in March, has been held sackless and the team's second round pick Andre Branch, has been demoted to a situational role after starting since the preseason. This week on the team's weekly radio show, we learned the "pass rushing" tackle, Tyson Alualu, is coming off microfracture surgery and is likely to never be the upfield monster the team had envisioned when it drafted him 10th overall, and the linebacker position is missing it's key pass rusher in Daryl Smith. So what would give any hope or sign that things could change? Well, for one, Smith is thought to be able to be ready to play again come next week as the team comes off the bye. That alone will be a huge boost for any blitz packages in Mel Tucker's plans, as he'll immediately improve over the inept Russell Allen. Historically, Mincey tends to come on in the second half of the season. In 2011, 7 of his 8 sacks came after Week 6. Same for 2010, when 4 of his 5 sacks came following the fifth game of the season. Speaking of history and second half surges, Branch does have a bit of Jags history on his side going forward. In Tony Brackens' rookie year, the best pass rusher in franchise history didn't register a sack until the fifth game of the season and didn't really begin to come on consistently as a pass rusher until game nine of his career, while also being used in a similar situational role. If both Mincey and Branch can replicate similar second half surges and Smith can remain healthy while returning to the production he is known for, the Jaguars can finally field at least a respectable enough pass rush to get the zepplin-like collapse of the once Top 10 defense turned around.