Jacksonville v. Tampa
Preseason football is such a problem. No, this isn't the "too many games debate" that's been making its yearly rounds. My problem comes from the fact that it is simply useless for casual fans. The games are full price for half the talent. The focus is for coaches to see how b-list and c-list players can do at full speed. The game plans are basic, the best players just play to stay healthy, and there is not a strong correlation between winning in the preseason and winning in the regular. The Colts (ugh) went 0-8 the previous two seasons and look at their season.
Anyhow, my point is that preseason football is not fan friendly, no matter how the networks try to hype it. It's still unknowns battling unknowns for their job, but it's damn hard to make it matter when people are looking at the scoreboard.
Today is the 3rd preseason game for the Jags. Game one was a very entertaining rout of the Dolphins with some teases of big offense (albeit from our second and third string) with 4 TD's from 50 yards or further. Game two (analyzed here for your reading pleasure), was less than satisfactory with some awful line play. Today's game is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season as most starters of note will ride the pine for the 4th game. What you see here should be 3 quarters of actual first team play with a larger playbook.
Here's what to look for out of the Jags
1. Run the ball and Stop the Run. The biggest discussion in Jax over this off season has revolved around the status of our Wide Receivers after the abrupt retirement of the legendary Jimmy Smith. While the WR position has some important questions, Jacksonville is not a finess passing team, we're a smash mouth Run the Ball Stop the Run team. Tampa had a top ten pass rush last year, let's be sure to show them that Taylor, Jones, and Jones-Drew are the primary offensive threats.
2. Defensive Stopping. As simple as that. Jacksonville talks about its vaunted defense, so let's see some 3 and out's. Let's make sure that Tampa's punting unit gets enough practice. This is a good chance for LB Brian Iwuh and Safety Jamaal Fudge to show their stuff against a developing offense and keeping the Caddy in the garage. (I promise I will never use that cliché again)
3. The Wide Receivers. Ok, I said it was all about stopping the run and running the ball. BUT, yeah we do need to show that our WR's are capable of putting pressure on the secondary, both to open lanes in the Game (i.e. preventing teams from cheating toward the box) and in giving us a deep threat to blow the game open. Del Rio has designated Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford AND Reggie Williams as our starting WR's which indicates that we're doing a lot of 3 WR sets to offset the injured Marcades Lewis at tight end.
4. A good clean game. As a former thespian, I know the importance of a solid dress rehearsal. The Jags need to show good communication before the snap, they need to shoe their cool in the face of pressure, and they need to limit their penalties. They have 19 in the last two games, that's awful. Byron needs to be sure and check down like he's been in the last two games but without forcing it into an INT. Keep it clean and stay healthy, that's the key here.
Our good friends at the Florida Times Union tell me that the following players are out of action
That's that. The Game is at 8 eastern time, I don't think it's national, so keep an eye out for the NFL network to show it at 3 am, or some other awful late time. I'll open up another post for live chat and commentary during the game, and if my TIVO works, some film breakdown tomorrow.