It has been 222 days since we last watched the Jaguars suit up in frigid Cleveland, OH. For some that pasty sour milk taste still lingers, coating the teeth and tongue. I know I have been rinsing with gasoline just trying to rid my jowls of the flavor from losing 5 of the final 6 games.
Starting today hope springs eternal and our beloved Jaguars will battle the Philadelphia Eagles, marking the team's first step towards, at least, a respectable season. Regardless of your post-season expectations, tonight will give you a feel for whether to focus more on the Jaguars or your fantasy team.
You will read and hear many opinions about what the story lines are for this evening's game. For Jacksonville they vary from the defensive coaches (Mel Tucker and Joe Cullen) to David Garrard and his receivers to the pass rush. For Philadelphia the main focus will be on Kevin Kolb along with questions as to their defense, specifically defensive back.
But those are rather obvious focal points. I think there are 7 components to the game which may be flying under the radar. You can read those after the jump.
- Blackouts: How many times do you think the announcers will mention the Jaguars' ticket situation and\or the team moving? If you want to really make this a fun game (and you're old enough and have a designated driver), take a drink each time it is mentioned. Or punch your friend. Or both. With the potential interest in the game waning by roughly mid-third quarter, these guys will begin talking about anything. You may find yourself throwing up in the bathroom while icing that deltoid.
- First team 1st downs: Last year the Jaguars opened at Miami with the first team having the ball for three series in the 1st quarter. They ran 11 plays and got one first down (a Torry Holt 2nd down reception on the last series). In 2008 Jacksonville hosted Atlanta where they were basically four and out for the first two series (save a long second down and first down run on the respective series) and then put together a nice scoring drive on his final series. Confidence will be low if the first quarter ends with punting yards being greater than yards from scrimmage.
- Challenges: I want both coaches to exhaust their available challenges. I don't care how long it extends the game, but they have to be legitimate. Last year we saw some absolutely ridiculous red flags thrown, thereby wasting much needed time outs. At least once I heard my dog sigh after Jack challenged a play he had no chance of winning. I wish I could remember the game but if memory serves he laughed when he realized how obvious it was. Preseason is for the coaches too and I want to see how their communication paths are working.
- Dancing Drew: 3 - 4 - 1. Those are the number of times MJD has touched the ball in the preseason opener the past three years. One of the greatest highlights of any Jaguar game is that moment when our beloved #32 crossed the goal line. It is then we get entertained with a brief dance move followed by kisses to the crowd. I don't care how it happens but get him in the end zone on the first drive. Do you hear that offensive line?! I grew my beard out for this team last year and got nothing. You owe me some preseason happy and I am officially collecting.
- NAN: That is not a typo. It is not supposed to be NIN (Nine Inch Nails). I have decided to coin a phrase that I hope is not used at all this season but that I fear will be. Not Again Nelson. Rather than speak his name, this will allow you to save your breath, and a syllable or two, by simply shouting "NAN!" when he misses a tackle, is out of coverage, gets beat on the play or commits a penalty. You can even work it into profanity: "God NAN it!" or "Are you NAN'ing kidding me!". Don't get me wrong, I really like him and I want him to succeed but my support for him has thus far made me look like a fool so I am preparing for the worse.
- Eagle Upchuck: Back in 2002 the Eagles paid a visit to Alltel stadium. During the game (a Jaguar victory), Donovan McNabb emptied the contacts of his stomach on the playing field. Flash forward to April of this year and we find a Philadelphia Phillies fan induces himself to vomit on a Washington Nationals fan (an 11 year old girl). The City of Brotherly Love is well known as an inhospitable environment so visiting Jaguar fans should best beware of your green and silver neighbors. With McNabb now in Washington the Jacksonville players may be safe but you never know whose conditioning may not quite be game ready.
- TV 47: How much of the game will we miss because of a technical glitch?