The Jacksonville Jaguars take to the road this Sunday, hoping to notch their first victory of the season against their division rivals, the Indianapolis Colts.
Following a loss against Houston last week, in which the team was a flat out embarrassment, the Jaguars will no doubt be energized to attempt and show that what the team's fans saw in that game was an aberration and there is still a proverbial "arrow" pointing in the right direction.
The Colts meanwhile, are coming off the first win of the Andrew Luck Era, after defeating the Minnesota Vikings in come from behind fashion last week in their home opener. With the Jaguars team entering the game at 0-2 and still trying to heal from a terrible loss and a continually flooded injury report, Indianapolis must certainly believe this is a game that is ripe for the taking.
Both teams match up fairly well with each other, and despite the Jags winning both times last year against a Curtis Painter-led Colts team, the wins were never a sure thing. Having said that, let's take a look at three things to keep an eye on for the Jaguars this Sunday in Indy.
1. Cox and Buttocks
Sunday will likely bring resolution to two high-profile injuries that have plagued the Jaguars this week, with the return of corner back Derek Cox to the starting line up and quarterback Blaine Gabbert returning to action, following him having to sit out most of the fourth quarter last week with what was ruled as a glute (butt) injury. While it was almost never in doubt that Gabbert would start Sunday, his accuracy did take a slight step back in the Texans game. Whether or not the injury had anything to do with that will likely remain a mystery, but since it did occur on his plant foot, it'll be something to keep an eye on during the course of the game Sunday. The return of Cox, however, is a huge boost to what has been a more than disappointing defense two weeks into the 2012 season. Cox starting, allows Rashean Mathis to likely return to the opposite starting side, and lets Aaron Ross return to being more of a role-player as the third corner, that better fits his skill set. Though the Colts' Reggie Wayne doesn't offer the explosive play making ability he once did at receiver, he's still a force that has killed the Jaguars almost every time they've faced him. The Colts also offer veteran Donnie Avery and rookie TY Hilton as outside threats, and both have the ability to do some good things when given the opportunity, making Cox's return one that couldn't have come a moment too soon.
2. Hairy Situation
What came first, the slow, out of position linebacker or the blown tackle by the slow, out of position linebacker? I don't have the answer, and apparently neither do the Jaguars, as for another week the team will trot out the trio of Russell Allen, Paul Posluszny, and Kyle Bosworth for the starting linebacker corps. Posluszny aside, cause he's actually a NFL capable starting backer, the two guys manning the outsides of the trio have been completely inept. Neither player possesses the speed to make up for any errors in alignment or fits, and so far, there has been an abundance of mistakes made by the group. The usual starters, Daryl Smith and Clint Session, are nowhere near an impending return, according to all sources close to the team. Following the Vikings game where tight end Kyle Rudolph made some clutch plays and ran freely for most of the day, the Texans abused the group even more last week as they attacked with repetitive tight end/"Y" screen throws that the Mandarin High School varsity team could've ran with success against this unit. That's not a comforting thought for this week, as the Colts have two very talented rookie tight ends, in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Jaguars fans must hope for a much improved performance by this group overall, but that is a 50/50 proposition at this point.
3. Blackmon Returns?
We've all heard/seen shirts and quips playing on Justin Blackmon's last name with the "Batman" moniker this summer. Well, someone might wanna fire up the lamp on Blackmon's "bat signal", cause in two games the rookie has been next to non-existent. Some of this is a rookie adapting to the speed of regular season NFL football, and some is that Gabbert has simply been targeting others by design, but what showed up more than a few times last week vs. Houston, was the lack of ability to separate from the defender. A lack of deep threat speed was a big knock on him coming out of college, however, in the preseason Blackmon showed the ability to create his own separation and find the openings in the opponent's defense. In two weeks, the opposing defense hasn't really done anything to specifically plan for defending Blackmon, he's just simply been outplayed. While it's nothing to start ringing the panic bell about, as it's a rookie entering his third career game, it's clear that he must regain the confidence he showed in August and begin to become a consistent contributor to this passing game for it, and in turn the team, to succeed.