After finally getting off the schneid last week against the Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars come home for the second time in 2012 to take on the 2-1 Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field this Sunday.
Cincinnati comes in riding what's been a wide-open passing attack led by their soulless quarterback, Andy
Pennington Dalton, along with the sensational second-year wide receiver and former University of Georgia standout, A.J. Green. Though the offense will be a viable threat to the Jaguars on Sunday, this is more or less the same Bengals team that the Jaguars were a couple of bone-headed "Del Rio-era plays" away from beating at home, roughly this same time last year.
With both teams ending the first "quarter pole" of the 2012 season following this game, and the possibility of both teams ending September at .500 and well in the race towards January, this has the makings of what could be a pivotal conference game for both teams when all is said and done. With that said, here are three things to watch for the Jaguars, as they take the field on Sunday.
1. Shiny New Blocks
With news this week that starting right tackle Cameron Bradfield and starting left guard Eben Britton were both in full pads at practice, Bradfield fully participating and Britton limited, the Jaguars seem to enter this game with at least 4/5 of their starting offensive line in place for the first time since the second quarter in Minnesota. That news couldn't have come at a better time, as the offense and in particular the passing game, have sputtered along more than Lindsey Lohan's sobriety in the last two and a half games. Bradfield's return is as big as any, as Guy Whimper has struggled to do anything more than be a gentleman and a scholar against the opposing defensive end since taking over following Bradfield's injury, and especially with sack specialist Carlos Dunlap likely returning to the Bengals line up Sunday . If only Bradfield at the least can play, it should allow quarterback Blaine Gabbert some much needed comfort to produce more down field plays in the passing offense. That alone should lead to more points on the field, and a happier contingent of Jaguars fans, win or lose.
2. Rushmen?, More Like SUCKmen!...Am I Right?!?
Does anyone remember what a defensive end on the Jaguars getting a sack looks like? Yeah, me neither. Three games into the 2012 regular season, the Jaguars have recorded a total of TWO sacks, none of which have been produced by the $5,000,000 2012 cap hit group of defensive ends. For those of you scoring at home, that ranks the Jaguars "DAL" in the league. For proper perspective on just how bad the defensive line has been at getting to the quarterback, the Seattle Seahawks tripled the Jags total for the year last Monday night, in one half. While there were instances last week where the Jags, "Rushmen", had a chance to bring down Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck, they left Indy without registering a sack in 46 drop backs by the qb. They finished the game with only 6 tabulated "hurries". This was against a Colts line that for most of the game was without it's starting center and not exactly the 90's Cowboys, and a rookie QB who tends to hold on to the ball more than he should at times. If the Jaguars are to have any chance at all on Sunday, against a Bengals passing attack that enters the game ranked 4th in the NFL, the defensive line has to do a hell of a lot more than whisper sweet nothings into Dalton's ear as they pass him by.
3. King Fred
This is a little special edition to the "Three to Watch" this week, and allow me if you will an outlet here to step away from the football analysis and humor, and get slightly personal. Sunday the Jaguars will induct former running back Fred Taylor into the "Pride of the Jaguars". As a Jaguars and Gators fan, I had the privilege of watching Taylor, going back to his days making highlight reel plays in The Swamp during the Gators time when they had finally entered the national spotlight as a major powerhouse. I was excited when the Jaguars took him 9th overall in the '98 draft, and as Fred began to break off big play after big play, he easily became my favorite Jaguar and NFL player overall. It's been well covered this week and the highlights of Fred's Jaguars career are well known, but throughout his time here, both good and at times bad, Taylor represented Jacksonville with a mixture of class and a touch of bad-ass. Personally, I'm gonna be a little emotional seeing him get inducted at halftime. Sometimes, mostly out of nostalgia, we see favorite players and moments in games as "mile markers" in our lives. For me, Fred's career as a Jag provided many such markers in my time as a young adult. Congratulations, Fred, you are the simply the best to ever don the Jaguars logo on your jersey. This honor is very much a well deserved one.