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Fabulous Four: Quiet week edition

Posted May 8, 2013

Senior writer John Oehser examines topics from Marcus Trufant, Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts III to Blaine Gabbert and the rest of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterbacks

4. Trufant perspective. We begin this “Quiet Week” – post-rookie minicamp and pre-Organized Team Activities – Fabulous Four with the recent signing of cornerback Marcus Trufant. The signing Tuesday raised questions about Trufant’s role, how it relates to not resigning cornerback Derek Cox, and why the Jaguars would sign an 11-year veteran when other free-agent signings have been in the 26-to-27-year-old range. The Trufant signing isn’t about “replacing” Cox, nor is it about a lack of faith in three cornerbacks selected in the recent 2013 NFL Draft. Cox at times played at a very high level the last two seasons, but his inability to be on the field consistently was a factor in the Jaguars not making more of an effort to retain him. This team is trying to grow, and an unreliable “core” player wasn’t ideal. Trufant isn’t signed to be a core player. That’s not to say he can’t play a significant role, but he’s entering his 11th season and it’s tough to project him as a four-year starter. He will compete for playing time, and he has a chance to have an on-field role – most likely as a nickel corner, or as a veteran player available for the other two spots. But it’s no accident that Trufant played the last four seasons in Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley’s defense in Seattle. He knows the defense well, and knows how Bradley wants corners to play within it. He can help teach while competing, a significant factor in his signing.

3. It is not happening. Even if he’s released.

2. Don’t forget your Shorts. The recent suspension of wide receiver Justin Blackmon understandably has raised concern among fans, and no question the second-year veteran’s four-game absence isn’t ideal to start a new season with a new head coach, new general manager and new . . . well, new just about *everything.* But while the Jaguars will miss Blackmon, those expressing concern that the Jaguars are without their best receiver for the first four games next season may be going too far. Blackmon improved over the last eight games last season and certainly showed during November and December that he has a chance to be a productive player if he stays focused and continues to develop. But while Blackmon led all rookies with 64 receptions for 865 yards while also catching five touchdowns, Cecil Shorts III finished last season with 979 yards receiving on 55 receptions – a 17.8-yard average – with seven touchdown receptions. He did so playing 14 games, and starting just nine. There realistically isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 receiver on the Jaguars’ roster right now, but to assume they are entering next season without their best receiver is to assume something that might not necessarily be the case.

1. And finally . . . a word on the quarterback. Will we ever get away from this topic as the Fabulous Four closes? Not until the quarterback situation is solidified. The questions roll in, day after day: Who will start at quarterback for the Jaguars next season? Who has the edge? Will it be Blaine Gabbert, or Chad Henne or someone else? Here’s how it breaks down: The Jaguars enter next week’s organized team activities with no official starter at the position, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley has made it clear that for this season at least, all starting positions are about competition. The guess here is Gabbert wins the starting job with Henne as the backup. It’s not correct to say the Jaguars “hope” this happens, because what the Jaguars hope happens is that the best player wins. But it is correct to say the Jaguars’ new decision-makers believe Gabbert has the potential to play well, and that if he does win the job he has a chance to play significantly better with an improved offensive line. That’s what the drafting of Luke Joeckel and the ensuing stories about how Gabbert was significantly better the less he was pressured were all about. Jaguars Senior Vice President, Football Technology and Analytics Tony Khan broke down Gabbert’s passer rating with 2.6 seconds to throw compared to 2.5 seconds and so on, and found that he was significantly more effective even with what might seem like small increments longer to throw. Again, this is not to say that Gabbert is being handed anything, but it does speak to the Jaguars wanting to get a clearer idea of exactly what he can become should he win the job. As for the two undrafted free agents brought in last weekend, Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers, it appeared Scott was a bit further ahead. If you had to guess now, one of them is the third quarterback or a practice squad guy. That’s the rundown entering OTAs. Check back in mid-June.

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