JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser sets the table, examining key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to play the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 regular-season opener at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sunday at 1 p.m.
The buzz for this one is simple.
This is the regular-season opener. It’s time to get started.
It’s Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley’s second season, the team has embraced his competition/improvement-based approach as its identity and enthusiasm is high – for good reason. The defensive line is improved, and the defense overall is showing signs of being solid.
There are questions offensively. A young line struggled at times in the preseason, and the receiving corps – while talented – is young, too. That youth is one reason veteran
The Bortles-Henne conversation dominated the preseason, but the preseason is over. Henne is the starter, and the Jaguars will head to Philadelphia feeling good about their defense and feeling good about the direction of the franchise.
The offseason was impressive. Strides were made. Now, it’s time to play.
The Eagles are the NFC East favorite.
We’ll start there, because they’re the division favorites for a reason – and not just because many believe the division overall is down this season.
The Eagles are talented, particularly on offense. Nick Foles didn’t just “emerge” as the starting quarterback in Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach, he owned the role in stunning fashion, throwing 27 touchdowns to two interceptions for a league-best 119.1 passer rating. Foles benefitted from a running game that featured All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing last season and who may be the NFL’s most dangerous offensive player who is not a quarterback and not named Adrian Peterson.
The Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and while the receivers feature Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, the loss of Jackson is significant. The pass rush struggled at times last season and the unit as a whole finished 31st in the NFL. Still, there is talent on a defense that needs to improve to help a dynamic offense take the franchise past the first round of the playoffs.
Jaguars defensive line versus Eagles offensive line. The Jaguars deepened this unit in the offseason by signing
Jaguars middle linebacker
Jaguars offensive tackles
Three Jaguars to Watch
*Henne. All eyes will be on Henne Sunday. That’s true of any quarterback, but with rookie Bortles playing very, very well in the preseason, it’s particularly true of Henne early this season. The Jaguars like and trust his experience and leadership, but Henne knows as well as anyone he must continue to earn that trust. …
Keep an eye on …
*Fourth-year veteran Cameron Bradfield will start at right tackle Sunday in place of Pasztor, who is out at least the first two weeks of the season with a hand injury. Bradfield struggled at times in preseason, but has started 25 games in three seasons with the team. Fifth-year veteran
*Rookie second-round wide receiver