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Fabulous Four: Jaguars versus Buffalo Bills

Posted Nov 29, 2012

Senior writer John Oehser examines Jacksonville Jaguars-related topics from Shad Khan to Jason Babin to Rashad Jennings to Chad Henne

4. Addin’ Babin. We begin this pre-Buffalo Bills Fabulous Four with the biggest Jacksonville Jaguars news of the week – that is, the Wednesday waiver-wire acquisition of defensive end Jason Babin. The move at first glance is a departure for the Jaguars, who in recent seasons typically have avoided pursuing released veterans in favor of drafting and developing. Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey, asked late Wednesday if the move marked a change in philosophy, said it was more a case of signing a player who has been very successful the last three seasons. “Every day, we’re trying to improve our roster, to win now,” Mularkey said. “This was one we could use because we had had a lack of production (in the pass rush).” Babin, a first-round selection by Houston in 2004, played with four teams in his first six seasons, but registered 12.5 sacks in 2010 with Tennessee. He parlayed that into a five-year, $28 million contract with Philadelphia, and finished that season with 18 sacks, third in the NFL. While 5.5 sacks through 11 games this season was short of that pace, that would give him eight at the end of the season. That’s an upgrade for the Jaguars, who enter the Bills game tied for last in the NFL with 13 sacks. “Quarterbacks have been affected,” Mularkey said. “This last game (Tennessee) is an example of that. We’re just not seeing the number you’d like to see, but we’re closer than you think. We’re doing more disruption than you think.” Defensive end Jeremy Mincey, who led the Jaguars with eight sacks last season, said Wednesday afternoon he was happy with the move to acquire Babin and said it would help the entire defensive line, a sentiment with which Mularkey agreed. “That’s why we got him,” Mularkey said. “We think it can help production everywhere – complement other guys who are up front.” Mularkey said while Babin almost certainly will play Sunday, he doesn’t know yet if he will start.

3. Anniversary. We pause here to acknowledge a significant date in franchise history: the one-year anniversary of Shad Khan agreeing to purchase the Jaguars. That was also the day then-owner Wayne Weaver announced the firing of Head Coach Jack Del Rio, and few franchises in any professional sport have had a day so newsworthy. On this one-year anniversary, it also is significant to note that while 365 days is in some ways a long time, in the context of NFL ownership – and specifically, in learning how to be an NFL owner – it is short. Within two months of owning the team Khan had hired a new coaching staff, and throughout the first year, he has gone through the process of reshaping the business side of the franchise while also experiencing a decidedly difficult season on the field. When Khan met with local media early this month and said he didn’t plan to make quick-trigger decisions and that he instead planned to evaluate and make decisions with an eye on the long-term, this drew criticism from fans who wanted immediate change as a reaction to a rocky start. History indicates Khan’s approach is correct. The worst thing for a franchise is to react emotionally based on a small sample size. Khan in a year has shown he understands that, and mostly, he has shown a willingness to try to learn, analyze and make decisions for the right long-term reasons rather than on emotion. Khan at heart is an engineer, and looking at things analytically and logically is part of why he is one the world’s wealthiest men. Eventually, if change is needed, Khan will make changes, and on the year anniversary of his association with the team, it’s possible those changes could be pending. Or they may not. Whatever, all signs still point to his process being a positive one in the long-term for the franchise.

2. One more chance. Rashad Jennings will get something not every NFL player gets – a third chance in the same season to prove he can play at a starter’s level. Jennings, the Jaguars’ backup running back, entered Week 1 as a starter because of the holdout of Maurice Jones-Drew, and when Jennings sustained a knee injury in that game, he missed the next two games. He then got a second chance to start when Jones-Drew sustained a foot sprain October 21 at Oakland, but in the ensuing four games – all but two plays of Oakland and the next three games – he rushed for just 185 yards on 61 carries. Jennings told reporters this week he had been hesitant at times this season, and Mularkey agreed. “There was some of that,” Mularkey said. “In this game you could see hesitation. Unless the play is designed to have a little hesitation in the route, it’s really not a good outcome if you hesitate. You really don’t want to do that as a back or a returner, and if you do in this league it’s too fast and guys are going to be on you before you know it. That was what was happening.” Jennings this past Sunday played as a backup to Jalen Parmele, rushing for 43 yards on 16 carries, and with Parmele having been placed on injured reserve this week with a groin injury, Jennings will now make his sixth start of the season. Such opportunities are limited in an NFL career, and with the passing offense beginning to function, the Jaguars need Jennings to take advantage of this third chance.

1. And finally, a word on the quarterback. We turn our attention in this segment from Blaine Gabbert to Chad Henne, with an emphasis on what Mularkey made clear last week: if Henne plays well throughout the last six games, he has a very real chance to solidify his status as the team’s starting quarterback entering next season. That’s not to say Gabbert can’t win the job back, but if Henne plays well, it would seem there is little Gabbert could do between now and the regular season to show he should play over Henne. So, the question becomes, “Can Henne be a Guy?,” with Guy being that quarterback capable of manning a job long-term and building around. That’s what the final five games are about, but considering he has started 32 NFL games and is 27, it would seem he still has upside enough to deserve that opportunity. Henne has had stretches of production before, but he never has played consistently well for a half a season, which essentially is what he has a chance to do the rest of this season. So far, he has shown a knack for putting the ball where receivers can make plays, and this past Sunday, he was impressive in his ability to overcome early adversity and not make mistakes that caused things to snowball against the Jaguars. Can he do that consistently? The answer to that will forecast a lot about where Henne fits into the team’s future at the most important position.

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