JACKSONVILLE – Here’s this week’s Wednesday primer.
Each Wednesday morning during the 2013 season, jaguars.com senior John Oehser will set the stage for the Jaguars’ Wednesday media access by previewing major topics facing the team that day. Each Wednesday afternoon/evening, he will break down what was learned from Jaguars players and coaches that day.
Here’s a look at five key Wednesday topics as the Jaguars prepare for the St. Louis Rams . . .
1. Is this a new Justin Blackmon? The second-year wide receiver is returning from a four-game suspension to start the season. The Jaguars’ offense struggled in Blackmon’s absence. A lot of it has been an inability to run, but Blackmon’s absence has hurt, too, allowing defenses to focus coverages on wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. The Jaguars rank 30th in the NFL in passing offense through four games, and while the line has struggled at times to protect, at least some of the inefficiency can be traced to the absence of a player who caught 64 passes for 865 yards last season. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley talked this week about being impressed with Blackmon’s approach while suspended. He couldn’t practice, but he has improved his body fat and gained quality weight. Is this a refocused player? Time will tell, but it will be a topic Wednesday.
2. Luke Joeckel changing sides. With a trade of Eugene Monroe being widely reported, it appears rookie tackle Luke Joeckel could move from the right to the left side. That’s where Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, played at Texas A&M and that’s where many believed he would play on a long-term basis in the NFL. Third-year veteran Cameron Bradfield likely will move into the starting role on the right side. How ready is Joeckel? Will the move benefit him? Team policy prevents jaguars.com from officially reporting trades until they are official.
3. How do the Jaguars react? The Jaguars by any measure have struggled on the field this season. They are 0-4, with all four losses by double digits, and they lost to the Colts, 37-3, this past Sunday. There has been criticism levied at all levels, with Bradley emphasizing the positives and also emphasizing continuing to improve every day. Bradley also said early this week that competitiveness must be accompanied by better execution. That’s a bit of new focus for Bradley, and it’s a message you can expect players to address this week.
4. Will Gabbert respond? Quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggled statistically Sunday, completing 17 of 32 passes for 179 yards and no touchdowns with three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Bradley supported Gabbert strongly following the loss, and heightened that support the following day. Gabbert will start Sunday, and he has the backing if his coach. How much does that backing help? What does it mean to Gabbert?
5. Will Dwight Lowery play? Injury issues can be found in several places on the roster, but Lowery’s is perhaps the most pressing. He missed the Colts loss with a concussion sustained the previous week, and he was scheduled to be reevaluated Tuesday. If Lowery doesn’t play, then look for rookie Josh Evans to start a second consecutive game alongside rookie Johnathan Cyprien at safety. Like Lowery, wide receiver Stephen Burton began the week in the concussion program, with cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) expected to miss a fourth consecutive game. Wide receiver Denard Robinson (hamstring) will begin the week limited, as will cornerback Alan Ball. Tight end Marcedes Lewis left the Colts loss after irritating the calf injury that kept him out the first three games and his status also will be evaluated this week.