A good step forward

Happy anniversary . . . figure it out.

Let's get to it . . . James from Destin, FL:
I liked what I saw on our first series Friday. Blaine Gabbert has improved. We will be fine even if BOO JONES is a NO SHOW. My question is about Jordan Palmer. He looked better than Chad Henne. Could this be because it was only a preseason game and Henne was playing against a better Giants defense? I really like what I saw with the whole team even including you John.
John: Yes, Gabbert is improved. We'll be monitoring that through the week and the month and the year, but if you're not thinking there has been progress and that there is a high ceiling then you're probably just being unreasonable. Your question about Palmer is a legitimate one, although I always caution against overexcitement about reserve quarterbacks against reserve defenses in preseason games. Every year in NFL cities across the country fans clamor for quarterbacks who are productive as the evening wears on and the crowd thins. It is very hard to judge quarterbacks based on their performance at this time. If I recall correctly, we had something close to this the last few seasons in Jacksonville, and the result was a groundswell of support for a certain backup quarterback. This is no knock on that backup, but that didn't work out as many hoped. Palmer looked good, but Henne had a couple of good throws and has looked better in practice lately than in the beginning. But right now, there's no backup quarterback controversy.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
B.Anger is a badass. I'm starting a fanclub, The Angry Mob.
John: That just might stick.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Many of the same fans calling for the release of Zach Miller have probably also asked you, in a hopeful tone, how D'Anthony Smith is coming along. So far, Smith's situation is the perfect illustration of what the Jags have been trying (and should be trying) to do with Miller.
John: No doubt. Injuries to young players are tricky. Sometimes, a guy has had a couple of injuries and sometimes a guy is incapable of staying healthy. Usually, there isn't a lot of negative to giving a situation time to find out which is which.
Bruce Wayne from Gotham:
Batman or Superman?
John: Underdog.
Renee from Jacksonville and Section 104:
I really enjoyed watching a PRESEASON game! I will try to keep it in perspective. So when the thought of, "I wonder what the national pundits will say" floated into my consciousness, I asked myself... why I am looking for validation from a national media that really has no vested interest in the Jaguars? I am going to watch my team, enjoy its growth and engage/read/listen to those who do have a genuine interest. Thank you for keeping the Jaguars Nation informed and John, please, make me take off my "teal " colored glassed every once in a while.
John: Your perspective is exactly right, rare though it may be. I hope for your sake it is not fleeting. The best advice I can give when it comes to the national media remains the advice I always have given. View the pundits for entertainment. Remember they do not know the Jaguars as well as local media. Perhaps they do not know the Jaguars as well as you do. In most cases, the latter is true. And yes, above all, enjoy the growth. Have fun with it. That's supposed to be what this is about.
Jeff from Starke, FL:
Gabbert scared? Ever wonder why people don't turn onto roads when they see "Wrong Way" signs? I think those guys are pretty smart – not sure about scared. What I saw Friday compared to the previous couple of seasons was this: It wasn't a constant struggle. I believed in the wide receivers for the first time in a while. Good first effort.
John: The play on which Gabbert supposedly ducked was a play on which any quarterback in the league would have thrown, then protected himself. To do anything else would have been stupid. And nearly as much as Gabbert, the play of the receivers was encouraging for the Jaguars Friday. It appears they have two or three – maybe four – guys who can get open consistently. That's an upgrade.
Ken from Jacksonville:
M J who?
John: I'll caution people from going too far down this path, though I understand the temptation. Rashad Jennings looked good Friday, as expected. The offensive line can run block, as expected. The Jaguars will be able to run with or without Jones-Drew, as expected. But to say the Jaguars don't want Jones-Drew on the team or that they're better off without him is just untrue.
Larry from Jacksonville and Section 101:
I like and miss MJD. It would be great to have him as a part of all of this. However, I have moved on in my mind....not intentionally. I already think of Rashad Jennings as this year's starter at tailback. I hope Maurice comes back soon but if not we all have to be ready to move on.
John: Yeah, that's the danger a holdout runs in something like this. Sometimes, when you're not around people get used to you being not around. That's not how the team feels, certainly, but the longer you're away the more other guys play. There has been a rush to ask if Jennings' game Friday will cause Jones-Drew to end his holdout. My thought is that while it certainly doesn't help Jones-Drew's case it probably won't end the holdout. Jones-Drew still has a lot of pride and the conviction to stick to what he believes. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. I don't think one game overrides that.
Tony from Fleming Island, FL:
Just wondering, does Maurice Jones-Drew want more money?
John: I think Maurice Jones-Drew wants more money.
Anthony from Madison, WI:
Preseason, Regular Season, Playoffs, Super Bowl. I like seeing the Jaguars win. How about we make a few million people come together in happiness once a week? Oh, and of course make a few million people bitter and disappointed. Go Jags.
John: I certainly didn't mind seeing the Jaguars win Friday. It made my job far easier this week not having to answer questions about the preseason scores not mattering all that much. In the big picture, of course, a victory or a loss Friday means little. But in this case, the victory probably is far better than the loss. The players and coaches clearly feel good about where this thing is going, and it was good for them to get positive reinforcement in the first game against a real opponent. There is a ton to fix out of this game. The special teams coverage wasn't what it could have been. There were too many penalties. There was too much pressure on the Jaguars' quarterbacks. But you knew there wasn't going to be perfection from the start. Coaches love a game with teaching points and they love a game that ends with them winning. The Jaguars got both Friday, and that made it a good night for Mike Mularkey.
Andrew from Jacksonville:
I know Mike Thomas is battling for a roster spot. Is it just me or is Thomas one of those rare guys who is not a star on the practice field, but when the lights come on he makes things happen? Need I remind you of the Hail Mary touchdown pass two seasons ago? My opinion is it's hard to have too many guys on the roster like that.
John: I hesitate to say a guy is a gamer based on one game, so my guess is the Jaguars and Thomas would like him to still play a little better in practice than he has the first few weeks. Saying that, Thomas absolutely showed Friday the ability to get open and make catches, and it would be silly to say he didn't help himself.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
John, I got lucky living in the New York area the game was broadcast here because of the Giants. My son (five years old) and I were jumping up and down like crazy after the opening drive. We stopped jumping after that. I know you said fits and starts but after the first drive it looked a lot like last year. Is one drive really a positive step forward?
John: Yes. Remember, during the course of an NFL game, a team is going to get about nine-to-11 series. If it's nine and you get a touchdown drive every three times, that's 21 points. And although a fumble ended the second drive, it started with a well-called reverse that should have been a bigger play. This was Week 1 of the preseason. You saw a quarterback who looked improved and at least three receivers – Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts – make plays against a good defense. You saw Rashad Jennings run well. Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Blackmon weren't even there yet. There was good stuff – "step-forward" stuff.

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