A GOOD NIGHT
Mike Mularkey liked a lot about what he saw Friday.
In a scrimmage won by the offense – or "Teal" team – by a score of 31-19 over the defense (White) at EverBank Field Friday night, that score mattered far less than what got accomplished by a Jaguars team that ended its first week of 2012 Training Camp this week.
What got accomplished was the offense found a rhythm.
Rashad Jennings ran well, and caught out of the backfield well, too. The passing game worked efficiently. Cecil Shorts caught a touchdown pass, and so did Zach Miller, Zach Potter, Mike Thomas and Kevin Elliott. Laurent Robinson caught a long pass, too.
And Blaine Gabbert?
Well, the second-year quarterback looked poised, and seemed to get more comfortable as the night continued. Mularkey, the Jaguars' first-year head coach, liked that a lot.
"I think he had a good night," Mularkey said of Gabbert. "I'm not quick to judge, because I really like to dissect it when I watch the film. I just felt like out here he had a good night. He made some nice throws."
Gabbert completed 10 of 13 passes for 91 yards with a one-yard touchdown to tight end Miller in the first half. That half ended with the offense ahead 31-19, on a points system that included various points for offense and defense based on big plays, defensive stops and turnovers.
The second half was situational-based, and the first-team offense shined early in that period, with Gabbert throwing three touchdown passes in a brief period early.
"We started clicking," Gabbert said. "We got in a rhythm right there, hit some big runs. Rashad and the O-Line did a great job again, especially on the check downs when they were dropping in coverage. The receivers took their coverage deep and opened some stuff up underneath.
"But yeah we started clicking, getting in that rhythm, started flowing and moved the ball pretty well."
Jennings was effective throughout, and backup quarterback Chad Henne completed 3 of 7 first-half passes for 25 yards. Jennings caught three passes for 37 yards and had runs of 14 and 16 yards on the early touchdown drive.
The offense closed the first-half scoring with a four-yard touchdown pass from third-team quarterback Jordan Palmer to Elliott.
"That was a nice play," Mularkey said. "It was a good call by Bob Bratkowski. We had some press coverage down there and saw the matchup, the size matchup. Really, it was a pretty throw and that's a tough catch. It was a nice catch."
2012 SCRIMMAGE HIGHLIGHTS**
The second "half" of the scrimmage featured largely situational work, and the highlight was an early red-zone drill on which the offense looked very impressive.
With coaches setting the ball in different situations, the first-team offense scored five touchdowns in the drill, including three touchdown passes from Gabbert and a pair of hard-driving touchdown runs by Jennings.
"It was good," Gabbert said of the red-zone offense. "The biggest thing is our coaches have done a great job scheming things up, putting our players in the right position to make plays. Going from there, our offensive line did a great job selling the run on the pass plays and just dominating on the run plays."
Gabbert threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Shorts, and immediately thereafter threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Thomas, who turned a short pass into a touchdown by breaking a tackle near the goal line.
Jennings scored on a 4-yard run and a 2-yard run in the next several plays, and Gabbert closed the drill with a play-action touchdown pass to Potter.
"Those are things we've got to do, and we have to be good at them," Mularkey said. "The only way you can do it is to go full speed, tackling and everything."
"I was pleased with the tempo. We got a lot of things done with situations tonight, with special teams. We had to overcome a couple of penalties. There was a little bit of a slow start with a fumble of the kickoff and a false start, but I felt good about both sides. There was some hitting, some tackling."
RB RASHAD JENNINGS SAYS
"We felt where we are is good, but we have a lot more to work on. We're excited, but we're not where we exactly need to be. We have to get back on the grind tomorrow, watch some film and get back to it. As a unit, it feels really good to come out and play ball."
"I think it was a good night. I really do. I just felt like we got a lot done. We had a lot of plays. We have a lot of things that we can teach off of to these guys. It was good on both sides we made some stops."
WHAT WE SAW
Most notably, a functioning offense. The Jaguars, after ranking 32nd in he NFL in passing offense last season, started the scrimmage with a three-and-out, after which they put together an extended 70-yard drive that ended with the touchdown from Gabbert to Miller. The first-team offense also was effective in the red zone, and offensive players afterward talked about something they didn't talk about often last season – finding a rhythm and feeling confident. "It was real good to see balls being completed 15-to-20 yards down the field," guard Uche Nwaneri said. "That was too few and far between last year. To see Blaine standing in the pocket and throwing downfield and making the right plays – he has all the confidence in the world. Tonight, it looked pretty good."
The Jaguars are off Saturday and will resume training camp with a practice at 3 p.m. Sunday. That will be the last training camp practice open to the public.
We won't go too overboard, but it was hard not to be impressed with several aspects of the Jaguars' offense on Friday. This was a unit that looked far behind the defense at times early in camp, and that wasn't how it looked on Friday night. Gabbert avoided mistakes early, then threw a nice one-yard, play-action pass to Miller for a touchdown. He then had a three-for-three drive on the ensuing series with a 21-yard pass to Robinson and 7- and 10-yard passes to Cecil Shorts. After that, his rating was 120.9 and he was 10 of 13 for 91 yards. It wasn't the regular season, but it was progress. His throw to Robinson was particularly impressive, leading him well in the middle of the field.
*Rookie Punter Bryan Anger punted twice in the first half, once for 56 yards and the second for 49 yards. The first was a high, arching kick that drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd, and the second likely wouldn't have been returnable in a game situation. One team official timed the hang time for the 56-yarder at 5.36 seconds. The 49-yarder was clocked at 4.79 seconds.
*Shorts, after dropping an early catchable pass, turned in a solid scrimmage, catching three passes for 28 yards and a touchdown. He made a leaping, 10-yard catch in traffic late in the first half, then caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert in red-zone drills. Shorts moved outside to work there this week after working mostly inside as a rookie last season and in the offseason. "Cecil did some good things," he said. "He's been thrown into the fire a little bit. He was playing the X receiver. The other one is a little learning curve and he did a good job in really his second day at the other position."
*Rookie linebacker Julian Stanford started in place of injured starter Daryl Smith at outside linebacker. Stanford is a rookie from Wagner who has impressed coaches early in camp, and got extensive work with the first team at times in practice. Smith is expected to be out with a groin injury a week to 10 days. The Jaguars also held middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and outside linebacker Russell Allen out to take a look at Kyle Bosworth and rookie Brandon Marshall.
*The Jaguars' receivers had five or six drops Friday, something that Mularkey said has occurred too often during the first week of training camp. "We can't drop the ball," Mularkey said. "It's just too hard to overcome. It's a negative play if you have a drop. You have to make those catches. There were some nice throws tonight. There were some accurate throws that we have to make the plays. We've got to be more consistent."
*The Jaguars entered the game without linebacker Smith (groin), offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (knee), left guard Will Rackley (ankle) and defensive end Austen Lane (ankle), among others. Defensive end Ryan Davis and guard Jason Spitz sustained leg injuries, the extent if which wasn't immediately known.
*Gabbert threw several checkdown passes on an early drive that covered 70 yards and resulted in a one-yard touchdown pass to Miller. Mularkey said the checks were exactly what was needed in the situations. "I said that was about as well as you can execute," Mularkey said. "We tell you to take what the defense gives you. You saw what happens if you can get the ball down to the backs. They can make plays for you, they keep drives going. If we have to do that all the way down to score a touchdown we'll do it every time."