Each week in the Magnificent Seven, jaguars.com Senior Writer John Oehser will offer seven thoughts on things Jaguars-related . . .
7.Pass rush.You're fretting. You know you are. You've seen the much-discussed statistic about the pass rush, how through three preseason games the Jaguars have no sacks, and you're worried. As Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman said this week, it's understandable to be concerned, because the Jaguars have had significant trouble in recent years generating significant pass rush. No one around the Jaguars will tell you no sacks is acceptable, and absolutely no one will tell the performance against the Buffalo Bills Saturday was anything but bad. They didn't pressure quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. As a result, he looked like one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, something he has not been to this point in his career. It's well-established that the Jaguars aren't close to panicking about this, and one reason is Kampman, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and defensive end Jeremy Mincey weren't playing against Buffalo. The thought here is that Alualu's absence against the Bills was very, very telling. Against Atlanta, with Alualu playing, the Jaguars got consistent pressure, not only bothering Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, but disrupting the running game. Without Alualu against Buffalo, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton disrupted the running game, but Fitzpatrick had a disturbing amount of time to throw. It's becoming apparent the Jaguars need Alualu on the field in a big way. With him, they look like a defense that can disrupt offenses enough to get off the field in key situations. Without him, they don't.
6.The O-line. The offensive line played better against the Bills than the week before against Atlanta, giving Jaguars quarterbacks more time to throw than in previous preseason games. Eugene Monroe played better than he did in the first two preseason games, and considering his talent level, there's no reason to assume that won't continue. Early on, Jaguars quarterback David Garrard didn't take advantage, though the offense moved a bit more effectively in his last three series. There's a lot of teeth-gnashing about the offensive line, and at times rightfully so, but there was nervousness about the running game this time last preseason, too, and the Jaguars ran the ball fairly effectively last season. There's enough ability up front for the Jaguars to get the job done and their history is they've done it. It's far too early to assume they won't do it this season.
5.On Poz.There's been quite a bit of focus on newly signed middle linebacker Paul Posluszny's strengths or weaknesses in pass coverage. There are plenty in Buffalo who will tell you he's weak in the area, and he has given up a few passes in preseason since joining the Jaguars. It remains to be seen in Jacksonville how effective he is against the pass, but you know what? I'm all for being an all-around player, but the Jaguars didn't sign Posluszny to play safety. They signed him to solidify the middle of the defense, and to give them a smart, leadership-type player at the position. Posluszny may not be Ray Lewis, and teams undoubtedly will try to isolate him in coverage until he shows it's not a good idea, but there are few who believe he won't make the Jaguars better – particularly against the run – and that's what was needed this off-season.
4.Getting sticky.Throughout the off-season and training camp, fans have pressed, fretted and complained about the Jaguars' wide receivers. After three games, there remains little doubt: These guys as a group have struggled more than is ideal during training camp and preseason and the biggest thing they have to do is catch the ball. I'm not one to say even elite receivers have to catch every pass. Reggie Wayne used to say he allowed himself four a season, and although there were seasons he exceeded that, he's still a darned good receiver who's very reliable. So far for the Jaguars this preseason, Mike Thomas has played well and Cecil Shorts continues to show signs he will be a productive player, but while Jason Hill has shown signs – particularly against Buffalo Saturday – of what he did to impress the Jaguars late last season, he hasn't done it with the consistency necessary. The Jaguars entered camp needing a receiver to step up opposite Mike Thomas. While you can and should feel good about Shorts, other than that the team is still waiting.
3.Maing it quick.Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said the idea this week is for Kampman and running back Maurice Jones-Drew to play about 10-to-15 plays. That's more than enough. Kampman knows how to rush the passer, and however much he plays Thursday, he'll either be ready for the opener or he won't. Same with Jones-Drew. He'll play with the starters a couple of series Thursday, but whatever time it takes for him to get up to regular season speed it won't change much based on Thursday's performance. Play them and get them out in a hurry. Don't risk injury or wear and tear on these guys.
2.On the quarterback.You had to be blind not to see this coming, but there is a significant portion of the observers/fan base who are calling for Blaine Gabbert to be the quarterback. Their school of thought is they have seen what David Garrard is and what he can be, and there is no point in delaying the inevitable. The Jaguars for now feel differently. There is no thought within the organization that Gabbert won't be the guy soon, and the guess here is there's no way by this time next year we're debating the issue. The Jaguars are entering the season with Garrard as the starter for a simple reason: They believe there is a chance to win now and be competitive. So long as that's true, you play the quarterback you believe gives you the best chance to win. If that changes, then you play the rookie. It may be that Gabbert develops this season to where you believe he gives you the best chance. It may be he needs an off-season. It may be that at some point the Jaguars are out of the playoffs, so there's no reason not to play the kid. For now, I don't mind going with the veteran, because considering Gabbert's lack of off-season, it's not absurd to think he needs more time with the playbook in order to be ready to get the most from the experience he would gain playing. When he gets that experience, I could make a lot stronger argument for playing him. As to when that will be, only he, the coaches and the Jaguars' personnel staff can determine.
1.Eleven more days.That's how many days remain until the regular-season opener, and make no mistake: they're going to be long days, with the same themes pretty much rehashed again and again. The overriding truth at this point of the preseason; opinions are as solidified as they are meaningless. You either believe the preseason necessarily yields regular season results or you don't. The opinion here is that the Jaguars used the preseason to prepare for the regular season, and that they essentially showed they are what many fans believe they are: a capable team that, if it improves defensively, has a chance to push for the playoffs as it continues rebuilding. There are those who believe the preseason struggles mean the offense is terrible, that the defense never will get a sack and that the time is now for gloom, doom and heading to the bathroom. If the team continues to struggle in these areas in September, I can be as doomy and gloomy as anyone, but it's too early for that.