Each week in the Magnificent Seven, jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser offers seven thoughts on all things Jaguars . . .
7)Still striving.We'll start this week's Magnificent Seven by giving the floor to running back Maurice Jones-Drew because . . . well, because he's the Jaguars' best player and we need a lead-in topic for the post-bye week Mag 7. Most interesting about Jones-Drew's weekly meeting with the media on Wednesday afternoon was what he said when asked about the Jaguars' offense, and whether he thought there was a chance for a breakout game soon. Jones-Drew smiled, because he knows it's tough for people to keep thinking the offense will break out when it hasn't done so through eight games, but it also was apparent that Jones-Drew means it when he says the offense is close, and capable. "We've just got to get that groove back again, rhythm, groove, whatever you want to call it," Jones-Drew said. "I think we're able to do that. I think there are some positive things to come out of this. I really do. I really think that we're on the right track. We've just got to keep working and things will come out."
6)Dangerous opponent.You don't need the Magnificent Seven to tell you there are no guarantees in the NFL, and it's also important to realize that that's true this week even with the Colts being 0-9. Indianapolis, in fact, is a pretty dangerous opponent for the Jaguars. Are the Jaguars a better team than the Colts? Yes. Should they win? Yes. But even with the Colts' struggles on both sides of the ball, there is a strong chance this game will be close Sunday if only because there has been no indication yet the Jaguars can pull away from an opponent. Through eight games, the Jaguars have scored 98 points. That's an average of just over 12 points a game. If you can't score more than two touchdowns in a game you leave yourself very little margin for error, particularly against a team that has Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon at wide receiver and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at defensive end. That's what makes the early part of Sunday's game key for Jacksonville. The Jaguars need to get a lead on Indianapolis early, do something they haven't done this season – i.e., take a lead of two touchdowns or more. Do that and the Jaguars have a chance to put the Colts away early. If the Jaguars don't to that, there are enough experienced playmakers on the Colts for them to sneak out a victory at home.
5)A solid core. There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the impact of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, and rightfully so. He leads the Jaguars with 100 tackles and has been one of the NFL's best free-agent signings of the 2011 off-season – and he may be the Jaguars' defensive Most Valuable Player. But the reality is the Jaguars' entire linebacking corps has emerged as one of the best 4-3 units in the NFL. A 4-3 unit doesn't get as much notoriety because 4-3 linebackers rush the passer less than their 3-4 counterparts, and therefore they're not going to have the sack numbers. That also prevents outside linebackers in 4-3 scheme from being Pro Bowl favorites at times. But not only has Daryl Smith remained one of the best, most-underrated outside linebackers in the NFL, free-agent signee Clint Session also has played his best two games of the season the last two games after a slow start. The Jaguars during the early part of training camp believed they had perhaps the best linebacking corps in the NFL after they signed Session and Posluszny as free agents. After eight games, they may be right.
4)Opportunity knocking. For Session, his emergence in recent weeks has been based on several factors. To hear him tell it, much of his improvement in the last two weeks has been about getting comfortable. He said during the Jaguars' bye week it took him time to learn the details of the defense and the terminology and since he has become more comfortable in that area, his play has improved. In the last two games before the bye, he blitzed more and more effectively than he had in the first six games – and more effectively than he had in Indianapolis. The Colts rarely blitz with their linebackers, and Session long believed he was better in that area than people realized. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said Session's emergence has been as much about opportunity and taking advantage of situations as anything else. "It's been a situation where there have been more opportunities with teams attacking us in base personnel," Del Rio said. "I think he's had more plays. Certainly, he is more confident in the role we have for him and he's being more assertive in terms of making the plays within the scheme that he's being called on to have. He's an explosive football player and he's shown some signs of being that explosive force for us."
3)Things I'm worn out on.Well, this week it's about everything. T.O., shirtless workouts, Andy Dalton/Cam Newton/Christian Ponder/and any other rookie quarterback, draft records, coaching candidates, Tim Tebow/Tim Tebow/Tim Tebow, Brandon Lloyd, Sucking for Luck, separation, route running, Marcedes Lewis, David Garrard (of course), Sucking for Luck . . . and so on. Probably the biggest topic that just makes no sense continues to be this whole idea of why the Jaguars don't sign an available veteran receiver. The bottom line remains the team is not going to bring in a guy who is bad for the locker room and who is a character concern. That eliminates a certain wide receiver who recently worked out for NFL scouts without a shirt and eliminates Lloyd, who signed with the Rams and who many fans still believe the Jaguars should have signed. Locker room chemistry matters very much, and that's true whether or not fans want to realize and accept it. I didn't used to believe it and after being around the league for a decade and a half, I realize it matters very much. The Jaguars are still trying to build something here for the long haul and they're not going to sign known character questions for a short term-boost at the expense of that.
2)Don't suck for Luck – or to prevent the Colts from getting him.We'll have more on this Friday in 10 Things the Jaguars Must Do to Win, but it's such a theme it bears an early mention. Fans are way too worried about the Jaguars winning Sunday and letting the Colts get a step closer to being able to draft Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in April. You can't worry about such things. Does Luck have a chance to be good? Absolutely. Does it mean another decade and a half of second-place finishes for the Jaguars if it happens? Of course not. What bears mention*here is that while there is an oddness this week to playing the Colts without Manning the truth is it may be a permanent situation because it appears increasingly likely he won't play for the Colts again. Whether the Colts win or lose Sunday, they appear to be the favorites to finish with the NFL's worst record and there's no way Colts Owner Jim Irsay passes on Luck in that situation. Under that scenario, whether Manning's neck allows him to play again, I don't see him playing for the Colts with Luck there. Manning not only believes a player drafted No. 1 overall should be starting immediately, he's not of the personality type to play mentor to anyone. If he can play, he'll almost certainly be traded or released for the opportunity to play elsewhere. *1)And finally, a word on the quarterback. **Final Word on Blaine Gabbert Time. The theme this week is windows. Gabbert has been criticized a lot in recent weeks for footwork, mechanics, pocket presence, inaccuracy, etc. The reality is he has been a lot more accurate than he has been given credit for, and his mechanics and pocket presence hasn't been as bad as it has looked. Perfect? No. Needs improvement? Absolutely, but considering his circumstances, not atrocious either. A major issue for Gabbert has been that through much of his first six starts he has had to be too perfect with the ball. He has been inaccurate in part because there have been few easy throws – and some of those throws have been dropped. The Jaguars' receivers' struggles to get open have helped cause Gabbert to throw to very small windows and that has led to a lot of incomplete passes. Again, the big-picture theme on Gabbert remains that it will be impossible to truly gauge him