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Many new faces


In the NFL, there are certain things that take time and repetition.

Because offensive efficiency is very much one of those things, Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said he's not overly concerned about performance of the team's offensive unit during the first two preseason games.

While the ideal would be more than one touchdown in two games, Smith said as the first-team offense works more together – and particularly as the starting quarterback gets more time with the first unit – the issue should get to a point where it isn't really much of an issue at all.

"With all of our starters, the more they get to play together, the better the execution will be for the offense and even for the defense," Smith said Tuesday.

Smith, in his third season as the Jaguars' General Manager, spoke with Tuesday, covering a variety of issues, including the development of the wide receivers, the preseason play of offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and the team's linebacker group.

He said that when it comes to the team's offensive performance in the first two preseason games, the lack of production has been a byproduct of many new faces playing in unfamiliar situations.

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has yet to play, and tight end Marcedes Lewis returned to the lineup in Week 2 after being out Week 1. Offensive tackle Eben Britton has yet to play because of a back injury, and rookie Will Rackley is working into the lineup at left guard.

And then there's the quarterback situation.

Rookie Blaine Gabbert started the preseason opener against New England, played a half, then played the second and third quarters in the second preseason game against Atlanta. Veteran starter David Garrard played the first quarter this past Friday.

"David certainly had the setback when he had the injury, but he's healthy now and I feel like there's a natural progression with an offense in the preseason, and specifically with the quarterback play," Smith said. "Until you start narrowing down the roster, and the quarterback that is going to be our starter gets more reps with the players he's going to be throwing the ball to, you're not going to have the timing that people would like to see at this point.

 "Most cases, when you're playing more players, and you have a mix of skill sets, you're not going to be at a high rate of efficiency with your execution, but as we start narrowing down the players and we actually start game-planning with those players, you will get a lot better rhythm and timing with your offense, defense, and the same goes for your special teams.

"You'll see all three phases improving in these last two preseason games, and hopefully as we go into the start of our regular season."

Smith said the nature of the Jaguars' quarterback position this preseason has made it difficult for the offense to be productive, but that there is time before the opener for that to improve.

 "Every position is going to be evaluated through the preseason, but certainly what we've done at the quarterback position is have three guys performing, and really David and Blaine with the core of the reps," Smith said. "I think you'll see a narrowing down at quarterback and every other position going into the fourth preseason game so you get your starting units working together.

"Then, they will have in essence 10 days to prepare for our opener together."

Smith Tuesday also said:

*Monroe, the team's starting left tackle since 2009, "didn't perform well against Atlanta, not the standard that he would expect and we would expect from a starter, but I think he knows that. Where he has struggled is where he's gotten away from technique or proper footwork. He certainly has the skill set to play there and play at a high level, but he has to show in his third year a level of consistency where he's someone we can count on. There are a lot of cases where your left tackle is one-on-one with the best pass-rusher the opposing team has. He has to be someone we can trust to block that guy on a week-to-week basis."

*While Mike Thomas is the "most established wide receiver," the Jaguars in the final two preseason games "need somebody else to emerge into the other receiver spots." Jason Hill has started two games with five receptions for 56 yards and rookie Cecil Shorts caught five passes for 52 yards against Atlanta Friday. Third-year veteran Jarett Dillard has two receptions for 21 yards and Tiquan Underwood has two receptions for 18 yards. Veteran Kassim Osgood has one reception for 13 yards. Rookies Armon Binns, Jamar Newsome and Dontrelle Inman also have shown flashes in preseason and training camp. Of Shorts, Smith said, "He does things as naturally or more natural than all of them."

*He is impressed overall with the draft class. "Will Rackley has fit from Day One," he said. "Blaine Gabbert fits as well, it's just more difficult for a quarterback to come into the NFL as a rookie and play. The second-most difficult position is offensive line. Next to quarterback, the offensive line has the most technique and footwork that needs to be taught. Plus, there are the rigors of that position. Physically, you have to be ready to play – not just mentally." Smith said Shorts has done good things at the position, and that safety Chris Prosinski showed good things before a hamstring injury kept him out two weeks. He also said cornerback Rod Issac has improved dramatically in the last week. "The mind triggers the muscle, so until a rookie can learn their assignments, they're not going to play as fast, as physical or as smart," Smith said of the class. "I'm proud of this group in the fact that they got their playbooks – with the exception of Blaine – when they reported for training camp and they have done a good job of learning their responsibilities. Not that they have everything down yet, but for how much they had to process, coming in such a short window, they have handled it well."

*Defensive ends Jeremy Mincey and Austen Lane developed well in the off-season, and should play key roles. "It takes guys on your own team emerging from one year to the next, so I feel like that has happened," he said.

*The linebacking trio of Clint Session, Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith has a chance to be among the NFL's best. "I'd like to think our linebacking group, when we get all three guys healthy and together, will be one of the best groups in the league," Smith said. "You have some players with tremendous start history who have been productive players throughout their careers. To have three guys who are able to play to their strengths within our scheme is really going to help our defense."

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