7.Do what you do.We'll open this week's Magnificent Seven with an eye on the Jaguars' next opponent, the Baltimore Ravens. With middle linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the Ravens rank No. 3 in the NFL against the run at 76.6 yards a game. There's a school of thought that you simply don't run against Baltimore. The Jaguars don't attend that school. "We're a running football team," Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. "We have one of the best running backs (Maurice Jones-Drew) in the NFL. It's not a matter of who we go against. We don't think, 'Oh, it's the Ravens.' We have a lot of respect for them and they have a really sound strong defense, but we're going to play our game the way we know how to do it. Running the ball is one of those things we do very well. It's not going to change just because of who we're playing." The Jaguars not only have run the ball well this season, ranking 10th in the NFL, they have run it consistently. Jones-Drew is the only player in the NFL this season to rush for at least 84 yards in each of the first six games. "We've always got to run the ball," Jaguars veteran center Brad Meester said. "In this offense, if you want to open up the throwing game, you've got to run the ball. We've always said that. We've done a consistent job, but we still have a lot of room to grow. There are so many more yards out there on the ground."
6.Coming along.Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman made his seasonal debut this past Sunday, and while it wasn't a multi-sack effort – or even a multi-pressure one – it's important to remember just where Kampman is in his return. Kampman, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in the 2010 off-season, missed the first five games of the season while returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament he sustained midway through last season. That meant he missed the last eight games of last season, meaning except for a brief appearance in the preseason finale against the Rams in August, Kampman hadn't played in 11 months. Was Kampman dominant against the Steelers? No. But the plan was for him to play about 10-15 or so plays and he played 16. The expectation wasn't that he would take over the game, but that he would begin working his way into being a pass-rushing force. Remember: Kampman played effectively for eight games last season returning from a midseason ACL in 2009, but that was an unusually quick return. It often takes a year or maybe a month or two past a year to return from the injury. You probably won't get a real definite idea on how effective Kampman can be post-ACL until sometime after the bye.
5.Moving on.Still getting emails this week about Brandon Lloyd. It's hard to express just how little chance that ever had of happening in Jacksonville. As angry as fans may have gotten when the Jaguars didn't pursue him, there's no redder flag in the NFL than when multiple teams have you in their locker room and decline to re-sign you to a long-term deal. This happened three times with Lloyd. One was with the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted him. The next was with the Washington Redskins, who signed him to a big contract then opted to let him go. The last was with Denver, which gave him up for a sixth – and maybe a fifth- -- round draft pick rather than re-sign him. Say what you want about the quick lift Lloyd may or may not have given. He had one year with more than 800 yards and is in his ninth season. Whatever's wrong with the Jaguars' offense, the thinking here is a mid-season addition of Lloyd wasn't going to be the fix.
4.Adding depth. The Jaguars' offensive line has had a rocky start, mainly because of injuries that have kept left tackle Eugene Monroe – and now, left guard/right tackle Eben Britton – out of the lineup. If there's an upside to the situation it's that the Jaguars may have found two contributors where they may not have expected. Guy Whimper has played well enough at right tackle to force the Jaguars to move Britton to guard and this past Sunday, Cameron Bradfield played well enough at left tackle that the Jaguars won't be stressing as much as you might think the next time Monroe and Britton each miss time. Bradfield learned the morning of the Pittsburgh game he would be playing. He started at left tackle, and with a few exceptions, played well both pass- and run-blocking. "While it was a late scratch off from Eben, he was confidence and ready to go," Nwaneri said, "For him, that's big. He's a rookie and people expect him to go out and get bulldogged just because of the circumstances. We were confident he would do a good enough job to give us a chance. And he did that. It says a lot about our depth, especially with the circumstances – at Pittsburgh, hostile crowd, a rookie . . . he's told an hour and a half before kickoff, 'You're going to be starting.' That speaks about his character and his ability to play football."
3.Man in the middle.The Jaguars surprised many when they re-signed wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker this week. It was surprising because the Jaguars had opted to not extend Sims-Walker a tender offer this past off-season, letting him become a free agent. His reacquisition is a reflection on a receiving corps that has struggled this season, averaging just over 100 yards a game receiving. The struggles of the group have surprised Jaguars coaches and management. While they did not believe the group to necessarily be teeming with elite, Pro Bowl-bound players there was a belief that if Jason Hill developed, then he and Mike Thomas – along with tight end Marcedes Lewis, tight end Zach Miller, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and running Rashad Jennings – could as a group provide enough weapons to be a productive passing offense. Jennings was lost for the season in training camp, Hill struggled to start the season and Miller has been placed on injured reserve. Combine that with a surprisingly slow start from Lewis and you had the No. 32-ranked passing offense in the league. How big of an impact Sims-Walker can make is unknown, but he is a tough receiver who's effective on slant patterns, which is not Hill's strength. And right now, the Jaguars had to try something. This is something, so we'll see how it works.
2.The right time.No one around the Jaguars wanted to see defensive end Austen Lane go on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. While Lane had not gotten a sack during the regular season, he had shown improvement and coaches valued Lane for the consistency and constant high effort he gave. But on the field, the loss of Lane could be off-set by the development of John Chick. A former Canadian Football League Defensive Player of the Year, Chick impressed Jaguars coaches immediately upon his arrival after being signed off waivers from Indianapolis. Chick was a guy the Colts liked last year, but opportunities in passing situations – and therefore, roster spaces for young ends -- are limited there because of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. With Kampman out early and Matt Roth also missing time with injuries, Chick got playing time immediately in Jacksonville and has taken advantage. He has two sacks this season and has shown good anticipation and closing speed. With Lane out, Chick is now firmly entrenched in the defensive end rotation with Kampman, Roth and Jeremy Mincey and it's not out of the question he could register six or seven sacks this season.
1.And in closing . . . well, you know the drill by now. We close Magnificent Seven each week discussing the rookie quarterback because . . . well, because he's a Top 10 rookie quarterback and that means Blaine Gabbert's the most important story on the team. As the season has passed, you hear more and more people trying to compare Gabbert with Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. The comparisons with Christian Ponder will start, too, now that the former Florida State quarterback is starting the Minnesota Vikings. First off, you can't compare situations. Newton has Steve Smith and two productive tight ends and Dalton has Jermaine Grisham and A.J. Green. The Jaguars' receivers are struggling this season, as has Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis. Gabbert also has played the Saints, Steelers and the Bengals in three of his first four starts and played in a driving rainstorm in Carolina in the other. There's going to be criticism of Gabbert so long as his statistics don't match up to the other players, but the Jaguars are optimistic about how he is progressing. He still needs to continue honing his footwork, but he can see the field and people around the organization rave about his mind for football and his work ethic. As the offensive playbook continues to expand along with experience, there is confidence that he's going to excel at getting the offense in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage. He has developing to do, but the things you want to see, the Jaguars are seeing.