JACKSONVILLE – Here's this week's Setting the Table: Storylines and stuff to watch as the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare to play the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle Wash., Sunday at 4:25 p.m. . . .
The storylines for the Jaguars as they prepare for the Seattle Seahawks are several-fold.
One is the status of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, which may not be known until later in the week. Another is the health of Blaine Gabbert, who isn't expected to play Sunday in Seattle, which means the Jaguars probably will start Chad Henne at quarterback for a second consecutive week.
But the main issue for the Jaguars is this:
Whoever is available, can they compete with one of the best teams in the NFL in one of the league's toughest venues?
The Seahawks (2-0), who lost in an NFC Divisional Playoff a year ago, have improved steadily in recent years. After a 29-3 victory over defending NFC Champion San Francisco this past Sunday, some analysts rate Seattle as the best team in the NFL.
They also have one of the NFL's best home-field advantages, having won their last nine home games by a cumulative score of 272-98. The crowd noise was measured at 136.6 decibels Sunday against San Francisco, setting a Guinness Book of World Records record for Loudest Crowd Cheer at a Sports Stadium.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have struggled in their first two games of the 2013 regular season, losing at home to Kansas City (2-0) in the regular-season opener, 28-2, before losing to the 1-1 Oakland Raiders, 19-9, in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday.
Henne completed 25 of 38 passes for a touchdown with no interceptions against the Raiders on Sunday. He did that playing in place of Gabbert, who missed the game with a laceration on his right hand sustained in the season opener. Gabbert said this week he is day-to-day, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said the team didn't expect Gabbert to be available Sunday.
Jones-Drew, who missed 10 games with a foot injury last season, sustained a strained tendon last week against the Raiders. He may miss practice this week, but Bradley said Jones-Drew could play against Seattle Sunday.
The Seahawks have a dominant defense, perhaps the NFL's best secondary, a strong running game, and a second-year quarterback, Russell Wilson, who puts pressure on defenses throwing while always threatening to run. They're good – really good. After their run to the second round of the playoffs last season, hopes are high within the team and the city, and the start of this season has done nothing to reduce those hopes. They edged Carolina in the regular-season opener before intercepting 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick three times in a one-sided victory over San Francisco Sunday. The Seahawks forced five turnovers and rushed for 172 yards against a team that has been one of the NFL's best against the run in recent seasons. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
The game at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle, Washington, Sunday at 4:25 p.m. will be broadcast regionally on CBS with Bill Macatee calling the play-by-play and Steve Tasker providing analysis.
Early matchup to watch
The Jaguars' wide receivers versus the Seahawks' secondary. This is a difficult matchup for the Jaguars – very difficult. Aside from Cecil Shorts III, the Jaguars' wide receivers have struggled this season, with the group weakened through the first four games by the absence of suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Shorts has caught 11 passes for 133 yards this season, with the rest of the receivers having combined for 12 for 120. A lot of those yards came late in a one-sided loss to the Raiders. The Seahawks' secondary may be the NFL's best, with cornerbacks Richard Sherman (6-feet-3) and Brandon Browner (6-4) two of the most-physical cornerbacks in the NFL and with free safety Earl Thomas also one of the NFL's best at his position. Strong safety Kam Chancellor (6-3, 232) is considered by many the hardest-hitter of the group.
Player to watch
Shorts III. The Jaguars' wide receiver started slower than expected this season, catching three passes for 40 yards in the opener, but he caught a career-high eight passes for 93 yards in the second game of the season this past Sunday. Shorts had to deal with double-team coverage and shading in his direction against the Chiefs, and he dealt with it again against the Raiders before Oakland loosened its coverage late in the game. With Blackmon out for two more games, Shorts likely will see more doubling in the coming weeks. Shorts will have a tough test against the Seattle secondary Sunday.
What to watch
*This is a homecoming of sorts for Bradley. He was the defensive coordinator the past four seasons for Seattle, the last three of which he worked under Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll. "He's a very good influence – a great influence on my life," Bradley said of Carroll. "I had a chance to work with the man a couple of years and he helped me out with my philosophy and approach and the competitiveness."
*Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri sustained a knee injury against the Raiders Sunday. He is expected to practice Wednesday. He and guard Will Rackley each started in Week 2 despite knee issues.
*Cornerback Alan Ball is expected to undergo an MRI on a sore hamstring and could be held out of practice at times this week in the hopes of him playing Sunday.
*Veteran Will Blackmon likely will start a second consecutive game for cornerback Dwayne Gratz, who is expected to miss two more games with a high-ankle sprain.
*Wide receiver Ace Sanders had a sore rib after Sunday's game, but Bradley said he should practice Wednesday.
*Tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), who missed the first two games, could work out Tuesday and do some sprinting that day. He will be evaluated after that.
*Wide receiver Mike Brown (back) likely will not play Sunday, but linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) could play and will be evaluated throughout the week.