JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser sets the table by examining key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to play the Washington Redskins Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
The buzz in Jacksonville is about quarterback.
That's how it has been since the May draft, and how it remains after a season-opening loss to Philadelphia. That's how it is pretty much everywhere around the team …
Except within the organization.
The Jaguars enter the second game of the 2014 season fresh off a 34-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a game they led 17-0 at halftime. The Jaguars showed significant progress early, but struggled offensively in the second half.
Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, after throwing two first-half touchdowns, threw for 99 yards in the second half, refueling calls outside the team for backup rookie Blake Bortles to play. There is absolutely no such talk inside the organization, with coaches strongly believing in Henne as the starter.
The Jaguars like Henne's efficiency, and his knowledge of the offense. They also note six dropped second-half passes Sunday, and the youth at receiver and along the offensive line, as reasons to start a veteran with 50 NFL starts over a rookie.
So, is there buzz at quarterback in Jacksonville? Yes, but there's just not inside EverBank Field.
The Redskins remain a talented team, but as 2014 begins, they're a team in transition.
That's partly because of a new head coach, Jay Gruden, and a partly because of where that coach is leading the team's most high-profile player, quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Griffin, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, led the Redskins to a division title in his rookie season, pressuring defenses with his ability outside the pocket and making plays downfield in the passing game. The 'Skins slipped to 3-13 last season as Griffin returned from a knee injury, and under Gruden, he is transitioning to being more of a pocket passer.
Griffin threw for 267 yards Sunday in a 17-6 season-opening loss at Houston, emphasizing mostly short passes and reportedly looking less than comfortable in the pocket at times. Two red-zone turnovers limited the Redskins offensively.
The Redskins signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson as a free agent after his release from Philadelphia in the offseason, and he and Pierre Garcon form one of the most potent wide receiver duos in the NFL.
The Redskins' pass rush struggled Sunday with one sack and just one hit on the quarterback by linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, but the defense remains talented and strong and will be a challenge for a Jaguars offense that converted just 2 of 14 third downs last week.
*Jaguars cornerbacks Alan Ball and Dwayne Gratz versus Garcon and Jackson. Jackson's speed makes him dangerous, and Garcon has the physical presence to make special plays – and often does. Gratz allowed just one reception with a pass breakup Sunday, and Ball had a huge, momentum-killing first-half interception. This is strength versus strength, though the Jaguars' corners – like most NFL corners – need help from the pass rush.
*Orakpo and Kerrigan versus Jaguars offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Cameron Bradfield.The Jaguars struggled to stay out of third-and-long against Philadelphia. Do that against Washington and you're putting Joeckel and Bradfield into bad situations against one of the league's better outside rushing tandems.
*Jaguars defensive front versus Redskins running back Alfred Morris.We put linebacker Paul Posluszny against LeSean McCoy last week, but that wasn't fair because one guy can't stop McCoy. One guy can't stop Morris, either, but the line needs to get penetration and disrupt the Redskins' outside zone running offense. Morris is very effective in that, and if he's effective Sunday, it's trouble for the Jaguars.
Three Jaguars to Watch
*Allen Hurns.The rookie free-agent caught four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns in his NFL debut Sunday. The Jaguars think Hurns can be productive long-term. Still, now that he has had a big game, his task now will be to perform when opponents study his strengths.
*Jacques McClendon.Though McClendon fared well at times Sunday in his first game starting at center, he finished with a minus-8.0 grade from Pro Football Focus with two penalties and a high snap or two. But the whole line needs to improve Sunday. The Jaguars averaged 2.0 yards per carry, and that wasn't all on McClendon by any means.
*Josh Evans/Winston Guy.It's too early to know if safety Johnathan Cyprien is out Sunday, but he's in the NFL's concussion program, which leaves his status in doubt. The Jaguars' safeties struggled as a group Sunday, with Evans missing several tackles and Chris Prosinski moving forward on a long, deep touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin. Until Cyprien returns, this is an area of concern.
Keep an eye on …
*Cyprien, who has emerged as a defensive leader in his second season, will begin the week in the concussion program after sustaining a head injury Sunday. He slammed his head against the field in Philadelphia Sunday breaking up a pass and did not return. …
*Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (hamstring) was scheduled to run Tuesday after missing Sunday's regular-season opener. He rested over the weekend and on Monday after tweaking the area last Thursday and testing it Friday. How he fares Tuesday will determine his status for practice this week. …
*Running back Toby Gerhart is expected to be limited Wednesday after sustaining an ankle sprain Sunday. …
*Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is not expected to be limited this week after sustaining a knee contusion that kept him out several plays Sunday. …
*Tight end Marcedes Lewis is not expected to miss Sunday's game with a knee capsule injury sustained against Philadelphia, but he could be limited early this week. …
*Tight end Clay Harbor could return to practice soon, possibly this week. He missed the preseason and the regular-season opener with a calf injury. …
*Rookie running back Storm Johnson could practice this week after missing Sunday's game with an ankle injury sustained in the preseason finale.