JACKSONVILLE – Here's this week's Setting the Table: Storylines and stuff to watch as the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare to play the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
The main storyline for the Jaguars has some competition this week.
There's the need to respond from a disappointing regular-season opener. There's playing two games in a week on the West Coast. There's the need to improve in a lot of areas – particularly on the offensive line – following a one-sided loss to Kansas City Sunday.
But mostly, the issue remains obvious:
The health of Blaine Gabbert was the primary issue a week ago, with Gabbert starting after being questionable with a thumb injury, and this week the issue at the position is that there is a new starter – at least for this week.
Chad Henne, who competed with Gabbert for the starting job through the second preseason game, will start at quarterback when the Jaguars visit the Raiders Sunday. Gabbert was ruled out Monday after sustaining a laceration on his right hand against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. The laceration required 15 stitches.
Henne and Gabbert essentially split repetitions with the first team throughout training camp and preseason, and then Henne took most of the first team reps the final two weeks of preseason with Gabbert out with a thumb injury. Henne also started the last six games of last season when Gabbert was injured, so Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said confidence in the sixth-year veteran his high.
Henne completed three of six passes for 36 yards against the Chiefs, a game in which the Jaguars struggled offensively. Gabbert completed 16 of 35 passes for 121 yards, playing under pressure with the Chiefs sacking him six times and pressuring him 11 times. He threw two interceptions and the Jaguars first crossed their 36-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Henne, who started 31 games for the Dolphins from 2009-2011, completed 166 of 308 passes for Jacksonville last season, throwing 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Gabbert is expected to miss at least Sunday and Bradley said he will be reevaluated after that to determine his status for Seattle the following Sunday.
The consensus among many national observers before the season was that the Raiders would struggle this season, and possibly contend for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. Sunday's regular-season opener against the Colts served notice the consensus could be incorrect. The Raiders traveled to Indianapolis, and because of a dynamic performance from quarterback Terrelle Pryor they very nearly upset a team that made the playoffs last season. Pryor rallied the Raiders from a two-touchdown deficit to a 17-14 lead, giving them the lead with a 5-yard touchdown to Denarius Moore early in the fourth quarter. And Indianapolis needed a late touchdown run by quarterback Andrew Luck to salvage the victory. The Raiders may or may not be playoff contenders by December, but with a playmaking quarterback who can make something from very little, speculation that they will be among the worst teams in the NFL appears possibly premature.
The game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Sunday at 4:25 p.m. will be broadcast regionally on CBS and locally on WTEV CBS-47 with Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein and Steve Tasker in the broadcast booth.
Early matchup to watch
The Jaguars' front seven against Pryor. The Raiders quarterback made his first NFL start on Sunday, and his performance in that game was enough to give the franchise a lot of hope entering the second regular-season game. Pryor passed for the more than 200 yards and ran for more than 100, and while he was disappointed in some mistakes – including a critical interception that ended a potential game-winning drive – he very nearly led Oakland to an upset over favored Indianapolis. Pryor is a threat to run on every play, and he will look to run more quickly than Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith did this past week. Smith's scrambles gave the Jaguars trouble, with three carries for 25 yards. The Jaguars will be focused on getting a rush on Pryor, but this could be a week when rushing to contain Pryor is as or more important than sacking him or forcing him from the pocket.
Player to watch
Maurice Jones-Drew. This entry really is about Jones-Drew and the offensive line. The veteran running back rushed 15 times for 45 yards against Kansas City, but wasn't given a chance to be a factor early. He rushed six times for 14 yards in the first half as the Jaguars tried to get Gabbert and a young core of receivers involved. Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher in 2011, missed the last 10 games of last season with a foot injury, but because he ran so seldom early Sunday, it was difficult to get a real gauge on the veteran's health or conditioning. A focus Sunday must be improving the run blocking. When Jones-Drew did run early, the middle usually was clogged, and he had trouble finding enough of a lane or an edge to break through a crease or push a pile. After being held scoreless in the opener, the offense needs to find something that works, and getting the ball early and often to the three-time Pro Bowl selection could be an option.
What to watch
*Look for cornerback Will Blackmon to get his first start with the Jaguars Sunday. Blackmon, acquired as a free agent shortly before the season, is a seventh-year veteran who last played in 2011, when he played six games for the New York Giants. He will start in place of rookie Dwayne Gratz, who is expected to miss at least three games with a high-ankle sprain. Blackmon played 29 plays against the Chiefs after Gratz left the game. Rookie Demetrius McCray also could play a role at corner Sunday.
*Third-year guard Will Rackley sustained a lateral knee sprain against the Chiefs, though Bradley said Monday he has not been ruled out of practice Wednesday. Second-year veteran Mike Brewster played 26 plays in Rackley's place. Rackley was credited with allowing a sack and a hurry in 48 plays, and Brewster was not credited with allowing a sack or a hurry.
*Tight end Marcedes Lewis' status is uncertain entering the week. He missed the opener with a calf injury, with Allen Reisner playing 67 plays at tight end and Clay Harbor playing 10. Reisner dropped a pass early, and caught three for 31 yards. Harbor caught a five-yard pass early in the game.