The main storyline around the Jaguars this week will be injuries.
But beneath that – or maybe to the side – something else is buzzing, and that's that the Jaguars are showing the early signs of an improved offense.
One game doesn't qualify as a turnaround, but the Jaguars after ranking 32nd in the NFL in total offense last season rank 16th after one week, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert is the AFC's seventh-leading passer with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 96.1.
One game isn't a turnaround for Gabbert, either, but Jaguars players liked what they saw Sunday from the second-year quarterback.
Eugene Monroe, the Jaguars' starting left tackle, said that was particularly true during the drive late in the fourth quarter that Gabbert capped with a 39-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass to wide receiver Cecil Shorts.
"He operated as a quarterback and a leader of a team should operate," Monroe said. "He was poised and confident. Any time you get in those situations, your entire team needs to be confident. "You need to believe you can take the ball down and get points.
"You have to believe you're going to get points, then you have to go down and do it."
The Jaguars did, and considering the importance of the quarterback position, that may have a longer-lasting effect than what happened afterward.
With injuries mounting on the offensive line, the Jaguars on Tuesday officially signed offensive tackle Herb Taylor and tight end Stephen Spach.
The Jaguars made room on the roster by releasing wide receiver Brian Robiskie and tight end Colin Cloherty.
Spach (6-feet-4, 260 pounds) is a six-year veteran who has spent time with Philadelphia, Minnesota, New England, Arizona and St. Louis, with 24 starts and 22 receptions for 147 yards. Taylor (6-4, 305), a sixth-round selection by Kansas City in the 2007 NFL Draft, also has spent time with Denver, the New York Giants and Green Bay. The third-year veteran has played in 18 games.
The Texans entered the season as the AFC South favorites in the eyes of most, and there are many who see the Texans as a possible Super Bowl team. But Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak wasn't happy in the wake of a 30-10 victory over Miami Sunday. The Texans have a diversified, dangerous offense, but at its heart is the ability to run effectively and Houston – the NFL's No. 2 rushing offense last season – didn't do that against the Dolphins. Arian Foster rushed for 79 yards on 26 carries and the Texans averaged 2.4 yards per carry against Miami. Kubiak was particularly displeased with three three-and-outs on five second-half possessions. "I think that's a mark of a good team," he said. "Everybody knows you've got to run it to finish a game; you still line up and run it. We didn't do that."
The game at EverBank Field will be broadcast regionally on CBS and locally on WTEV CBS47 (Channel 6). Marv Albert will be on play-by-play, with Rich Gannon adding analysis.
Early matchup to watch
Arian Foster versus Paul Posluszny. If Kubiak disliked the Texans' running game, the Jaguars weren't crazy about their run defense in the opener, either. They allowed 123 yards rushing to the Vikings, and running back Adrian Peterson rushed for two touchdowns. The Vikings didn't gash Jacksonville's defense throughout, but for crucial stretches controlled the ball on the ground. The Texans will be looking to get Foster – and their offensive identity – reestablished this week, and if you don't get him stopped, he will run effectively and downhill until you do. With linebacker Daryl Smith possibly out a second consecutive week with a groin injury, this must be an area of emphasis for Posluszny – the Jaguars' middle linebacker – and a young linebacking group that also includes Russell Allen and Kyle Bosworth.
Player to watch
Cecil Shorts. While Gabbert was the most-criticized, written-off Jaguars rookie last season, Shorts was a close second. No more. His four-reception, 74-yard effort against Minnesota not only quieted critics, it showed that the Jaguars have not three, but four, capable receivers – Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas and Shorts. The Jaguars on Tuesday released wide receiver Brian Robiskie, a move made easier by the continued development of Shorts.
- The focus Wednesday will be the health of the Jaguars' offensive line. Three offensive linemen were injured Sunday, with tight end Zach Potter nearly called upon to play right tackle. Guard Eben Britton sustained an ankle injury against the Vikings, and although it is not expected to be long-term, his status for Sunday is uncertain. Tackle Cameron Bradfield was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday and Mularkey said Monday he could be out at least two weeks. If Britton and Bradfield can't go, rookie Mike Brewster and veteran Guy Whimper could start at guard and tackle, respectively.
- Guard Uche Nwaneri was the third offensive lineman to sustain an injury in Minnesota. He reaggravated an ankle injury, and although it initially appeared serious he finished the game and Mularkey said he expects Nwaneri to practice this week.
- Cornerback Derek Cox and Smith remain questions on defense, with Smith missing the opener with a groin injury and Cox missing with a hamstring injury. Mularkey said Monday Smith won't practice Wednesday and may not play Sunday, while Cox likely will be limited Wednesday with his status uncertain for Sunday.
- Running back Rashad Jennings underwent an MRI Monday, and Mularkey said he could be out at least two weeks.
- Defensive ends Austen Lane (foot) and George Selvie (knee) aren't likely to play, Mularkey said Monday.