At last, the Jaguars play a game tonight.
It's the 2012 preseason opener, and while "only" preseason, it is a significant evening. New coach versus former coach. A first look at a new offense. The next look at quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
It's the first game of the Shad Khan era, the first game of the Mike Mularkey era. It will be played against the New York Giants, with Tom Coughlin – the Jaguars' first head coach – coaching on the visiting sideline at EverBank Field.
It's also a night with a new tradition – the Prowl, in which the Jaguars will walk through the fans beneath the Bud Light Party Zone before taking the field.
"Ten Things?" That's an old tradition, and it's back this season, so here's a preseason version, which means it won't be as much 10 things about winning as 10 things you want to see from the Jaguars as they progress to the regular season.
So, the Jaguars prepare to Prowl and finally play, ten things they must do against the Giants at EverBank Field tonight:
1)Set a tone.A victory would be nice, but you want to see things done Mularkey's way. Aggressive. Physical. Smart. It won't be perfect in the first game, but you want to see it moving that way. Mularkey certainly does.
2)Protect Gabbert.Guard Will Rackley is out, but the rest of the starters should play. The line now looks like this: Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri, Cameron Bradfield. The Jaguars moved to that lineup Thursday, so there will be hiccups, but the group is capable of protecting Gabbert, who has been pressured too much in practice. He must get time and that must start now.
3)Get to the quarterback. Note we didn't say, "Rush the passer." The defensive line wants to get home this season. The front could have had eight or nine sacks in the scrimmage. It needs to keep that up.
4)Stay healthy.Some have wondered if the starting offense would play into the second half to gain continuity. No. The starters will play about 17-20 plays, and that's smart. As Mularkey says, this is a practice game.
5)Get Rashad Jennings going.He looked good in the scrimmage Friday. Get him a few carries. Let him show he can be physical and fast. Throw him a few passes. Let him break a few tackles. There's no reason he shouldn't do these things. He has been doing them all camp.
6)Get open.The receivers are doing this better the last few days of camp. Keep doing it.
7)Catch the ball.The receivers did this a little better late this week, too. Keep doing that, too.
8)Be fast defensively.The Jaguars played faster defensively in 2011 than in 2010. That was a big reason for the improvement. If Mel Tucker gets what he wants, you'll see swarming early. That should create turnovers, which is what this category could have been called.
9)Get better. Duh, but the point is you don't overanalyze victories and losses in preseason. Improve, and move on. It's what the preseason is about.
10)Stand tall, play confident.We saved Gabbert for last. He has looked good in practice – and in the scrimmage, too. He checked down early in that scrimmage, but showed patience, then found a rhythm. If he sticks to the offense, and plays as fundamentally sound as he has in practice, he'll continue to improve. No reason to believe he won't, but he still has to do it.