We arrive at the fourth and final preseason game. At last.
By this time of the Jaguars 2011 preseason, we are where we are. And I've done this long enough to know that entering the Jaguars-Rams game at EverBank Field tonight, your thoughts on this team are pretty much set.
I'm not going to break out some new angle, or come up with some stunning argument to convince you to feel one way or the other. This is Getting Through time, folks, from now until September 11.
Not that there aren't a few storylines in Rams-Jaguars tonight.
There's the return of Maurice Jones-Drew and Aaron Kampman. There's whether the first-team offense can get a bit of momentum, and there's whether the first-team pass rush can generate some sacks. Then, there's what really matters: the fights for the final roster spots.
Try telling those guys preseason doesn't matter.
So, yes, Rams-Jaguars is important, because whether fans or media like it or not, deciding final roster spots is important. But if you're talking about how you're going to feel about the Jaguars entering the season – about whether the coming week and a half will be about childlike optimism or impending doom or something in between -- this game is probably fairly meaningless.
You know by now the score doesn't matter. The starters will play a couple of series. The final three quarters will be intense, but a handful of those guys will be on the field come September 11, so when you watch tonight, you won't see any perception-changing events.
You're either of the belief that this team will come together and play well when it matters, or you believe that the perceived weaknesses are simply too great to overcome.
Whatever side you're on, tonight won't change it, and that's OK. Opening day is coming soon, and if history is any indication, a lot of the gripes and concerns will become distant memories, to be replaced by other gripes and concerns and so on and so on . . .
Still, here's 10 things you want to see the Jaguars do against the St. Louis Rams tonight, whatever the results mean for your mood the next week and a half:
1.Score a touchdown.Three offensive touchdowns Saturday was triple the Jaguars' previous total for the preseason. Getting one early before the starters leave would be big for confidence.
2.Get a sack.Need we elaborate?
3.Get 'em in and get 'em out.The starters will play, but you won't see them long. Too close to the regular season to risk injury and wear and tear.
4.Hang on to the ball.The wide receivers must catch the ball better. Simple as that. May as well start now.
5.Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.Fans and media don't love the preseason, but general managers need it. A lot of careers and dreams are on the line in the final three quarters of preseason.
6.Get healthy.Forget the score. Get out of this game sans injury and you win.
7.Go deep.David Garrard wants to go deep more this season. More importantly, he wants to complete some of those deep passes. One or two tonight would build confidence.
8.A few steps forward.The way it looks, Blaine Gabbert won't play much for a while after tonight. You want to see him progress a bit in his last preseason game.
9.Sync 'em up.The starters won't play long, but in the case of Maurice Jones-Drew, you want to see a bit of continuity and rust shaken off before they head to the sideline.
10.And remember . . .
It's preseason, but hey, it's the last one, and that means we've just about gotten through Getting Through time. The regular season is 10 days away.
It's almost upon us. At last.