JACKSONVILLE -- What we learned from the Jacksonville Jaguars' scrimmage at EverBank Field on Saturday . . .
1. Ace Sanders is the real thing . . .OK, he hasn't played a game and the Jaguars haven't either this season – not even a preseason game – but other than Cecil Shorts III, no offensive player has shown more in the offseason and training camp. The rookie wide receiver/returner from South Carolina showed again in the scrimmage Saturday. Sanders has earned his way into being one of the first three receivers on the field right now, and it's getting harder to envision him not being in that group when the regular season begins.
2. . . . and consistency is big for Sanders . . .Here's what's maybe the most impressive about Sanders: he doesn't have to make big plays to contribute. He caught three passes for 31 yards Saturday, and none were breakaway, flashy plays. He's showing consistency and that's more important than flash.
3. . . . and he returns punts, too.It's hard to get a real feel for a punt returner in the offseason or early in training camp. So, in a sense, the scrimmage was the first chance for Sanders to show himself there. He returned one punt. The return went for about 15 yards, and although there was no live tackling, he seemed very close to breaking it. When the Jaguars drafted Sanders, most thought his biggest role would be as a returner. He's showing he's a receiver, too, but his presence on punts could be big.
- The backup offensive line may need work. **Bradley talked afterward about needing to clean up a few mental errors, and the offensive line may be on that list. Quarterback Chad Henne was sacked five times, most of which seemed to come when he was working with the second team.
5. There was no great separation at quarterback . . . Not unexpectedly, neither Henne nor Blaine Gabbert took a huge step away from the other Saturday. A controlled scrimmage isn't the environment for that, but even if it was the statistics were pretty even. Gabbert completed 7 of 15 passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns and Henne completed 7 of 13 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
6. . . . but Gabbert may still have the edge . . .Gabbert started with the first unit, and appeared in control of the offense early. It was only a glimpse, but there was some rhythm early. He completed his first four passes, and his first drive ended when there was a miscommunication between he and Sanders when Sanders seemed to break off his route.
- . . . and Gabbert has very impressive flashes . . .** Two of Gabbert's passes on Saturday showed why coaches will have to be tempted to play him. He had a nice pass to Mohamed Massaquoi for a 20-yard touchdown and also an impressive touch pass to tight end Brett Brackett. When he's right, he looks very good.
8…. but don't count Henne out.He's a veteran with experience and he will take advantage of his opportunity. And he will get an opportunity in the coming weeks. Though he was playing against the second and third unit at the time, he showed he knows how to get the offense into rhythm during a two-minute drill Saturday, and he completed two scores in the red zone – a touchdown to Marcedes Lewis and a two-point conversion to Cecil Shorts III.
9. Denard Robinson is improving . . .He struggled to start camp, but the rookie "offensive weapon" is starting to show signs in the last couple of practices that he's finding his role. He didn't take snaps from the Wildcat formation Saturday, but he got steady work there late in the week and his ball security has improved. He had a seven-yard gain on Henne's two-minute drive.
10. . . . and don't count him out on kickoffs.The Jaguars took Robinson off of punt returns this week, but he's still working on kickoff returns, and he may be a factor there. He had a long kickoff return Saturday, and though it was debatable if it would have been as long with live tackling, Robinson's speed and explosiveness was beyond question on the play.
- LaRoy Reynolds keeps showing up. **The linebacker from Virginia has had an impressive camp, and he continued to impress Saturday. Official statistics aren't kept in scrimmages, but Reynolds was around the ball and active and he'll almost certainly have a role.
12. And, oh, yes, don't forget . . . it's just a scrimmage. There will be conclusions drawn from Saturday, and teeth will be gnashed. The Jaguars have been in training camp for about a week, and a half and five weeks remain before the regular-season opener. This wasn't supposed to look perfect yet.
13. . . . there was progress . . .The offense looked like it had some tempo going early, and that was without the running game and Maurice Jones-Drew being much of a factor (difficult to work on the running game in an-tackle scrimmage). The Jaguars saw some things on which they could build Saturday. There are a few more weapons offensively than in the past. Those are positives.
14. . . . and there is hope . . .A team that went 2-14 and overhauled the roster probably isn't going to look like a finished product a week into camp. What you're looking for are signs of progress and pieces around which to build, and on the first semblance of live work, the Jaguars showed a few of those on Saturday.
15. . . .and finally . . .You'll notice there wasn't much about the defense in this What We Learned. There's a reason. It's tough to analyze much there in a non-tackling scrimmage. The preseason starts on Friday. Things get clearer then – for the defense, and the entire roster. Stay tuned.