Friday, November 1, 2013
First-half silver linings: Jaguars
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first half of the Jacksonville Jaguars' season has been pretty negative, but what can you expect when the team is 0-8 and has lost every game by double digits?
From the offensive line to Blaine Gabbert's dismal play to a defense that can’t get off the field on third down, the past eight weeks have been spent documenting what’s wrong with the Jaguars. But things aren’t all bad. There are some good things happening, and they deserve mentioning, too.
So for those folks who like silver linings, here are five things that have gone right for the Jaguars in the first eight games:
Will Blackmon leads the Jaguars defense with nine pass breakups.
Will Blackmon: Blackmon has by far been the best waiver-wire signing the Jaguars have made. He has started seven games at cornerback, leads the team with nine pass breakups, and has the secondary’s only interception. He has also handled punt returns when Ace Sanders hasn’t been available for whatever reason. His play has been critical because of injuries to Dwayne Gratz and Alan Ball, who have missed a combined six games.
Mike Brown: The Jaguars have apparently found their No. 3 receiver in Brown, who spent most of last season on the practice squad as he made the transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver. He made his first career catch in the 2013 season opener against Kansas City before injuring his back and sitting out the next four weeks. Since his return he has caught 12 passes for 212 yards (17.7 yards per catch) and one touchdown.
Paul Posluszny: The defense has some serious issues (third downs, lack of turnovers, terrible against the run) but not because of Posluszny, who has been by far the team’s best player this season. He’s leading the team in tackles (80) and interceptions (two) and is second in pass breakups (seven). The Jaguars’ defense would be even worse if Posluszny wasn’t playing at such a high level.
No problems in the locker room: One of the biggest concerns with the way the season has gone is players starting to tune out head coach Gus Bradley, who tries to keep things positive in meetings and on the practice field. Would Bradley’s constant positive attitude wear on the players after weeks of seeing no results? Not yet, and several players said they don’t expect that to happen. Rookies Josh Evans and Ace Sanders both said they’ve seen no evidence of that creeping into the locker room and each added that the veterans have done a good job in the locker room to keep morale up. One veteran player said he was worried about the younger players tuning Bradley out but has been pleased that he hasn’t seen it happen.
Maurice Jones-Drew: He’s clearly not the same player who led the NFL in rushing in 2011, but he is still capable of being a workhorse back. His return from the Lisfranc injury he suffered last season was hampered by a sprained ankle in Week 2, but he has continued to progress and last week’s game against San Francisco was by far his most productive of the season. The bye week will give him additional time to heal. If offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch makes good on his pledge to give Jones-Drew 20-plus touches it could lead to a very productive second half.