AFC South: Jack Del Rio

Blaine GabbertAP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackBlaine Gabbert went just 5-22 as a starter in three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are Chad Henne's team now.

General manager David Caldwell, head coach Gus Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch are confidently putting the offense in Henne's hands. It's not exactly handing the keys to Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but it is the correct move for the Jaguars to make.

That's why the team traded Blaine Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft and possibly a conditional pick in 2015. Caldwell said the move was more about the franchise's confidence in Henne than Gabbert's struggles.

"When we signed Chad, we made a commitment to give him a starting position and build around him," Caldwell said shortly after the trade was announced on Tuesday afternoon. "We felt like he was going to be a starter and there is a possibility we would draft a young quarterback in the draft somewhere along the line and he would come in and be the backup and learn behind Chad.

"That left Blaine to compete for that and I just felt like it was a good opportunity for us to move on and possibility get a draft pick for someone who can come in and help us this year instead of a backup quarterback."

Gabbert obviously wasn't in the team's plans once Henne signed a two-year extension last week. However, trading the former first-round pick is a shrewd move because Caldwell was able to get something for a player he was likely going to cut at some point. Plus, it frees up $3.82 million in cap space.

While the trade obviously excites fans that have been extremely critical of Gabbert, it also is an example of what can happen when you put a quarterback on the field before he's ready. Not only will he struggle, but it can set your franchise back years.

[+] EnlargeChad Henne
AP Photo/Jack DempseyChad Henne completed 60.6 percent of his passes last season for 3,241 yards. He had 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Caldwell and Bradley gave Gabbert every chance to succeed in their first season in Jacksonville. Despite Gabbert's poor play in his first two seasons -- 21 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a 5-19 record as a starter -- both gave him a clean slate in 2013. He played well enough in the preseason to win the starting job.

But injuries, as they did in his first two seasons, affected his progress. He suffered a fractured thumb in the second preseason game and played through the injury in the season opener before suffering a cut on his hand. He missed two games, came back in Week 4 and suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5. He never saw the field after that.

When he did play, he was awful, completing just 48.8 percent of his passes and throwing one touchdown and seven interceptions -- including three returned for touchdowns.

Henne didn't tear it up, but he was consistent and kept the offense out of bad situations. He made a handful of plays, including tossing the winning touchdown pass against Cleveland with 40 seconds remaining, and Caldwell believes with better offensive line play, more weapons, and another year in the offense Henne will be much better.

Caldwell didn't want to talk about why Gabbert didn't succeed in Jacksonville and that there is never just one person at fault in such a situation. He's right. There are two who bear more fault than anyone else: Jack Del Rio and Gene Smith.

Smith traded the Jaguars' first-round pick (No. 16) and second-round pick (No. 49) to Washington to move up six spots to take Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2011. The Jaguars' starter that season was supposed to be David Garrard, who was in the fourth-year of an seven-year, $60 million contract, but in a surprise move the team released Garrard just five days before the 2011 season opener.

Luke McCown started the first two games, but Del Rio made the switch to Gabbert for the final 14 games. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Gabbert clearly wasn't ready to be the team's starter and he never seemed to recover.

He went 5-22 as a starter and the team has won just 11 games in Gabbert's three seasons.

Caldwell has had nothing but praise for Gabbert, especially in the way he handled being demoted, and said he likes the former Missouri standout. That's partly why he sent him to San Francisco. He knows GM Trent Baalke, it's a stable organization, and there's no pressure.

"I know we're sending him to a good situation," Caldwell said. "That's what I told him at the end of the year. I said, ‘If something did come about, I [would] try to send you to the best situation possible.'"

It turned out that way -- for Gabbert and the Jaguars.
Eric Decker, Jason McCourty AP Photo Jason McCourty, right, and the Titans' secondary face a formidable challenge in defending Eric Decker and the Broncos' passing attack.
It seemed a little out of place, but as the Denver Broncos were about to get to work on the Tennessee Titans this week, quarterback Peyton Manning said he was going to prepare for an "unfamiliar opponent."

Granted, Manning hasn't faced a Titans team with Mike Munchak as its head coach, but he has faced Tennessee 19 times previously in his career (including a playoff game in the 1999 season), all with the Indianapolis Colts. So, while this is the Titans' first look at Manning in a Broncos uniform, the quarterback is a familiar face as Denver tries to keep its grip on home-field advantage in the postseason.

Here, ESPN.com Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss Sunday's game.

Legwold: Paul, you've been around the team since it arrived in Tennessee and, before we get to the on-field matchup, how would you say the team has dealt with franchise founder Bud Adams' death earlier this season? Who is making the decisions now and who will make them in the coming offseason, both on and off the field?

Kuharsky: It was a big loss, of course, for Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster and team employees who worked for Adams for a long time. Most of the players hardly knew him, as he was not around much in his final couple of years, when his health began to fail. So there is a lot of uncertainty now. Three branches of Adams' family share control of the franchise, and Bud's son-in-law, Tommy Smith, is the team president and CEO. He's apparently been paying close attention to things in anticipation of taking over. But we know very little about how he will operate going forward. That means there is some tension, because not every team employee knows if he's secure. That starts with the struggling head coach, Munchak.

Leadership in Denver appeared to remain strong as Jack Del Rio stepped in for John Fox. How much of a boost will Fox's return give the team?

Legwold: Del Rio, the team's defensive coordinator, earned praise from everyone in the organization, including Fox and the players, for how things were handled in the head coach's absence following open-heart surgery. His return has given the team an emotional boost, because after a month away, Fox came back feeling better than he had in some time and enthusiastic to see where this season can go. It should help the Broncos avoid a late-season stumble as they try to get home-field advantage for the playoffs again. Tactically speaking, not much will change. Coordinator Adam Gase is still calling the plays on offense -- Del Rio has said that, other than being a sounding board from time to time, he left the offense solely in Gase's hands during Fox's absence. Del Rio will continue to call the defense on game day as he has all season. Overall, though, it's likely Fox's return will keep the Broncos from hitting an emotional lull over the final month of the regular season.

On the field, the Titans have seen Manning plenty over the years. How do you think Tennessee will approach things on defense and does it see some differences in the Broncos' offense compared to what it saw from the Manning-led Colts?

Kuharsky: Well, it's a relief the Titans don't see Edgerrin James, I am sure. And while Denver's pass-catchers are a remarkable bunch, I'm not sure there is a Marvin Harrison in it yet. They know blitzing Manning can be fruitless no matter what matchups they like against offensive linemen. They'll try to be unpredictable and force him to throw to a certain spot a few times. But plenty of teams have that idea and fail with it. Under Gregg Williams' influence, the Titans have used an ever-shifting front, and we know that's a popular way to play against Manning in an attempt to minimize his ability to make pre-snap reads. The front is pretty good, especially Jurrell Casey, though there is no dominant edge rusher. The secondary has been quite good. It's the linebackers, particularly in pass coverage, who seem vulnerable to me, and I don't know what the Titans will do there to prevent abuse. Bernard Pollard's been a leader whose play has matched his talk, but the Titans have kept him out of tough coverage situations and I wonder whether Manning will find ways to try to go at him.

The Titans are rooting for freezing temperatures even though they've been awful themselves in their past two frigid games. I know some all-time great quarterbacks have excelled in the cold even if they haven't loved it. How much of an issue is it for Manning at this stage of his career?

Legwold: That is the elephant in the room with the Broncos given their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens last January. Manning threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns in that game, even though the temperature at kickoff was 13 degrees. But folks seem to remember a wobbly incompletion here and there to go with an interception to close out the Broncos' final possession. Until Manning simply cranks it up on a cold day and the Broncos get a key victory, people are going to ask him about it. He had spots in the overtime loss to New England two weeks ago -- in frigid, windy conditions -- in which he threw as well as he ever has, particularly on a sideline pass to Demaryius Thomas and a touchdown throw to tight end Jacob Tamme. It's not so much his arm that has been an issue post-surgery, it's his grip when he throws. Overall, though, the Broncos push the pace more on offense at home. Manning has terrorized defenses that have played a lot of man coverages against the Broncos' offense, including his five-touchdown game last weekend in Kansas City. The Broncos like that matchup in any weather.

Denver has some injuries on defense that have affected how it plays, especially with the run defense. Where does Chris Johnson fit in the Titans' offense these days?

Kuharsky: He's really had one big game all season. Even when he seems to get going, the Titans can't find a rhythm or a way to stick with him. This was supposed to be a run-reliant, run-dominant team. It isn't. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now the quarterback, the Titans like to put him in an empty set and let him do his thing. It's been good at times, but it doesn't do much to enhance the chances of the running game. Johnson doesn't get yards after contact. So if he doesn't find a big hole, he's not going to do a lot of damage. Watch out on a screen or little flip pass -- that's where Johnson has been more threatening.

Denver's defense has dealt with quite a few injuries and Von Miller's suspension. How's his health and how is that group playing together?

Legwold: The Broncos have yet to play the 11 starters on defense in any game this season they expected to have coming out of training camp. They never will now that defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson has been moved to injured reserve. Vickerson was a big part of the plan on early downs -- and the Chiefs tested the middle of the defense plenty this past Sunday, so the Broncos are working through some adjustments there. Champ Bailey (left foot) has played in just three games this season -- just one from start to finish -- and safety Rahim Moore is on injured reserve/designated to return. (The Broncos hope Moore will be back for the postseason.) Toss in Derek Wolfe and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie not being in the lineup against the Chiefs and the Broncos are not nearly as consistent as they were last season, when they were a top-five defense. Miller has had moments of top-shelf play since his return, but hasn't been a consistent force like he was last season.

Justin Blackmon and Knowshon MorenoUSA TODAY SportsJustin Blackmon and the 0-5 Jaguars face Knowshon Moreno and the 5-0 Broncos.
Already, it has been the subject of the biggest point spread in decades as well as an exchange of tweets from each team's official Twitter handle that included a "stay classy Denver" missive from the Jaguars. But the league's highest-scoring team and the league's lowest-scoring team will meet Sunday when the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars get together at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Broncos are 5-0 and the Jaguars come in at 0-5 in Gus Bradley's first season as head coach. ESPN.com Jaguars team reporter Michael DiRocco and Broncos team reporter Jeff Legwold break down this week's game.

Legwold: Michael, it's been a tough go thus far in the first season of the new regime. How have Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell handled it all? And have they grown weary of people saying they should sign Tim Tebow?

DiRocco: Bradley has been amazingly positive with the media and with the players. It's probably the best approach to take because he's got a young team and everyone knew this was going to be a rough season, anyway. It's the only way to keep the players committed to the plan he and Caldwell have in place to turn the franchise around. If he were to all of a sudden go negative, he'd risk losing the team. That doesn't mean he is not acknowledging problems and poor play, but he is trying to be upbeat in doing so. Caldwell has not been as visible, but when he spoke last week, he talked about remaining committed to the long-term rebuilding plan and not trying to find a quick fix. As for the Tebow question, it's a dead issue among Bradley and Caldwell. They're not going to sign him and they're able to ignore the Tebow fervor, which has died down a bit over the past two weeks.

In terms of the Broncos, they are averaging 46 points a game and just scored 51 in a victory over the Dallas Cowboys. They look unstoppable. But what, in your opinion, is their Achilles' heel on offense, and is there a defense out there that can exploit that?

Legwold: They lost All Pro left tackle Ryan Clady earlier this season, and his replacement, Chris Clark, had never started a game at left tackle in his career. Center Manny Ramirez never started an NFL game at the position until the regular-season opener after the Broncos moved him in as the starter in offseason workouts. Overall, the offensive line has played well so far -- Manning's been sacked just five times -- and there might be no player more adept at reading a defense's intentions in the rush and getting rid of the ball accordingly before trouble arrives than Manning. The trouble has come in the run game. The Broncos have had 53 carries this season for 2 or fewer yards because they haven't consistently won the line of scrimmage, even in mop-up situations late in games. So, for all the Broncos have done on offense this season -- and it has been remarkable -- it's still an unanswered question if they could win a slug-it-out affair on a bad-weather day or if Manning was just having a bad outing. But the other question is whether or not anybody could even get them into one of those games.

In terms of quarterback, what do you think the Jaguars' long-term plans are at the position, and if they get a top-three pick in next May's draft, would they pick one?

DiRocco: This season's top priority was finding out if Blaine Gabbert could be the player around which Caldwell and Bradley build the franchise. Instead of relying on preconceived notions, they gave him a clean slate when they arrived. So far, though, Gabbert has missed two games with a hand injury and isn't likely to play Sunday because of a hamstring strain. He hasn't been very good when he has been on the field, either: 44.8 percent completion rate, seven interceptions (three returned for TDs). By the end of the season, management will likely come to the conclusion that Gabbert isn't the answer and they'll have to draft a quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater seems to be the best quarterback available, but a lot can change between now and May. He'd be whom I would take, and the Jaguars might very well agree, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Jaguars traded down to get more picks because this team needs so much help elsewhere.

Speaking of long-term quarterback plans, what are the Broncos thinking there? Manning is approaching 40 and has the neck issue, so he's got only one or two more good seasons in him, right?

Legwold: When he signed with the Broncos in March of 2012, Manning wanted to construct a deal the Broncos could feel good about in terms of their ability to evaluate his physical status after his first season in Denver. At the time, Manning said he didn't want his deal to prevent the team from doing other things if it didn't work out. So, the two sides had it written into his contract that Manning would take a physical exam following his first season in Denver and if his surgically-repaired neck was cleared, it would then engage the next two years of the contract -- 2013 and 2014. Both of those seasons are now guaranteed, so those three years have always been the window people have operated in when discussing his time with the Broncos. However, that was before his assault on the record book this season. He looks stronger than ever. Manning does have two additional years on the deal -- 2015 and 2016 -- but those years are not guaranteed. Manning has always said he won't be a "hang-around" guy, and when he feels he can't compete at the level he wants to -- or no longer wants to go through the arduous preparation at the pace he currently keeps -- that would influence him as well. But on the field, many in the league are saying he's playing better than ever, and he says he still enjoys the day-to-day work it takes to reach that level.

Overall this season, can you tell folks about one or two Jaguars who offer some glimmers of hope for the future and who are performing well amid the team's struggles?

DiRocco: Offensively, it's receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts. Blackmon has played only one game (he was suspended for the first four), but his impact on the offense was immediate -- three catches for 90 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams. He's the team's best playmaker and had a fantastic rookie season in 2012 (64 catches, 865 yards, 5 TDs). Shorts (31 catches for 411 yards this season) is in his third season and is on pace for 100 catches. There are two rookies in the secondary who will be the backbone of the defense: safeties Josh Evans (sixth round) and Johnathan Cyprien (second). Cyprien has the size/toughness/coverage mix that's needed in the defensive scheme that Bradley brought over from Seattle. Evans was forced into the starting lineup by an injury to Dwight Lowery in the third game and hasn't missed a snap since. Both are learning on the go, but it's easy to see they're talented.

Jack Del Rio is facing his former team this week. Do you sense that this game means a lot to him because of the way his tenure ended, or is this just another game for him?

Legwold: Del Rio will deflect, and has previously, most any discussion about how his time with the Jaguars ended. So, people shouldn't expect too many public fireworks from him in that regard, but, privately, I'm sure he'd like to see the Broncos dominate. His players like him and they respect him, so they will also want to give him a quality effort in this one. Especially since they just surrendered 506 passing yards and five touchdowns to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo this past Sunday. They've got an awful lot to deal with, so I'm not sure Del Rio will publicly stroll down memory lane too much, but he's in a good spot with the Broncos as far as working day to day for a playoff contender. As far as being a head coach again, he's already been linked to the USC job -- he's publicly said "there's nothing to talk about there" -- and should the Broncos finish strong and play with a little more defensive edge when both Von Miller and Champ Bailey return, he could find himself in the NFL mix as well.

.

Get to know the Denver Broncos

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
8:00
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Denver Broncos are on a roll so far that tops what the New England Patriots did in 2007. They are scoring points at a record pace, lead the NFL in total offense and passing yards and are favored over the visiting Jaguars on Sunday by 28 points -- which ties the largest point spread in NFL history.

Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS).

Here’s a look at the Broncos:

Record: 5-0.

Last week: beat Dallas 51-48.

Coach: John Fox, third season (26-11); 12th season overall (99-82).

Offensive coordinator: Adam Gase.

Defensive coordinator: Jack Del Rio.

Series record: Jaguars lead 5-3 (regular season).

THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW ON OFFENSE

QB Peyton Manning: He has already thrown for 1,884 yards and 20 touchdowns, with only one interception. He’s also completing 75.8 percent of his passes. Those are staggering numbers, even for Manning.

WR Demaryius Thomas: He is Manning’s favorite target and leads the team with 34 catches for 450 yards. He’s one of the league’s top young receivers and has already established himself as one of the game’s better big-play receivers. What makes him so hard for defensive backs to handle is his size (6-foot-3, 229 pounds).

LT Chris Clark: Why an offensive lineman on this list? Because he’s replacing Ryan Clady, who is out for the season with a Lisfranc injury. Clady was a rock at left tackle. Clark has filled in capably. The offensive line has allowed Manning to be sacked only five times.

THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW ON DEFENSE

NT Terrance Knighton: The former Jaguars defensive lineman has started every game and has seven tackles. He’s anchoring a defensive front that leads the NFL in rush defense (69.6 yards per game).

LB Wesley Woodyard: The Broncos’ leading tackler (35) left last Sunday’s game with a neck injury but said on Monday that he felt fine and would be ready to play against the Jaguars. He is coming off the best season of his career: 117 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions in 2012.

S Duke Ihenacho: He leads the Broncos with 28 solo tackles (32 overall). He has started every game this season after playing in only two in 2012 as a rookie.

ETC.

The Broncos have scored 103 points in their last two games. … Denver has lost three in a row to the Jaguars. The last Denver victory came in 2005 in Jacksonville. … The Broncos have won 16 consecutive regular-season games dating back to a 31-21 loss at New England on Oct. 7, 2012. … Denver has scored more than 40 points four times this season, which is already a single-season franchise record. … Receiver Wes Welker is the first player since Washington’s Charlie Brown in 1982 to catch at least one touchdown pass in each of his first five games with a team.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Through the late years of Jack Del Rio’s nine-season tenure and Mike Mularkey’s one awful year, plenty of Jacksonville Jaguars lacked faith in the coaches above them.

New coach Gus Bradley believes trust is as important as any ingredient in his team, and in the early stages of a big rebuild he has earned a great degree of it from his players.

“It’s been really refreshing, his whole approach from day one,” said Jason Babin, the team’s most proven pass-rusher. “The way he’s laid out how we’re going to do things, the way we’ll go about our business, the way things are going to be here is genuine. As you know coaches often say one thing, and it’s not always entirely true.”

“To have a coach like that with the genuine sincerity is special. You believe him when he talks to you, and he’s done a great job developing relationships.”

Belief is big for a team that is coming off a disastrous 2-14 season, lacks a proven quarterback and has some areas of questionable talent. Bradley has preached a simple, core theme from the very start. He’s not talking playoffs, he’s not talking wins, he’s not talking success. He’s constantly talking improvement.

Bradley is high energy, and while he’s not trying to stamp his personality on his players, the enthusiasm can’t help but be contagious.

“He’s like a breath of fresh air, it’s like night and day,” tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “I’ve always said you can have good coaches but bad people. He’s actually a great coach and a good person who actually cares about you. You can tell when you come into work. It’s just a better working environment.

"When he first came in and we met him, I thought his enthusiasm was fake. Like it wouldn’t last. But that’s who he is, every single day. You can’t do anything but appreciate it.”

While Bradley would like his team to start fast, his bigger emphasis is on finishing strong. For a team that might not have a lot of success in the standings, it seems a smart approach. Because if you talk all about starting fast and you don’t, then what?

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
AP Photo/John RaouxThis season could be Blaine Gabbert's last chance to assert himself as Jacksonville's QB.
1. The quarterback. The Jaguars steered clear of a quarterback in the draft, as they didn’t see an answer to their issues and had plenty of other areas to address. So they move forward with Blaine Gabbert’s big, and final, chance. The new offense is tailored to help Gabbert be better -- he will roll out and go on the move more. His weapons are better and more reliable, with the emerging Cecil Shorts paired with Justin Blackmon (once he’s healthy and after a four-game suspension to start the season) along with Ace Sanders and Mike Brown, who has been quite good in camp. The protection is far better with No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel at right tackle. The initial depth chart has Gabbert as co-No. 1 with Chad Henne, and the team will pump up the competition for as long as it can. But those boosting Henne and suggesting he’ll win the job haven’t seen practices where Henne rarely seizes real command and is regularly worse than Gabbert.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew’s foot. He looked good during my visit, very much the same guy we’ve become accustomed to. He could easily be the centerpiece of the offense just as he was before he suffered a serious Lisfranc foot injury in the team’s sixth game last season. We need to see him in games, over time show that the foot isn’t an issue. We need to see how effective the rest of the team can be so that it’s not overreliant on him. And we need to see how he takes on the final year of his contract when he desires a big new deal, but exists in a league where even effective running backs are devalued as they approach 30. While the team will run more zone plays, MJD said the rush offense won’t look that different from what we saw in the last few years of Del Rio’s regime.

3. The shape of a new scheme: Bradley ran Seattle’s defense under Pete Carroll, and the scheme put a heavy emphasis on big physical cornerbacks and pass-rushing Leos. Do the Jaguars have the guys to fit those roles? Third-round pick Dwayne Gratz looks like a good get. But Babin is the team’s best rusher, and he was let go by the Eagles during the season last year, not a great sign. The second option at Leo, 2012 second-rounder Andre Branch, remains mostly invisible. Jacksonville had 20 sacks last season. The end pool hasn’t really changed, though Tyson Alualu has shifted outside. The new interior guys -- Sen'Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick -- will solidify the run defense. But will they penetrate and get quarterbacks to move off their spot?

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley and Dave Caldwell
Phil Sears/USA TODAY Sports Coach Gus Bradley, left, and GM Dave Caldwell have made a positive impression as they rebuild the Jags.
David Caldwell and Bradley. The new GM and coach are both in their jobs for the first time. They are enthusiastic partners in building this team, not afraid to say there are things they don’t know yet, as opposed to storming in and claiming they have all the answers. We won’t be able to judge them for a few years as they need to assemble and deploy talent. And we don’t know too much about Bradley’s staff. But people who have worked with Caldwell and Bradley in the past, and people who are working with them now, have great reviews. I’m impressed with both, and they are the best thing the team has going for it right now.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

The talent gap. How many Jaguars would start for the two-time defending AFC South champion Houston? Joeckel would be the right tackle. Paul Posluszny, if he fit into a 3-4, could be a two-down inside guy next to Brian Cushing. Shorts would be a top-three receiver. That’s probably it. The Jaguars might be moving in a good direction, but the distance between their talent and the talent at the top of the division, conference and league is substantial. The more talented teams don’t always win, but you’d rather not be the team that has to remind itself that all the time.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Denard Robinson is listed as a running back, a quarterback, a receiver and a kick returner on the team’s initial depth chart. The team already has tried to trim his workload -- he’s not involved as a punt returner for now -- to help him get good at a smaller role, and so he can really concentrate on ball security. They will definitely use him in the Wildcat. But Caldwell said he’s not really expecting anything from Robinson early on.
  • All the receivers are learning all the spots. So while Sanders and Brown both look the part of slot guys, don’t pigeonhole either as strictly inside guys. And while Shorts and Blackmon look the part of outside guys, they could well get opportunities lining up inside, too. Mohamed Massaquoi and, to a larger degree, Jordan Shipley don’t seem to be very big factors right now.
  • Alualu looked good as an end when I focused on him. Hopefully his knee is sound and he will be able to put things together in his fourth year. Meanwhile, Jeremy Mincey is going the other direction. He has added about 15 pounds and his primary role is likely to be as a nickel tackle.
  • After what he did, and failed to do, in his chances in Houston last season, cornerback Alan Ball seemed like an uninspired signing to me. But he has been better through camp so far than I would have expected.
  • Undrafted rookie linebacker LaRoy Reynolds is flashing regularly at practice. At this point, I expect he’s on the team and given a chance to be a special-teams ace. Maybe he even pushes starter Russell Allen. Look for six to eight undrafted guys to make the initial 53-man roster.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some of what I noticed at Tennessee Titans practice Sunday night:

The Oklahoma Drill -- I cringe when I see it because I think of how Jacksonville defensive lineman Tyson Alualu suffered an unnecessary knee injury as part of Jack Del Rio's version. What the Titans did here wasn't nearly as extensive and Mike Munchak emphasized how he doesn't believe it's risky.

They did some work with linebackers and offensive linemen Saturday and then looked for coaches to request matchups today. They intend to do something like that, something competitive in practice, on the nights they are in pads.

"It's a safe thing, there not a whole lot that can go wrong there," Munchak said. "There are only a couple bodies in the way, it's low impact."

I'm not sure about the low impact part.

Michael Roos won against Kamerion Wimbley, Fernando Velasco beat Colin McCarthy, Taylor Thompson got the decision over Michael Griffin, and the timing on a Quinn Johnson-Bernard Pollard snap was messed up so it was hard to judge fairly.

Jake Locker -- The quarterback performed better than he did during Friday's practice. The offense as a whole, which got beaten pretty badly Saturday afternoon, bounced back nicely.

I saw him throw a dart in red zone work to Damian Williams in the back left of the end zone, a ball Williams caught with Tommie Campbell practically draped over him.

One sequence was particularly good.

Locker hit Kendall Wright on a midrange pass at the right sideline. Wright dove, pulled it in, and his shoulder landed in bounds. The next play Locker found Nate Washington in stride well down the right sideline for a big play on Jason McCourty.

Locker also took off a couple times on plays that would have produced real headaches for a defense in live action.

Drops or fumbles -- Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains isn't standing for them.

When Darius Reynaud fumbled, it might have been the result of a botched handoff, but it didn't matter. "Give me a new running back," Loggains shouted, motioning to the rest of the offense. "That can't happen."

Craig Stevens and receiver Roberto Wallace got similar requests to leave the offense after drops.

Fitzpatrick's block -- On a play where Reynaud started to run right but then cut back, backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick joined the blocking caravan and kept Alterraun Verner out of the play.

The crowd ate it up.

"I think he knew that, that he's wearing the red jersey and no one was going to hurt him," Munchak said. "You can see the energy it brings, I think quarterbacks realize that. They can get involved in a play like that when someone reverses fields, they can maybe get a cheap block and not get hurt on it. It brought a lot of energy to the practice for sure."
Shad Khan is generally careful not to be too harsh about the term of former general manager Gene Smith.

When Khan bought the team late in the 2011 season from Wayne Weaver, he inherited a GM who had just gotten his contract extended, and he stuck with Smith through 2012.

He made his biggest statement about Smith when he fired him after the season ended, ultimately replacing him with Dave Caldwell and allowing Caldwell to part ways with coach Mike Mularkey and replace him with Gus Bradley.

In a new interview with Forbes, Khan tells Brian Solomon the old regime had an inflated feel of how close the Jaguars were to winning -- something Khan’s talked about before.
“When I got there, there were two sides, business and football. Business I understand. It was pretty obvious to me what we had to do. But the football side was like the Holy Grail. They had the ‘secret recipe’ here and the self-analysis of the team was that we were pretty good, that we were just a little bit away from the playoffs and if we just get some free agents signed up, we’ll be in great shape. That’s why we ended up with the fourth-highest cash payroll last year. The result was self-evident. If you are honest with yourself and the team and the fans, there’s only one thing to do when it’s 2-14. When it’s 8-8 you can be conflicted as to how much baby and how much bathwater there is, but here there was no baby -- it was just water.”

A few other items of note out of an interesting piece:
  • Khan is not massaging the status of the team right now: “This is rebuilding, rebuilding from the ground up. There’s no illusion about that. This is about as clean and intense a rebuild as you’re going to have.”
  • He indicated that GM Dave Caldwell working closely in concert with coach Gus Bradley is important to him as it seemed Smith and coach Jack Del Rio were practically on opposite sides of the stadium and there were a lot of closed doors.
  • Bradley’s open mindedness is one of his most attractive qualities: “He has a really keen mind learning about people. Frankly, that’s in stark comparison to the guys who say, ‘We’ve been in football for X number of years and we know how to do it.’ One of the things that’s exciting is the dynamic change that goes on in this sport. It’s a key attribute that you have to learn and change, no matter how successful you are. I see that with some of the other people who have a lot of success in football.”
  • He said the experience of the 2-14 season with an inherited GM and a coach he hired was good, even though it was expensive, because of all it allowed him to learn.
The tendency in the NFL with hires is to get guys who are largely the opposite of the people they are replacing.

Departed Jaguars general manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey were low-key guys.

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley and Dave Caldwell
Phil Sears/USA TODAY Sports New coach Gus Bradley, left, said he could "feel the passion" coming from GM Dave Caldwell, right, when he interviewed for the job.
Replacements David Caldwell and Gus Bradley are high-energy guys who talk over and over about passion.

“I think what sold me on this opportunity was the passion,” Bradley said as his introductory news conference Friday morning. “I’m a defensive coach, I have great passion, great excitement. I’m trying to hold it back a little bit right here. But I think with [owner] Shad [Khan] and Dave, given a chance to visit with them, I could just feel the passion coming from them with what they really want to accomplish here. I knew our philosophies meshed together and it became very exciting very fast.”

That alone won’t cure what ails the Jacksonville franchise, but it’s a change the city and fans should appreciate.

Some notes out of the news conference:

  • Among those Bradley thanked were the players on defense in Seattle, where he was coordinator. “If it wasn’t for them,” he said, “I’m humble enough to know I wouldn’t be here.”
  • His name: Bradley’s birth certificate says his first name is Paul, which satisfied a Catholic family’s desire he be named after a saint. But his parents intended to call him Casey. It wasn’t long before his brother nicknamed him Gus, which stuck.
  • Bradley and Caldwell actually crossed paths once, briefly in 1990 or 1991. Bradley was coaching at his alma mater, North Dakota State and Caldwell passed through on a scouting trip.
  • Bradley said he’s spoken to colleagues who said as young coaches assembling their first staff they made decisions too quickly. He will take his time assembling his staff. “It’s important to find out about people, because it is a people business,” he said.
  • Regarding scheme, he said the Jaguars would play to their strengths. But we can expect a multiple offense. “I understand what hurts defenses, what causes us problems: Multiple personnel groupings, multiple formations, diversity, with the quarterback run game, with the spreading out, the two-back run game, the zone. All things are issues. ... We’ll work together on some issues that will cause great difficulty.”
  • He talked of having an explosive offense, something both Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey spoke of but were unable to produce in their time as the Jaguars head coach. He said being able to run effectively -- be it through backs, the quarterback or even the short passing game that functions like the run -- gives a team the opportunity to be explosive.
  • Bradley didn’t want to talk about a timetable for being a playoff contender. He said his team’s focus will simply be on getting better every day. If the team does that, he said, it’s remarkable how other things can fall into place.
  • He met Paul Posluszny Friday morning and spoke to Maurice Jones-Drew on the phone.
  • Bradley declined to talk about Matt Flynn, a quarterback under contract with Seattle, and didn’t field a question about Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.
  • While Caldwell’s contract is for five years, Bradley’s is for four.
  • “My whole hope is to be genuine,” he said. “That’s it.”
The first three names to emerge as candidates to replace Mike Mularkey as head coach in Jacksonville are St. Louis offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Atlanta special-teams coach Keith Armstrong.

We knew Roman would be in the mix for new general manager David Caldwell, because the two went to college together at John Carroll University in Ohio and worked together early in their careers with the Carolina Panthers.

Schottenheimer interviewed for the Jaguars' head-coaching job last season and lost out to Mularkey. Armstrong works for the franchise where Caldwell spent the previous five years.

[+] EnlargeBrian Schottenheimer
AP Photo/Michael YoungThe Jaguars have asked permission to speak with Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
“Me coming in here as a first-time general manager and I’m looking for a co-builder of our team,” Caldwell said at his introductory news conference. “When I talked to [owner] Shad [Khan] in terms of a culture change along the football side, I felt like it was more of that. I felt like it was an atmosphere of change. I felt like that to do that, you’ve got to have a fresh start [across] the board.”

Prior work as a head coach is not a prerequisite for Mularkey’s replacement.

“You guys are all familiar with Mike Smith, who is our current head coach in Atlanta, did not have head-coaching experience and is the all-time leading winner in Atlanta,” Caldwell said. “I’m looking for the right person, he obviously has to have certain qualifications. In terms of previous … head-coaching experience, not necessary.”

Khan wasn’t going to be able to get his man without giving him power to pick his head coach.

Khan cited the team’s record getting progressively worse over the past three seasons as a reason for large-scale change.

Mularkey was a victim of bad timing, injuries, a thin roster and a bad year.

Khan bought the franchise toward the end of the 2011 season, and the team fired Jack Del Rio as coach and gave general manager Gene Smith a contract extension.

Khan and Smith hired Mularkey, whose overmatched team went 2-14. Jacksonville hardly had its best offensive player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and got one game combined out of two projected starting linebackers, Daryl Smith and Clint Session.

Smith’s four-year record as the personnel chief didn’t cut it, and Khan parted ways with him the day after the season ended.

He then left Mularkey’s fate in the hands of a yet-unnamed GM and ultimately allowed assistants to seek other work. They are still under contract, however, and will require Caldwell’s permission to leave.

Caldwell had long terms working in the front offices of two winning teams, Indianapolis and Atlanta.

“The common thread is the relationship between the head coach and the general manager and obviously the quarterback,” he said. “The type of people we bring in as players. They have to be good football players but they have to be positive, passionate, physical and I think you see that.”

He needs a coach first, and then they’ll assess what they will do offensively. Quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are under contract and will be part of things. Tim Tebow won’t be, even if he is released by the Jets.

“I have others in mind and I’m comfortable with what’s here,” Caldwell said.

Adam Schefter reports that the Jaguars have already asked for permission to talk with Schottenheimer.

Because the 49ers and Falcons are still in the playoffs, Caldwell will have to wait to talk to Roman or Armstrong. If their teams lose, he will be allowed to interview them if they are interested. If they win this weekend, they are off-limits until after the NFC title game. If one goes to the Super Bowl, there is an interview window in the week leading up to the weekend off before the Super Bowl.

With a lot of turnover around the league, Mularkey could resurface as a coordinator. He did good work with Matt Ryan in Atlanta, though after he helped the quarterback reach a certain level in his first four years, the team was ready to go in a different direction when he got hired in Jacksonville.

Several teams in need a solid teacher for a young quarterback could benefit from adding Mularkey.
For Blaine Gabbert to make big strides in his second year, he needed three ingredients:
    Gabbert
    Gabbert
  • Better coaching.
  • Better protection.
  • Better receiver play.

I think he’s getting the coaching. The protection is OK, because with offensive line injuries the team is game-planning to minimize threats, which takes away from other areas. Headlined by Justin Blackmon, the receivers are dropping way too many passes.

Sunday I wrote about baby steps being acceptable for Jacksonville.

But seeing this from Mike Mularkey out of his Monday news conference, it made me think about how the protection and receiver issues that hounded the team last year have not dissipated nearly enough.
“It will help not to drop balls. That helps. Don’t know what Blaine can do with that. I don’t know how much Blaine can do with that but we have had drops since we’ve been here. We’ve got to do a better job of catching the football. That gets you into a little bit of a rhythm. It doesn’t put you in second-and-10s. If you do throw it you’re throwing the ball down the field a little more. He missed some throws yesterday and he made some great throws. Consistency is definitely a must from everybody, but I think just standing in there and making that last throw for the touchdown says a lot about the guy. We need him consistently for the entire game, and I think he’s still young at this position. Each start is going to make him a better player, but there’s a lot of things he can do in his game and we can help him across the board. That’s protecting him better, including yesterday’s game. That pocket is closing down quicker than it should. We need a pocket to step up into more consistently and we need to get open outside and we need to get healthier. We need to get our guys back and get them healthy. A lot of those things may take place.”

We can find similar stuff from Gene Smith or Jack Del Rio from 2011.

The Jaguars need to take us to a place where the topic changes.

The two missing offensive linemen, Eben Britton and Cam Bradfield, will be worked back into practice some Wednesday. If they can return and play well and Blackmon starts catching the ball, maybe we’ll finally change the topic. At this point, though, it's hard to expect that's what we will be doing.

Safety disguises a key for Jags' D

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
2:15
PM ET
The Jaguars starting safety tandem of Dwight Lowery and Dawan Landry isn’t the league’s best. But considering how awful the team was at the position just two years ago, I think they’ve done a quality job of reconstruction with two quality guys.

Lowery
Lowery
Landry
Landry
They are comfortable together heading into their second season, which gives them the potential to be a big factor in pre-snap confusion for an offense.

“You can tell with (Lowery’s) disguise, with the communication out there, he’s very comfortable,” Mike Mularkey said early on camp. “He and Landry, they work well together and they have given some problems with the way they disguise. Because they are so confident in their ability to get where they need to be when the ball’s snapped. That’s an issue when you’re reading coverages, not just for the quarterback, but for the receivers who are asked to do things with the coverage. So they’re very good at the disguise.”

If the safeties’ work before the snap helps create any confusion or hesitation in a quarterback, anyone on the defense can benefit: A pass-rusher who gets an extra beat to reach the quarterback, a linebacker covering a checkdown the quarterback has to settle for, a defensive back who gains an advantage from the quarterback's failure to correctly diagnose the coverage.

“I feel like I have all the ability to do whatever it is I want to do,” said Lowery, who came to the Jaguars in 2011 in a trade from the Jets, and was turned from a versatile cornerback into a full-time free safety.

Even early in camp he felt a big change in the team, offering a stark comparison between his first season in Jacksonville when Jack Del Rio was the head coach, and now with Mularkey.

“It’s very professional and detail-oriented,” he said. “They hold you accountable, whether it be meetings or your output in practice. It’s a very professional environment. It was kind of lacking that here last year, and I think that’s exactly what this team needed.”

Jaguars Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
11:30
AM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: Mike Mularkey and his staff will provide more consistent leadership than Jack Del Rio and his staff did -- especially at the end. Del Rio liked to ride waves, but Mularkey will be level and measured in a way that lines up with general manager Gene Smith better. Del Rio had people everyone regarded as his guys -- in the locker room and even in the staff.

Mularkey is far more likely to not play favorites, to reward production and to privately reprimand guys who might not be doing things the way he wants them done. I think players will be more likely to rally around this coach as they see him avoiding the types of things that were sometimes interpreted as JDR throwing people under the bus.

One thing that might happen: Maurice Jones-Drew could be ready for a prolonged holdout. That’s what his old backfield mate, Fred Taylor, has predicted. Mularkey said this week that he doesn’t know whether the Jaguars’ star player and the NFL’s leading rusher from 2011 will show up for camp.

Although Jones-Drew has two years left on his current deal, he feels his production last season warrants more. I can understand his position because, when he finishes this contract, the team will be much more wary of his age and wear and tear. However, the team is not unreasonable to steer clear of setting such a precedent and running backs aren’t so valuable these days. Jacksonville was 5-11 with him, and I’d expect it could do the same without him. Hopefully, things will be resolved quickly. In the meantime, we’ll get a better sense of backup Rashad Jennings, who missed last year because of injuries. I think he can run effectively.

One thing we won't see: Chad Henne in line to start at quarterback. Maybe they'll end up there at some point, but the Jaguars are taking the long view with Blaine Gabbert, and one season in which the team was sold, the coach was fired, the receivers were terrible and the protection was sometimes shaky was hardly enough to make a judgment on the No. 10 pick in the 2011 draft.

The Jaguars feel Henne gives them a better backup situation. But they don’t head into camp with a sense that Henne will wind up running the huddle. It’s Gabbert’s job. Mularkey, coordinator Bob Bratkowski and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson were hired to effectively build Gabbert into the quarterback the team envisioned when it drafted him. Their offense and teaching methods will be geared at maximizing his chances at success.
Justin Blackmon and Laurent RobinsonGetty Images/AP PhotoJustin Blackmon, left, and Laurent Robinson will learn from one of the most experienced receiver coaches in the game.
Jerry Sullivan spent the position period of the Jaguars’ offseason practices running slow-motion routes. Put your foot in the ground, like this. Drop your hips, like this. Don’t round the corner, like this.

Although free-agent addition Laurent Robinson and No. 5 overall draft pick Justin Blackmon are the most visible guys the Jaguars brought in to fix some serious problems at wide receiver, the guy who is coaching them in a show-don’t-tell style may prove just as significant.

Mike Mularkey had Sullivan atop his wish list for the job, but didn’t even call him. Sullivan, who will turn 68 on July 14, was retired.

“I didn’t reach out to him, he actually reached out to me,” Mularkey said. “I thought he was retired. Gene Smith and I discussed him initially and I said, ‘I think he’s out of the loop.’ Just by chance I was driving home one of those first weekends after I was hired here and there’s a text: 'Hey Mike, I’d like a chance to work with you and Brat [offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski] -- Jerry S.'

“So I called Gene and said, ‘I don’t know if this is the Jerry S. you and I talked about, but I am going to call and find out.' And it was. He had a couple other options, too, and I am glad he chose this one.”

A year earlier, when Mularkey interviewed in Tennessee but lost out to Mike Munchak, Mularkey had texted Sullivan about wanting him if he got the Titans' job. The link was set.

This time, Sullivan was in Atlanta training Brian Quick for the scouting combine. Sullivan sent that text, got invited to interview and after about three hours said it was easy for him to sign up to be part of Mularkey’s staff despite an opportunity in Arizona, where he could have worked with another receiver he’s close with from work during the lockout, Larry Fitzgerald.

The year before, with little job security as he formulated his final staff, Jack Del Rio wound up with an under-qualified receivers coach in 2011.

Things were such a struggle for Johnny Cox that when Del Rio was fired and Mel Tucker took over as interim coach, he fired Cox and shifted quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard to receivers.

During the lockout, Robinson worked with Sullivan in Minnesota.

[+] EnlargeJerry Sullivan
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJerry Sullivan is looking forward to the challenge of developing Jacksonville's receiving corps.
“He kind of helped me get over the hump and get into my breakout year [in Dallas],” Robinson said. “Having the opportunity to learn from him every day is going to be huge for me and the other wide receivers. He’s a great coach, probably the best receiver coach in the NFL. He felt like he could contribute and help turn this thing around.”

Sullivan may be approaching 70, but he carries the energy of a far younger man onto the practice field, where he’s exacting. As he instructs his guys, he leaves little to the imagination, banging home points he’s clearly hit in the meeting room and addressed on the field before.

In May, not having spent long with his new charges, he already seemed to have a feel for who needed pushing and who needed stroking, offering different things to different players.

He’ll be expected to squeeze production out of Robinson and Blackmon. He will also try to rebuild Mike Thomas, who ranked too high a year ago but can be a good third guy. He will attempt to help promising second-year man Cecil Shorts get over what appears to be game-day stage fright. He will aim to develop a gem or two -- perhaps undrafted rookie Mike Brown from Liberty.

“I like the challenge that belies me, I’ll put it that way,” Sullivan said. “I look forward to it. We’ve got a lot of young guys who’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m excited about their attitude and we’ve just got to put one foot in front of the other going up the mountain. Some days you slide a step. Some days you gain two steps. ...

“It’ll be a well-rounded group if everybody gets to where they need to be. We’ve got a ways to go. That’s a common phrase around the league, I know. Nobody wants to put themselves out there. My whole thing is the group needs to improve to be NFL caliber to win games.”

His biggest message in the offseason may have been this: When you run routes against NFL cornerbacks, you’re in control or they are.

“You’re either hearing elevator music, or you’re hearing Guns & Roses,” Sullivan said. “If you’re hearing Guns & Roses, you’re probably not going to be successful. You want to be nice and smooth and calm and in control of how you do it.”

In helping the Jaguars' receivers, Sullivan will be helping quarterback Blaine Gabbert, and that’s the biggest job for everyone connected to this offense.

“They can be more confident in that he knows what they are going to do and how they are going to do it,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s huge. I think he’s a young kid that’s got a nice arm. He’s obviously been maligned, unfairly I think. If we do our job and play at a good NFL level, we’ll help him be better and we’ll help the team be better.

Said Gabbert of Sullivan: “His knowledge of the game is going to help not only the wide receivers, but the quarterbacks, the offense and the entire team.”

Thomas got a lot of attention early in the offseason when he said Sullivan was super-regimented and the group probably needed that.

The new assistant certainly endorsed the signing of Robinson and the drafting of Blackmon.

If they are good, we could be back here saying he’s as important of a new position coach who has landed in the division.

“Jerry’s been everything I thought he’d be with these guys: very detailed, very demanding,” Mularkey said. “Plus, being a former coordinator, I always like to have those kind of guys in the room.

“His drive is still there. There is no way he could sit at home in the living room.”
Once he gained a certain level of coaching security, tied mostly to a big contract, Jack Del Rio rarely missed a chance to illustrate how the Jaguars needed an indoor practice facility.

He didn’t get what he wanted. But his successor Mike Mularkey will, per Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union.

Thunderstorms are frequent in Jacksonville, and they often throw the practice schedule into disarray. Recently weather forced the move of some practices to the club section of EverBank Field and another to Veteran’s Memorial Arena.

Those are hardly ideal conditions and put the team at a disadvantage compared to others around the league who aren't spending any time on a narrower than normal practice "field."

It’s a good move by new owner Shad Khan to agree to spend what’s needed to get the Jaguars in line with the competition.

As for what kind of structure and where it will be located, Jaguars CFO and senior vice president of stadium operations Bill Prescott told Ganguli:
"We’re obviously exploring a practice bubble vs. a metal structure, evaluating where it could possibly go in the context of where we are now in terms of the existing practice fields, the south end zone or any other location we could come up with. It’s really in the evaluation stages right now to understand what we can do with it."

At the same time, Prescott said the team's had conversations about the possibility dating back to 2005.

The earliest the team will be practicing inside is next year.
AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Jaguars in 2012.

Dream scenario (10-6): Mike Mularkey’s offensive scheme does for Blaine Gabbert what it did early on for Matt Ryan in Atlanta. Gabbert silences his stable of critics, playing with newfound poise and confidence and finding himself in situations in which he’s comfortable and can show off the arm that was a big reason he was a top 10 pick.

The second-year quarterback is well-protected as he works his way through progressions and spreads the ball around to a much-improved receiving corps headed by Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon. With the passing offense faring far better, Maurice Jones-Drew's hammer hits even harder because his carries are less predictable.

Defensively, the team is healthy all season long in karmic payback for last year’s slew of injuries.

Defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton put it all together, with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny playing great behind them, and no one can even ponder running up the middle against the Jaguars. Rookie second-rounder Andre Branch provides a serious boost to the pass rush, and the linebackers get involved in pressuring the quarterback. When they don’t get a sufficient push, the coverage holds up.

And rookie punter Bryan Anger regularly hits bombs and pins teams deep, semi-justifying his third-round draft status.

Mularkey wins coach of the year as the Jaguars qualify for the playoffs.

Nightmare scenario (4-12): New coaches, a new system and new receivers don’t make for a new Gabbert, and he struggles in his second season much as he did as a rookie. A rough start means the fan base calls for backup Chad Henne, and Mularkey finds himself in a tough spot with a quick quarterback controversy.

Henne eventually gets the call but doesn’t play much better, so the team is over-reliant on the run game. The defense, meanwhile, can’t overcome the lack of a pass rush. It gives up too many passing yards and too many big plays because quarterbacks have time to wait for targets to break open. Then the Jaguars begin to blitz more to amp things up but pay a price by giving up big plays out of high-risk, high-reward situations.

Owner Shahid Khan, used to life as a businessman who wins, says or does something controversial that makes things even messier. The Jaguars actually finish a game worse than they did in Jack Del Rio’s final season, leaving Denver’s defensive coordinator shrugging and people removing some responsibility for 2011 from him.

SPONSORED HEADLINES