Jacksonville Jaguars: Calvin Johnson

Fans will get an early look at how much -- or if -- the Jacksonville Jaguars' secondary has improved before the 2014 regular season even begins.

For a few drives, anyway.

The NFL released the preseason schedule Wednesday afternoon, and the Jaguars will face three of the league's top quarterbacks in games 2-4. The Jaguars begin the preseason by playing host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but follow that with games at Chicago and Detroit before finishing the preseason at home against Atlanta.

That means the Jaguars will face Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in successive weeks. That'll be a good early test for second-year cornerback Dwayne Gratz and second-year safety Johnathan Cyprien, at least until they go to the bench early in the first halves of those games.

Starters usually play into the third quarter in the third preseason game and that means a longer day against Stafford and Johnson. Stafford threw for 4,650 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2013. Johnson caught 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Jaguars are a combined 13-7 in the preseason against the Bucs (6-3), Bears (1-0), Lions (0-1) and Falcons (6-3).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning may be 37 years old but he’s still the one person more NFL players would like to have if they were starting team from scratch -- but not by much.

Manning was named on 19.3 percent of the ballots of our NFL Nation confidential survey of 320 players, narrowly edging out Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (17.5 percent). It’s really not surprising, though, considering his record-breaking season and the importance of elite quarterbacks.

In fact, five of the top seven vote-getters in the survey were quarterbacks. Only one, however, is under 30: Luck, who turned 24 last September.

The 10 Jaguars players surveyed fell right in line with those results as well. Manning received four votes, followed by Luck (two), Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (two), New England quarterback Tom Brady (one) and Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

The Jaguars' results, and those in the overall survey, are a bit surprising because I thought the overwhelming winner in the survey would be Luck. He meets all the criteria of someone around who you’d want to build a franchise: young, talented, smart, hard working, humble, and, most of all, a quarterback.
Not surprisingly, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was voted the most feared player in the NFL in our NFL Nation confidential survey of more than 320 players.

Suh has been fined seven times and suspended twice during his four-year NFL career for various illegal hits and incidents. He was fined an NFL-record $100,000 for an illegal hit in the 2013 season opener against Minnesota.

However, Suh only drew one vote from the 10 Jaguars polled. Houston defensive end J.J. Watt topped the list with three votes, most likely because the Jaguars face the Texas twice every season and rarely play the Lions.

Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson got two votes, while San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick each earned one vote.

Clearly, players looked at “most feared” in a variety of ways. Some viewed it synonymously with “dirtiest,” while others felt it meant the most dangerous player to face.

Jaguars fantasy breakdown: Week 1

September, 6, 2013
Looking for some help with your fantasy football lineup? Every Friday I'll give you my opinions on which Jacksonville Jaguars players to play and sit as well as which of the opposing players might be a good play against the Jags. For more fantasy football advice, check out ESPN.com's fantasy football page.


RB Maurice Jones-Drew: He says he’s healthy and ready for whatever workload Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch throws his way. He had just 10 carries during the preseason because the team was trying to ease him back. If he is healthy, he’s capable of a 1,300-yard season. The only question is his TD production, which has fallen off from a high of 15 in 2009. Verdict: Play him as a flex option this week until a clearer picture emerges of his workload.

WR Cecil Shorts: With Justin Blackmon serving a four-game suspension, Shorts is the Jaguars’ top receiver. He’s coming off a year in which he caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 17.8 yards per catch -- better than Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and DeSean Jackson. Verdict: Only play him as your No. 3 WR because of the uncertainty at quarterback.

TE Marcedes Lewis: He has been ruled out with a calf injury.

K Josh Scobee: He’s been a consistent performer and has made at least 22 field goals the past three seasons. However, after making five field goals of 50 or more yards in 2011, he only made one last season. Verdict: Because of the uncertainty of the offense, you’d be better off keeping him on the bench.

Jaguars defense/special teams: The special teams were pretty poor during training camp and the first half of the preseason schedule but an influx of players claimed off waiver claims has helped improved the units. Still, there aren’t any game breakers. The defense is starting two rookies in the secondary and is trying to improve a pass rush that produced NFL-worst 20 sacks last season. Verdict: Bench ‘em.

Kansas City

QB Alex Smith: Smith has been an efficient quarterback over the past three seasons. He has thrown only 20 interceptions in that span, the fewest in the NFL. However, he’s not regularly ripping off 300-yard games and with the Chiefs’ running game, his role will be as more of a game manager, even in Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. Make a few key throws here and there, but most importantly take care of the ball. Verdict: Keep him on your bench.

RB Jamaal Charles: He ran for 1,509 yards last season and there’s no reason to think he’s not going to threaten that number again in 2013. He’s the key to the Chiefs’ offense. He can be a grinder as well as a big-play runner -- he had three TD runs of at least 80 yards last season. Verdict: No question he’s a starter.

WR Dwayne Bowe: Bowe is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, but he has been hurt by poor quarterback play. Smith is an upgrade from Matt Cassel in terms of efficiency and not turning the ball over, but the problem is that teams can double Bowe because of a lack of complementary playmakers at receiver. However, Bowe has caught 11 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns in three games against the Jaguars. Verdict: Play him as your No. 2/3 receiver.

WR Donnie Avery: He is the starter opposite Bowe. He caught 62 passes for 781 yards last season but is more of a deep threat. Since Reid’s West Coast offense stresses shorter passes, he may not have as many opportunities for big plays. Verdict: Sit him.

TE Anthony Fasano: He is entering his eighth season and coming off a career year in which he caught 41 passes for 332 yards and five touchdowns. The Jaguars struggled to cover tight ends in the preseason, so he could have a big day. Verdict: Play him.

K Ryan Succop: He makes 81.5 percent of his field goals and the Chiefs’ offense should be improved. Verdict: Start him.

Chiefs defense/special teams: Rookie Knile Davis returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the preseason and he’ll get some work on Sunday. The defense is loaded with playmakers -- linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry -- and the Jaguars are starting a rookie right tackle in Luke Joeckel. Verdict: Start the Chiefs against a Jaguars offense with few experienced pass catchers and either a QB with a fractured right thumb or his back up.