JACKSONVILLE – We begin today a new jaguars.com feature.
Beginning today, we’ll offer five questions each Wednesday morning during the 2013 regular season, five key topics to be covered during that day as the Jaguars begin preparation for Sunday’s game. We’ll return Wednesday afternoon with – wait for it – five answers, because we’re clever that way.
The idea will be to set the tone for the week, with Wednesday being the first major media access day around the NFL as teams begin preparing for the upcoming opponents. We won’t get every answer every Wednesday, but we’ll provide as much information and insight as quickly as we can.
Here we go, with five questions as the Jaguars begin preparing to play the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 regular-season opener at EverBank Field Sunday:
1. Will Blaine Gabbert play? The Jaguars’ third-year quarterback is the regular-season opening-game starter for the second time in his career and the second consecutive season – provided he can play. He sustained a sprained thumb in Week 2 of the preseason and missed the final two preseason games. He will start against the Chiefs if healthy, with Chad Henne starting otherwise. Gabbert threw Monday, but did not practice full, and his participation level Wednesday will be key in determining if he can play Sunday.
2. How healthy are the Jaguars? Aside from Gabbert, the Jaguars appear healthy. Guard Will Rackley (ankle) and defensive end Jeremy Mincey (skin condition) missed practice Monday, but Head Coach Gus Bradley said they are expected to practice Wednesday, as is running back Justin Forsett, who missed all four preseason games with a toe injury. If Forsett, Mincey and Rackley practice, then only Gabbert is a health issue. That’s as healthy as the team has been entering a regular season in some time.
3. Is MoJo ready? Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed the last 10 games of last season with a foot injury. The three-time Pro Bowl selection spent the offseason rehabilitating from season-ending surgery, then spent the last part of the offseason working his way back into shape. He played two series in the preseason – one in Preseason Week 2 and another in Preseason Week 3. He appeared to have no aftereffects of the surgery, and he said throughout that he was nearing 100 percent physically.
4. Ready for the matchup? Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, will make his first regular-season start and face outside linebacker Justin Houston, who had 10 sacks last season. Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe will face defensive end Tamba Hali, who had nine sacks last season. How key is this matchup for the Jaguars considering the uncertainty at quarterback? Very, with a major objective this season providing better protection.
5. Who’s returning? Rookies Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson/Jordan Todman got work returning punts and kickoffs, respectively, in preseason. Sanders is listed as the top punt returner, and Todman is listed as the kickoff returner, but the punt returner, in particular, was somewhat fluid throughout preseason. This question will be asked today when Head Coach Gus Bradley meets with the media, but the answer may not come until Sunday shortly after 1 p.m.