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Fabulous Four: Titans-Jaguars

Posted Nov 7, 2013

Senior writer John Oehser examines four Jacksonville Jaguars-related topics as the team prepares to play the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines four Jacksonville Jaguars-related topics as the team prepares to play the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday

4. Finding his role. We begin this post-bye, pre-Music City Fabulous Four on the subject of a versatile talent who may have found a singular role. Jaguars rookie Denard Robinson, after working during the offseason and preseason at kick returner, punt returner, wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback, will be the No. 2 running back Sunday for a second consecutive game. The move doesn’t mean an end to working the elusive, dynamic player at various positions, but it could give Robinson – a fifth-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft who played quarterback at Michigan – a chance to show if he can be a feature running back in the NFL. “He’s always been at running back,” Jaguars three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. “We’ve just moved him around as much as possible. He gives us a mismatch. He’s faster than probably every linebacker in the league. He’s stronger than most corners and safeties and he gives us a weapon that we can use anywhere on the field; outside, in the slot, at the running back position.” Robinson has rushed for just 25 yards on 11 carries this season but Jones-Drew said Robinson’s transition shouldn’t be underestimated. “You can’t just fall out of bed and play any football position,” Jones-Drew said, adding that said Robinson did well against San Francisco in his first game at No. 2 making zone reads and hitting holes. “When you’re playing quarterback and running the ball, everyone’s blocked and you hit a seam and go. When you’re a running back, every play is designed for you to beat one or two guys, so now he knows when he gets in that alley he has to beat one or two guys. He can make those plays. You just have to get comfortable with it.”

3. No move needed. A primary topic for the last week has been the future of wide receiver Justin Blackmon. But while speculation abounded about whether he will be released in the wake of his indefinite suspension, General Manager David Caldwell said immediately upon the suspension that the team has no plans to part ways with Blackmon, and Head Coach Gus Bradley said nothing to the contrary. There are several reasons for this. One is Caldwell and Bradley each has genuine affection for Blackmon, and Bradley is genuine when he said he believes Blackmon is in a better place to deal with his issues than he was perhaps last June. There also is little risk in keeping Blackmon. This is a strong locker room unlikely to come apart in any way because of this issue, and there’s also no thought that it’s a locker room as a whole that needs a “message sent.”  The final reason relates to football, which after all is what the Jaguars are all about: Blackmon is very good – perhaps the most talented player on the team. The Jaguars won’t hesitate to draft the wide receiver position, and they won’t pencil him in as a core player, but there’s no reason to release him and have him go play effectively for another team when you can keep him on your roster with no real negative ramifications.

2. Analytically speaking. At 0-8, the Jaguars as expected aren’t represented on many midseason All-NFL teams, but there were mentions on Pro Football Focus’ All-AFC South midseason teams. Kicker Josh Scobee was the AFC South kicker after not missing a field goal or extra point in the first half of the season, and rookie linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was the All-AFC South special teams player. Linebacker Russell Allen, though not the highest-rated player on the Jaguars’ defense, was one of two inside linebackers on the team. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew was the only back through the first half of the season to score perfectly as a pass blocker, not having allowed a sack, hit, hurry or a pressure. Guard Uche Nwaneri also continues to grade well and is in the Top 10 in the NFL among guards in pass-blocking efficiency. Center Brad Meester also ranks in the Top 10 in pass-blocking efficiency, with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny in the Top 5 in the NFL in run-stop percentage and tackling percentage.

1. And finally, a word on the quarterback. We enter the second half of the season Sunday, and with the team coming off a midseason bye week, little has changed at the starting quarterback position. Chad Henne remains the starter over a healthy Blaine Gabbert, and the not-so-subtle change in the quarterback position that took place mid-week in London remains in place. It’s difficult in the NFL to say “never,” so it’s too early to say Gabbert – the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft – never will start for the Jaguars again, but barring a remarkable reversal, there appears little chance he could enter a season as the Jaguars’ starter again. While Henne for the most part has played statistically better than Gabbert, the team hasn’t shown an ability to score efficiently with either quarterback, which has led to daily questions about fans of why either Gabbert or Henne is playing. With former Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi on the roster, and former Arizona quarterback Matt Scott on the practice squad, those two get mentioned as possibilities to play in the second half of the season. And fans continue to ask about Denard Robinson. The reality is the team has no intention of playing Robinson at quarterback outside of an occasional Wildcat role, and the team doesn’t believe Stanzi gives the Jaguars as good a chance to win as either Henne or Gabbert. That’s even truer of Scott, so for the foreseeable future – or at least likely until December, Henne is likely to remain the starter ahead of Gabbert.

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