Who’s out and who’s in has been a weekly storyline for the Jaguars thus far this season, but early reports this week are that a key player should be in the lineup.
That player is quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert, who never has missed a start because of injury in the NFL, sustained a gluteus injury during the Jaguars’ loss to the Houston Texans Sunday, and while he played through the injury for a time, he eventually left the game midway through the fourth quarter.
Gabbert underwent an MRI on the area Monday, and Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said while he expects the second-year veteran to be limited on Wednesday he should play against Indianapolis Sunday. Mularkey said he expects Gabbert to improve daily.
The theme for the Colts this season is clear – they’re rebuilding, and doing so with a young quarterback. The positive for the Colts is that young quarterback is Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft and a player many believe destined for NFL success. Luck has led the Colts to a 1-1 record through two games, and this past Sunday he led Indianapolis on a late 45-yard, 19-second drive that set up a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri in a victory over Minnesota. That’s the third drive late in a half or a game led by Luck this season, according to the Indianapolis Star. He also led a 58-yard drive late in the first half of the regular-season opener at Chicago and a 64-yard drive late in the first half Sunday. He has completed 10 of 14 passes in that situation for 153 yards and a touchdown. If performance late in halves is an indication of future success, Luck indeed is showing good signs.
The game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be broadcast regionally on CBS and locally on WTEV CBS47 (Channel 6), with Bill Macatee on play by play and Steve Tasker on analysis.
Early matchup to watch
Colts linebacker Robert Mathis versus Jaguars offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Guy Whimper. With linebacker Dwight Freeney – the designated “rush” linebacker in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme – likely out with an ankle injury, Mathis is the Colts’ primary pass-rushing threat. And in his 10th season, the former Pro Bowl selection remains a threat. He has three sacks in two games, all with Freeney not in the lineup. The Colts have been moving Mathis around early in the season, so while he could line up at times opposite Monroe he likely will spend a lot of time opposite the Jaguars’ right tackle. Whimper has struggled there at times in the first two games, and it won’t get easier Sunday.
Player to watch
For the Jaguars, Justin Blackmon will be a focus this week, but just as much, it will be the entire receiving corps. The group looked vastly improved in the regular-season opener, particularly second-year veteran Cecil Shorts, who had 74 yards on four receptions against Minnesota. In this past week’s loss to Houston, neither Blackmon – the No. 5 overall selection in the NFL Draft this past season – nor Shorts had a reception while being targeted six times. Laurent Robinson had three receptions for 49 yards against Houston, but as a group the receivers finished with four receptions for 61 yards. This group showed significant strides in the preseason and has been upgraded since last season. Getting back to the progress shown in Week 1 is critical.
* The focus for the Jaguars continues to be the offensive line, with Herb Taylor and Whimper inserted into the starting lineup this past week because of injuries to left guard Eben Britton (ankle) and right tackle Cameron Bradfield (ankle), respectively. Britton’s status will be monitored throughout the week, but Mularkey said Taylor will start if Britton can’t play. Bradfield likely will be a longer shot to play this week.
* Linebacker Daryl Smith has missed the first two regular-season games with a groin injury, and Mularkey said he likely will miss Sunday’s game. Third-year veteran Kyle Bosworth has started the first two regular-season games in Smith’s place.
* Running back Rashad Jennings (knee) is expected to practice on a limited basis, and – like Britton – his status will be monitored throughout the week. He started the regular-season opener, but likely will play a backup role behind Maurice Jones-Drew if he plays Sunday.
* Cornerback Derek Cox, out with a hamstring injury since early in the preseason opener, worked on a limited basis mostly in individual work last week and is expected to work more in team drills this week. Will Middleton has started in his place, but Mularkey said there’s a possibility he – like Britton and Jennings – could play Sunday.
* Reserve defensive end Austen Lane (foot) has missed the first two regular-season games, but Mularkey said he is getting closer and will be more involved in practice this week. Defensive end George Selvie (knee) likely will remain out for at least two weeks.