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Ten things

Posted Aug 16, 2013

Ten things to watch when the Jacksonville Jaguars play the New York Jets Saturday at MetLife Stadium...

JACKSONVILLE -- Ten things to watch when the Jacksonville Jaguars play the New York Jets in their second 2013 preseason game Saturday at MetLife Stadium . . .

1. Separation at quarterback. If Jaguars fans want to see something, anything, in 2013 Preseason Week 2 it’s something that says, “Yes, this guy is THE guy” at quarterback. Chad Henne put up better statistics than Blaine Gabbert in the preseason opener, but reviewing the performances, it was hard to argue for big separation on the field. You’d like to see more Saturday.

2. Efficiency from Gabbert. Gabbert supporters could easily point last week to three dropped passes and an early pressure as a huge reason he went 5 of 10 for 19 yards and an interception against Miami. And it was true that drops contributed to what many have defined as a bad showing. But at some point, you want to see the offense moving with him behind center whatever the circumstance. He will start Saturday, and he may need to play better than he did against Miami for that to happen again.

3. More downfield from Henne. You want to see this from Gabbert, too, because if anything lacked for the Jaguars’ offense last week it was downfield, attacking passes. But while Henne completed a high percentage, he didn’t go downfield until the final minutes of the first half. You would think there would be more downfield passing from each quarterback, and if Henne is going to make a serious run at the starting job, you’d think there’d be some deep and intermediate stuff.

4. A strong effort from MJD. Don’t blink, because if you do, you’ll probably miss the 2013 debut of running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He missed the preseason opener as a precautionary measure, having spent the offseason rehabilitating a sprained foot. He has practiced since the opening of training camp, usually taking initial repetitions with the first-team unit in drills then getting out after a few plays. That’s fine, because as long as Jones-Drew’s in shape, he’ll be ready for the regular season. He appears to be in shape, and he wants to play. The Jaguars want him to play, so he will Saturday. Just not for very long.

5. The debut of Johnathan Cyprien. The rookie safety will start, but he’s not expected to play too long, having missed the preseason opener with a hamstring injury. He was back practicing this week, but under much the same schedule as Jones-Drew. Although he likely will be a little rusty, look for speed and suddenness from Cyprien, but look quick, because he’ll be out of the game earlier than most starters.

6. The 2013 debut of Justin Blackmon. Yes, Week 2 of the preseason is a big debut week for the Jaguars, and the debut of Blackmon is significant. The second-year wide receiver missed the preseason opener with a groin injury, and though he won’t start, he will play Saturday. The game is important for Blackmon. He will be suspended the first four games of the regular season, and needs to work with Gabbert and Henne now to get into the flow of the offense. Blackmon has been impressive in his first week back practicing. Like Cyprien and Jones-Drew, he won’t play much, with the Jaguars still wanting to be smart with their returning front-line players.

7. Putting on a rush. The Jaguars’ defensive front put pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill early last week. That was a good sign. A better sign would be to do it two consecutive weeks. The team is still trying to figure out who will get pressure from outside opposite veteran Jason Babin. Andre Branch? Ryan Davis? A player not on the roster? Time will tell.

PHOTO GALLERY FROM 8/15

8. Cohesion on the line. The offensive line played well in spots last week. Talking to linemen this week, the consensus was “in spots” isn’t enough for an offensive line. Consistency is the goal. Rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel will be out with a hip flexor injury. Third-year veteran Cameron Bradfield will play in his place. It’s a big game for Bradfield, who has a chance to back up both tackle positions.

9. Big opportunities.  Injuries offer young players chances. With Justin Forsett out, look for Jordan Todman to again play extensively at running back, and rookie free agent LaRoy Reynolds is expected to start at strong-side linebacker. He will also play middle linebacker with the reserves, but a good performance by Reynolds could having him pushing Russell Allen on the outside.

10. Improvement offensively. The Jaguars weren’t thrilled with a 27-3 loss to Miami last week, but they weren’t as discouraged as many fans. Still, they want to see fewer turnovers – there were four by the Jaguars last week – and the offense needs to be productive. There’s a belief this offense will be improved, but you want to show it on the field in preseason before you get to the regular season.

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