JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser gets you ready for Week 1 by posing five questions for Jaguars-Eagles week as the 2014 regular-season opener approaches …
1. Will Chad Henne really start at quarterback? Yes, yes … a thousand times yes. And, actually, the only people really asking this are outside EverBank Field. Seven-year veteran Chad Henne is the starting quarterback for the Jaguars. Coaches and front-office types have said that since early March and nothing has changed that. That includes a very good preseason by rookie No. 3 overall draft choice Blake Bortles. The rookie’s time will come sometime in the future, and the timing of that could and likely will depend on how Henne plays, but for now, Henne starts.
2. How ready is the Jaguars’ offensive line? Not as ready as would be ideal. Cameron Bradfield will start at right tackle in place of Austin Pasztor, and though that makes that spot more uncertain than the Jaguars want, Bradfield has 25 starts in three seasons. The Jaguars feel good about left guard, left tackle and right guard, but they also just decided on their starting center this week, with third-year veteran Jacques McClendon being named the starter Monday ahead of rookie Luke Bowanko. That means a backup tackle on the right side and a center whose lone NFL start at the position came two weeks ago in the preseason. This group has ability, but continuity almost certainly will be an issue early.
3. Can the defensive line really be a strength? The Eagles’ offensive line is big-time. It’s athletic and it’s key to head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced scheme. The Jaguars got deeper, more physical and better on the defensive line in the offseason – on Sunday, the unit will have to be stout fast and ready to chase the quarterback throughout the game. This should be strength against strength Sunday. Which unit will be stronger?
4. How young is too young? Goodness, the Jaguars’ wide receivers are young. Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are all rookies, and the “old man” of the group – Cecil Shorts III – is in his fourth season. That ain’t old, and on many teams, it’s young. The receiving group is talented, but the Jaguars could need multiple touchdowns offensively to keep up with Philadelphia’s offense. Are the Jaguars’ receivers ready for that?
5. Can the Jaguars contain LeSean McCoy? There also for the Jaguars, of course, is the not-incidental matter of defending Nick Foles, the Eagles’ quarterback who threw for 27 touchdowns and two interceptions while registering a league-best 119.1 passer rating last season. That’s not a good quarterbacking season; it’s a great one. It’s why generating pass rush will be key, and the game will be a test for a pass rush that expects to be improved. But even if the Jaguars do generate a pass rush, the front seven – and the secondary, too, for that matter – must contain McCoy, an All-Pro running back who rushed for 1,607 yards last season. Rookie linebacker Telvin Smith could be key. He has the speed to bother McCoy, but disrupting and containing McCoy will be a challenge for the entire defense.