by TOM WEPPEL
This year the Jaguars will begin their regular season on the road, in Minneapolis, to face the Minnesota Vikings…a team the Jags have not had the best of luck against, having lost three of the four games they’ve played against them.
Jacksonville goes into this game and this season having undergone quite a bit of change, not only with their ownership and Head Coach, but with their personnel.
Second-year QB Blaine Gabbert has a new set of starting WR’s, in former Cowboy Laurent Robinson (free agent) and first round draft pick Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma St.). That opens the door to plenty of curiosity and questioning, as to how the Jaguar offense will do, especially thru the air, with Gabbert in his second season.
And of course, plenty of eyes will be on Gabbert, to see how he performs this season. Early reports suggest he has matured quite a bit from his rookie year, and grown steadily into the starting role handed to him by the Jaguars coaching staff. It could make for some entertaining, interesting play.
Other followers are wondering to what extent Maurice Jones-Drew will be play and be used, coming off a non-existent pre-season in which he had held out for a bigger contract (and didn’t get it!). How will that affect him and his play? The team has stated that RB Rashad Jennings will start in his place.
They will go against a Viking defense led by standout DE Jared Allen, who led the NFL in sacks last season with 22. It will be important for the Jags O-line to contain Allen and his mates, all in order to give Gabbert time to throw. The Vikes also count on the Pro Bowl LB, Chad Greenway, who led the team last year with 74 tackles.
For the Viking Offense, the main question on everyone’s minds involves their All-Pro RB, Adrian Peterson, who tore both the ACL and MCL in his knee last December and required surgery. For him to complete his strenuous rehab, all in order to be ready to play, is nothing short of miraculous. We shall see how he runs.
The Viking passing game is led by Christian Ponder, also in his second year as starter. His main target will be veteran WR Percy Harvin, who had 87 catches last season. We’ll see how they hook up, as they go against a Jaguar defense that brought in former Giant CB Aaron Ross to strengthen their secondary.
New HC Mike Mularkey comes to the Jags having been the Falcons OC last year. Previously, he had been the HC with the Buffalo Bills for two seasons. Mularkey, a former Florida Gator who played a number of years in the NFL with the Vikings, will know what kind of atmosphere they will encounter, which usually is quite loud. Overall, he feels good about his squad and their preparation in getting geared up for the regular season.
The Jaguars come into this contest as a four-point underdog. Many preseason publications do not look favorably on them in any facet. They will certainly have to prove their worth in order to gain any degree of respect, both locally, and especially nationally.
New Owner Shad Khan has made his presence felt, both internally, and also around town, letting folks know he is putting together a solid organization. That will certainly be important, as the team tries to fight back to some winning ways.
And for the fans…it will be all about answering a whole bunch of questions, in all ways, shapes, and forms, as to what this Jaguar team will be all about. We shall see, as they start the season on the road, in Minnesota…
SPORTS AVENGER 9/7/12
by TOM WEPPEL