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Writer Report: Jacksonville Jaguars

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Michael Clinton talks MJD’s holdout, Blaine Gabbert, Justin Blackmon, and more from Jacksonville.

Writer Report: Jacksonville Jaguars

In this article…

With the training camp and preseason games well underway, CHARGED.fm is getting ready for the NFL season. As part of that, we reached out to writers/bloggers for all 32 teams to get their takes on the upcoming season. Here is Michael Clinton of the Jacksonville Business Journal to shed some light on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

After four straight underwhelming seasons, there might finally be hope for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Even without Maurice Jones-Drew, who is holding out for a new contract, the team is exciting and has loads of potential.  The defense, one of the more stout groups last year, looks to get even stingier. Blaine Gabbert is poised to improve on his rookie season.  First-round pick Justin Blackmon can provide Gabbert with a fantastic and explosive receiving option.  And should MJD continue to hold out, they have an able backup in Rashad Jennings.

But for a team that hasn't been able to put it all together in the last few years, it's asking a lot to expect everything to gel this season.  We spoke to Michael Clinton of the Jacksonville Business Journal to get a better idea of Jacksonville's upcoming season.  Here's what he had to say.  

1. How do you see the MJD holdout situation playing out, and what is Jacksonville’s plan if it continues into the season?

This doesn’t seem to finishing up anytime soon, as latest reports indicate the team is preparing for MJD to be missing well into September. It is simple; he is approaching 30 and still has two years left on his deal. The team says they won’t pay him and the new ownership seems to be sticking to their guns. If they do pay him, it will likely be a bonus and not extending his contract. Rashad Jennings has really emerged in the offseason and in the preseason so far and he is a more than serviceable replacement.

2. Blaine Gabbert will get his first full season as the starter. What are you seeing from him so far in training camp/preseason and what do you expect out of him this year?

Gabbert has nearly a full season under his belt already, remember he took over the reigns early last season, and with that and a complete offseason program under his belt with coaches that are clearly making his development a priority — I expect good things from him this season. In limited action in the preseason he is looking much more poised in the pocket and has a completely different demeanor in him. You could say his haircut gave him some swagger.

3. The Jaguars finished 6th in overall defense last season and 11th in PPG. How does this year’s defensive unit compare with last year’s?

The defense is only going to get better. A vast majority of the starters are returning and the team added rookie defensive end Andre Branch, who they think will provide their defense with a much better pass rush. Depth at linebacker could be a bit of concern with Clint Session’s concussion problems.

4. To help Gabbert, the Jaguars drafted Justin Blackmon and signed Laurent Robinson. How good can Blackmon be this year and can Robinson sustain all the momentum from his season in Dallas last year?

Blackmon can be everything he has been projected to be, thus warranting such a high draft choice. Now that Backmon has recently signed his contract and is finally at camp and practicing we are seeing him blossom. Everything coming from the coaches and players is that the young receiver is exactly what he was advertised to be, with Robinson and coaches raving about his strong hands and ability to go up and get the ball. 

Robinson has been shaky so far in camp and the preseason, but I think once MJD comes back it will free things up for him and Blackmon more. So far, Robinson has been the lone playmaker receiving balls and I think that has contributed to his struggles.

5. Who is one player to watch this season that is going to surprise people for the Jaguars?

For a breakout player, I expect Rashad Jennings to be a big surprise for many fans this season. In 2010 we saw flashes of greatness from him in limited action as a backup, and in 2011 he was gone for the season with an injury. I had a chance to play dodgeball against him at a charity event (and yes I did knock him out more than once) and I was quite surprised by his agility — and this was in early 2012. Despite when MJD comes back, Jennings will have his chance to play the same role MJD played in his first two seasons with the Jaguars.

6. What’s your prediction for the Jaguars this season?

Not to put any more pressure on the kid, but this entire season depends on how Gabbert plays. If Gabbert shows vast improvements over last season, the Jaguars can easily have a 9 to 11 win season. The coaching staff is there, the defense is there and the team gave him more playmakers to throw to. If Gabbert struggles like he did last season, the Jaguars will be picking in the top 10 in next year’s draft.

Michael Clinton is a web producer for the Jacksonville Business Journal and a blogger for The Jaggernaut. You can follow him on Twitter @MClintonJBJ

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the Jacksonville Jaguars this season.

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