Editor’s Note: We’re very lucky here at BLD to be part of Fansided, a wide-reaching network with blogs for every NFL team (as well as a huge selection of NBA, NHL, MLB, and other blogs as well). We’d be dumb not to take advantage of these resources, so welcome to our new feature: Behind Enemy Lines. Each week, we’ll be checking in with the staff from the Fansided blog representing the Bills’ opponent for that the week.
This week, we’ll be talking with Andrew Hofheimer, editor of Black and Teal, Fansided’s Jaguars Blog. A huge thanks to Andrew for taking the time to update us on what’s going on in Jacksonville this preseason.
BLD: The Jags took Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert with their first-round draft pick this year. How is he coming along? Any chance he beats out David Garrard for the starting role this season?
AH: Blaine Gabbert is showing flashes that have Jacksonville fans extremely excited about his long term potential. He has had several eye-popping, “wow” type of plays that show us he can be something special, once he’s had time to grasp the offense and gotten some experience on the field and doing the little things it takes to make a solid professional player. Right now, there’s some chance that the coaches are bold and let Blaine take the reigns from day 1, but David Garrard is still a capable quarterback and is our team’s best bet for success this season.
BLD: The biggest splash Jacksonville made in free agency was bringing a former Bill, LB Paul Posluszny. Are you excited about the signing and/or concerned the Jaguars overpaid for him?
AH: Man, I can’t tell you how much I loved the Poz pick. I know he had a lot of fans in Buffalo, but we were pretty much leading a campaign for him all offseason at Black&Teal. We knew the front office loved him coming out of college and he’s the perfect hard nosed, tackling-machine, relentless, and no nonsense kind of player you want leading your defense. We’re really siked to see what he can do in Jacksonville.
BLD: Jacksonville had a ton of success last year running the ball (3rd in the league at 149.7 yards per game), but really struggled in the passing game, ranking 27th in the NFL. Any hope the Jaguars will make some strides in the passing department and open up even more space for Maurice Jones-Drew?
AH: I am predicting more of the same this year for our passing game. Our identity is the run and controlling the clock and our offense is more set up to exploit soft coverage and big holes that defenses leave when they stack the box and sell out to stop the run. We’re excited about rookie Cecil Shorts III, who has shown a lot of polish in camp thus far, despite being a D-III athlete in college, and we think that Mike Thomas and Marcedes Lewis will pick up where they left off, but for the most part, expect to see lots of running.
BLD: Besides the quarterback situation, any other big storylines or positional battles to watch for in Jacksonville?
AH: The big storyline in Jacksonville for 2011 will be our defense, which was extremely disappointing last year. Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton are looking like they could be a very special DT tandem for us and if they turn out to be as dominant as we think they can be, the dynamic of our defense will change drastically. We need to be affecting opposing quarterbacks and our defensive backs need to do a better job of containing opposing receivers. With our players’ development and our free agent acquisitions, I think the defense is ready to make a big step up this year. In fact, the defense could carry the team in the early part of the season while the offense gets healthy and in sync.
BLD: With the Peyton Manning injury in Indy, the rebuilding project/absence of Chris Johnson in Tennessee, and a group of perpetual choke artists in Houston, it would seem the Jaguars have a pretty reasonable chance to win the AFC South. Is it division title or bust for Jack Del Rio and his team?
AH: . I think that’s what fans want to hear, but I don’t think it’s true or what’s best for our team. I believe continuity is extremely important to a football team, especially because the Jaguars are improving each year. Jack Del Rio is a good coach and his players believe in him – unless it seems that it’s egregiously his fault for us falling short of the AFC South title, he should (and I believe, will) stay in Jacksonville.
BLD: How much will we see the Jacksonville starters in this contest?
AH: The Jaguars’ starters should get lots of playing time today. Del Rio and crew like to approach week 3 of the preseason like a “real” game, so will leave the starters in into the second half and will have much more extensive gameplanning than previous games. Gabbert will likely come in for a series or two with the first team offense, but for the most part, expect to see the Jaguars’ starters in for at least two full quarters.
BLD: Obviously it doesn’t matter too much, but any predictions for tonight’s game?
AH: I think the Jaguars come out swinging tonight, with the intention of playing to win (at least for the first half) rather than just trying to create situations to evaluate their players. I’ll say the first half ends 17-6, Jaguars.