2012 training camp preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeJuly 17, 2012

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Training camp goals

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1. Solidify the passing game. This phase of the Jaguars' offense should be light years ahead of where it was a year ago now that Blaine Gabbert has a year's experience behind him and is receiving much better coaching than what he got in his rookie season. Add in the fact that he now has three receivers (rookie Justin Blackmon, free agents Lee Evans and Laurent Robinson) who are better than anyone the Jaguars had on their roster a year ago and it means Jacksonville will no longer occupy the 32nd spot in team passing. Tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller should also be more valuable this year in that they'll be used in a more effective manner. A healthy Eben Britton returning to his starting spot at right tackle strengthens the offensive line and should give Gabbert better protection than he had a year ago.

2. Build the quality and depth of the defensive line. There were far too many holes along the defensive front a year ago, even with Jacksonville finishing with a No. 6 overall ranking on defense. Of the nine linemen that finished the season with the Jaguars, only four are considered sure bets to be on this year's roster. The tackles, Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu, are young and talented but have concerns. Knighton had eye surgery after an off-the-field fracas at a nightclub in April and Alualu had knee surgery after the season. Jeremy Mincey signed a contract extension and is set at one end and C.J. Mosley is solid as a backup at tackle. But beyond that, the Jaguars will have to find a mix of veterans and rookies to fill in at the other starting end spot and for depth.

[Related: 2012 training camp schedules, fantasy advice and more]

Player to watch

Wide receiver Justin Blackmon. In Blackmon's case, he'll need to be watched on and off the field. There's no denying his talent. He has NFL-type hands, speed, leaping ability and mental toughness. That's why the Jaguars moved up the draft board to take him as the No. 5 overall pick. On the downside, there were too many occasions during the team's spring drills where Blackmon was confused as to his route. He was able to get away with such a deficiency in college based on his skills alone. That won't fly at this level. Plus Blackmon's arrest for aggravated DUI in early June after team's OTAs ended is a major concern. His indiscretion – the second such happening in a 15-month time frame – is an indication the team will have to monitor his time away from the field.

On the hot seat

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You can tie the Jaguars' chances of improving on a 5-11 record a year ago directly to Gabbert's improvement this year. He finished at or near the bottom of the quarterback rankings in most categories last year. Despite some woeful numbers and performances, the Jaguars have not lost confidence in their young (22) quarterback. They feel with the proper coaching, with an improved group of receivers and with a year's experience at this level, he'll be better. Gabbert will have all three items with him entering the season. If he improves like the staff feels he will, the Jaguars will as well. If he doesn't progress, it will be another long season for the team.

Strategy and personnel

The Jaguars continued to adjust their roster prior to the start of next month's training camp. This week they signed fifth-year cornerback Reggie Corner, rookie wide receiver Charles Gilbert, rookie offensive tackle Dan Hoch and second-year quarterback Nathan Enderle. Enderle spent the entire 2011 season on the Chicago active roster, but he didn't appear in any games. To make room for the aforementioned players, the Jaguars waived wide receiver Chris Forcier, cornerback Dontrell Johnson and linebacker Donovan Richard.

Full Jaguars team report

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