Battles On The Offense: Jags’ Need For Speed
By Troy Graham
On offense, the Jags were most infamously known this offseason as the team who needed some of everything in every position group. To show any progression from the year before, new Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch would need to develop a passing attack that was previously ranked in the 30s out of 32 teams.
Competition has been preached throughout training camp and preseason period at quarterback between Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert, but with Gabbert being a younger, third year, former 9th overall pick he is the heavy favorite going into week 1 of the regular season.
Henne overall has looked better from a scouting perspective in practice and in the preseason opener. While competing against the Dolphins Gabbert managed only 19 passing yards on 10 attempts. Defining what NFL.com’s Around the League editor Gregg Rosenthal describes as the ‘Gabbert Zone’, the area of the field where quarterbacks only muster five yards and below per passing attempt. Somehow in that short of distance Gabbert found some way to throw an interception by ricocheting the ball off fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou into the arms of cornerback Nolan Carroll to set up a scoring drive.
Henne completed the game 8 for 11 with 87 yards. The issue with him is the fact that he fails to become a playmaker or do anything overly spectacular or have moments extraordinary from the norm for the Jags to give 100 percent support and say ‘this guy is our starter.’
Which is all not a shock regarding his track record, in a recent NFL Network Total Access interview, eight-year player Marcedes Lewis explained how in the huddle there is a veteran sense of expectancy with Henne, but how proud he is of Gabbert’s maturity and hard work to this point, leaning towards Gabbert way.
He went further to describe Fisch’s urgency of how he wants to offense to have more speed and explosiveness, which was apparent in the new acquisitions, this offseason. One of those clearly was Offensive Weapon Denard Robinson, who received snaps at quarterback and running back against the ‘Fins but primarily only received time in running situations. Who started at wide receiver though in place of Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, was Ace Sanders. He is the favorite to start in replace of Blackmon during his four-game suspension.
Sanders was ranked in the top 10 of NFL.com’s rookies ‘ready to surprise this’, a ranking of players who were not selected in the top 40 selections in the draft. He was known as the Ram’s safety net if they were not able to secure their 8th overall selection with Tavon Austin.
The ability of his that has stunned the organization the most is how effective he is lining up outside, not just in the slot and in the kick and punt return game. Behind him is second-year receiver Mike Brown who as well is a smaller guy, with elusiveness abilities to make opponents miss in the open field.
Come week one, it will be interesting to see where veterans Jordan Shipley and Mohamed Massaquoi fall on the depth chart. Then again it would be easier to see if the Jags had a better athlete back in the pocket who did not make every downfield pass look like punt return but we all know how that situation is going.
What we are able to learn during this position battle period is the offensive scheme in the running game. Maurice Jones-Drew is the star running back and Justin Forsett is loved for the change of pace he brings. Fisch is bringing a zone blocking style which Forsett thrived in during his Texans days and seems to be the main focus for their style of attack. The coach knows his weapons and his best chances for this team to be successful within their arsenal.
“We have this thing called code black, meaning play hard, play fast and play together. That is what we are trying to put on field no matter what we are doing,” said Lewis when questioned about the persona Fisch is trying to bring out of the team.