Pride Of Detroit talks with Big Cat Country, SB Nation's Jaguars blog, to preview the Lions' matchup with Jacksonville on Sunday.
1. The Jaguars currently sit at 1-6 on the season, and statistically speaking, they are toward the bottom of the league on both sides of the ball. Is this a surprise or did Jaguars fans come into 2012 expecting a rebuilding year?
The offense ranking towards the bottom of the league isn't a massive surprise, but I don't think most expected it to be dead last after the good showing in the preseason. The defense playing so poorly was a massive surprise and one most fans didn't expect. The pass rush has been virtually non-existent and the linebacker group has struggled trying to fill roles for injured linebackers Daryl Smith and Clint Session, both of whom are unlikely to play this season. Things seem to have settled, though, so both could be on an upswing.
2. The Jaguars used the fifth overall pick of this year's draft to give Blaine Gabbert a weapon on offense in Justin Blackmon. So far, Blackmon hasn't done a whole lot. What has your reaction been to Blackmon this season, and how have the other members of the 2012 draft class looked so far?
I wasn't a big fan of Justin Blackmon pre-draft, at least as a top 10 pick prospect. I don't think Blackmon has the speed and/or size you look for in a top 10 pick at the receiver position. That being said, Blackmon has been up and down on the year. He has looked explosive and physical on the field, but he hasn't had much of an impact on the season. Blackmon is the most targeted receiver on the team, but he had the best day of his rookie year against the Packers. Outside of Blackmon the ... punter pick ... has been okay. Bryan Anger definitely has a strong leg, but he tends to outkick his coverage right now. Second-round pick Andre Branch has been off and on, but he showed some flashes against the Packers as a rotational pass-rusher.
3. Through seven games, Gabbert has a 55.6 completion percentage, 1,209 passing yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. How would you assess his play in 2012, and do you see him as someone who can be the Jaguars' franchise quarterback going forward?
Blaine Gabbert's play through the 2012 season so far has left a lot to be desired, but in the past two games he's shown some improvement and progress. He's coming off his best game as a pro and has looked much more comfortable and decisive since the bye week. As far as Gabbert being the Jaguars' franchise quarterback of the future, that's what the remaining nine games of the regular season are going to be used for -- evaluation and to see if he can put together some consistency.
4. The big story for the Jaguars this past offseason was Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout. Based on the six games he's played in this season (he's out with an injury right now), Jones-Drew is averaging only 69 rushing yards a game, and he only has one rushing TD on the year. What do you think the future holds for MJD in Jacksonville? Will he ultimately get the pay raise he was after this summer? Will he end up being traded? Or will the Jaguars simply let him walk when his contract is up after next season?
I personally don't think Maurice Jones-Drew is in Jacksonville beyond the 2012 season. Jones-Drew is likely going to hold out again after the season, once again looking for a new deal, and the Jaguars likely aren't going to pay him again. I think ultimately the Jaguars may try to trade Jones-Drew during the offseason to a team looking for a quick fix at the running back position.
5. Since 2006, the Jaguars have only finished with a record better than .500 once. In general, what are your thoughts on the current state of the Jaguars franchise? Do you think Shad Khan needs to completely clean house in order to rebuild the team, or do you think they are closer to becoming a playoff contender than their current record suggests?
The Jaguars right now are a team stalled out in a rebuild effort by general manager Gene Smith, who's been acquiring the talent since 2009. The team overall lacks talent at some key positions. I do think Shad Khan will need to clean house in the offseason, at least at the general manager position, if the team does not show significant improvement through the rest of the season. I do like Mike Mularkey and what he's done with the offense, especially how Gabbert has grown in a single offseason, but he may suffer the consequences of blowback if the general manager who hired him is fired.