Contrary to popular belief, the Bears bye is not this week. Instead, they head down to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars. On paper, this game should be a laugher for the Beloved. The Jaguars are pretty one dimensional on offense with Maurice Jones-Drew and pretty zero dimensional on defense. The biggest threat to the Bears are the Bears themselves, but what do I know.
To help us get ready for Sunday’s late game matchup with the Jags, we’ve enlisted the help of Black and Teal‘s Luke Sims to take us behind enemy lines and learn about the Jaguars. Once you’re done reading this post, be sure to head over to Black and Teal to read my answers to his questions.
1. In a situation that Bears fans can relate to, Maurice Jones-Drew’s contract dispute dominated the offseason and preseason headlines for the Jaguars. Jones eventually caved and reported to camp a little lighter in the wallet and with no new deal. Now that he’s back, are there any hard feelings toward him by the fans? Does this drama play out again next season?
I think there would have been hard feelings if his play had dropped off like that of Chris Johnson after his holdout. The fans liked and will continue to like Jones-Drew because he’s a classy guy and a good player. However, when he held out there was some tension building because fans knew he had a lot of money left on his deal, knew he was still getting paid very well in his final years in comparison to other top running backs (though not the same length or amount in total deal), and he still had two years left. This drama won’t play out next season because the team will either extend him after this season or they’ll get rid of him. If he keeps playing like he did through the first three weeks then the team will probably re-sign him very early on.
2. What’s the deal with Blaine Gabbert? Is he the quarterback of the future for Jacksonville? What does he need to improve to be successful in this league?
Right now a lot of fans want to clean house with the Jags. They want to get rid of Gabbert, GM Gene Smith, and head coach Mike Mularkey and start fresh. I think he is the quarterback of the future, if only because he has the work ethic, the arm strength, and he’s coachable. This offseason he needed to improve his pocket presence, his footwork, and he needed to learn how to identify coverages and lead the offense. He was only 21 last season and the jump to now is impressive in those regards.
The next step is good decision making. He is throwing to receivers who can’t get open, he is throwing in windows that aren’t going to be open very long, or he’s scrapping the designed play and dumping it off short to his running backs. He needs to be more patient, but then again the offensive line isn’t really giving him that kind of time.
3. Similar to the Bears with their acquisitions of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the Jaguars added some wide receivers this offseason by drafting Justin Blackmon and signing free agent Laurent Robinson. Unlike the Bears, the Jaguars wide receivers haven’t exactly delivered yet. Why have they struggled to produce so far this season? Can they turn it around?
Laurent Robinson is a gamble. GM Gene Smith is hoping that he can capitalize on his breakout season last year and translate that game into a #1 type game in Jacksonville. Thus far Robinson has had two concussion on the season (three dating to the preseason) and has had a few drops. He emerged as a good receiver early, but he isn’t the big time receiver the Jags were hoping for. He has really struggled at being open and getting downfield which is what the Jags needed from him.
Justin Blackmon had six catches last week, but he is not grabbing the ball like he was in the preseason or was anticipated to coming out of college. The big thing with Blackmon is his ability to beat defensive backs and fight for the ball then use his big body to be more physical and gain some yards. He isn’t really fighting for the ball right now and he isn’t displaying the same hands he had just a couple weeks before the season started. I think they can turn it around, but it will take more aggressive play and more aggressive play calling from the coaching staff. I question whether the latter will occur.
4, Who are a couple of under the radar Jaguar players that Bears fans may not have heard of that could have an impact on Sunday’s game?
Let’s be honest, most Jags players are under the radar. You have to watch LB Russell Allen. He started a number of games last year because of Clint Session’s injury. With Session out again, he’s been starting all season. He is always flying to the ball, but he tends to be a tad too late. If he can get his timing down he may be able to make the jump to starting caliber. Derek Cox, the Jags starting cornerback, is starting his second game this season after a hamstring injury. He may not always be matched up on Brandon Marshall, but when he is look to see how well he covers. He is the shutdown corner and offenses have tended to exploit either Aaron Ross or Rashean Mathis rather than Cox.
Also keep an eye on fullback Greg Jones. He is a gauge as to how aggressive Gabbert is being with his decisions and how aggressive OC Bob Bratkowski is in his play calling. Jones is a good blocker, strong runner, and has good hands, but if he has four or more catches that will indicate that, yet again, the Jags attack isn’t aggressive enough.
5. What’s your prediction for the game? Please include a final score.
As much as I see the Jags finding development in this game, it will be overshadowed by an overwhelming Chicago defense and another anemic offensive attack for the Jags. If Gabbert can get over 200 yards, it will be a very good day. I think it will be a good day for Jay Cutler (he may even get away with zero picks), a bad day for MJD, and the Jags defensive will decide whether this is close or a blowout. 28-7 Chicago
Thanks again to Luke and head over to Black and Teal and wish him luck. He’s gonna need it this season.