The Jaguars had a nice little opener in a near road win over the Minnesota Vikings Blaine Gabbert looked serviceable, completing 23 of 39 for 260 yards, 2 touchdown, and no interceptions. Minnesota’s secondary is crap, but I was very impressed with Gabbert’s poise under pressure. I didn’t like the matchup for Gabbert because of his struggles under pressure last season. Minnesota has one of the league’s best pass rushes and they lived up to their billing, pressured Gabbert on 18 of 43 drop backs, but Gabbert only took 2 sacks and completed 9 of 15 on those 18 drop backs (3 runs).
However, they may find things much tougher this week as they head home to face the Houston Texans, who might be the most complete team in the NFL. Making life even harder is the fact that they may be without 4 starters with injury. Starting right tackle Cameron Bradfield left the Vikings’ game with an injury and replacement Guy Whimper, who really struggled last season as a starter, predictably got destroyed, surrendered 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit, 4 quarterback hurries on 35 pass block snaps, while committing 2 penalties.
Starting left guard Eben Britton is also unlikely to go, which would leave undrafted free agent Mike Brewster to start at left guard. Gabbert will be under pressure all night and if he reverts to his old habits, he could really struggle, especially against Houston’s secondary. Even if he continues to show poise in the pocket, the Jaguars will probably still have trouble moving the ball against a tough Houston defense.
The Jaguars also have injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Daryl Smith and Derek Cox did not suit up for the opener and might not play again this week. Smith was ProFootballFocus’ 2nd ranked outside linebacker last season, only behind Von Miller, while Derek Cox was a real shutdown cornerback in limited action in his 3rd year in the league last year, before going out with injuries.
Cox, a surprise 3rd round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, didn’t play well as a starter in either 2009 or 2010, but was awesome to start the season last year. He allowed just 9 completions on 28 attempts (32.1%) for 105 yards (3.8 YPA), no touchdowns, and no interceptions, while deflecting 3 passes and being penalized once. His 44.5 QB rating would have been 2nd in the league had he had enough snaps to qualify. If he can stay healthy and keep that up over an entire season, he’ll emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the league, but those are pretty big ifs, especially now that he’s missed 1 game and maybe more. In the opener, replacements Aaron Ross and Kyle Bosworth predictably struggled. If the Jaguars couldn’t stop the Vikings, they’re going to have a lot of trouble stopping the Texans.
Also expected to miss this game is Rashad Jennings. Jennings is not a starter, so he’s not as important to their chances of winning on Sunday, but it’s an important note for fantasy football players. Maurice Jones-Drew will carry the load completely in his 2nd game back and the Jaguars have said he’s not an a pitch count, so expect him to get most, if not all of the carries, as primary backup Montell Owens has just 14 career carries. Still, don’t get too excited about him in fantasy leagues, as Houston has a tough run defense and MJD doesn’t seem to have his legs back under him yet. Start him, but don’t count on him to carry your team. Likewise, the Jaguars can’t count on him to carry their team like they did last year.