Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/18/12
Last year the Jacksonville Jaguars went 5-11.  The Jaguars had the No. 1 rusher in the league in Maurice Jones-Drew. They also had the No. 6 rated defense. 

The Jaguars' 2011 season included a league-high 27 players on the injured reserve including defensive standouts Aaron Kampman and Rashean Mathis.

They also ended the season with a rookie quarterback who was sacked 40 times in 14 starts. 

This year the Jaguars have a new owner, a new coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback coach. 

Also new to the Jaguars is 2012 fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.  Ex-Dallas Cowboys' wide receiver Laurent Robinson, who managed 54 receptions and 11 touchdowns as the third option in Dallas, is now a wide receiver for the Jaguars. 

What they don't have is last year's leading rusher, Maurice Jones-Drew.

This year the Jaguars' schedule features five teams that qualified for the 2011 postseason. They have eight home games that include welcoming the Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and the Tim Tebow-infused New York Jets.  

So what is the best-case scenario for the Jaguars?

The best-case scenario is for rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert to come into his own. Last year Gabbert was a 21-year old rookie. The overall No. 10 pick by the Jaguars was third on the depth chart. Then David Garrard was cut at the end of preseason. Then Luke McCown struggled in the first two games. Then the 21-year old rookie became the starter for the Jaguars. 

By the end of the season, Gabbert completed 50.8 percent of his passes. He threw 12 touchdowns and had 11 interceptions while losing five fumbles. Gabbert had a 65.4 percent passer rating. Among the 34 quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify for the passing title, Gabbert rated last. 

Quick -- who were the wide receivers for the Jaguars last year? Exactly! What does it say about your wide receiving corps when the running back tied for the team lead with three receiving scores. The wide receivers were abysmal last year. They were bad and it wasn't all the quarterbacks fault.

Marcedes Lewis admittedly had baby mama drama that seeped on the field and interfered with his play. Mike Thomas ended the year with 415 yards and one touchdown. And then there was the rookie quarterback running for his life in his 14 starts. Gabbert was sacked 40 times!

This year in two preseason games the Jaguars are showing improvement. 

The first preseason game this year was against the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Against the Giants first-team defense, Gabbert led an 89-yard drive against the defending champs. He also quieted some of the critics by taking a hit from Justin Tuck without flinching. 

If that seems trivial to you: a) the main criticism against Gabbert has been the appearance of fear he seemingly showed when in the pocket last year; and b) you try standing there with Justin Tuck and his new headgear come barreling towards you. 

Gabbert ended his first preseason game 5-for-10, with 62 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. 
The second preseason game the Jaguars played the New Orleans Saints in the Super Dome.

Gabbert went 13-for16 with 112 yards and two touchdowns. Best of all Gabbert showed poise in the pocket.  Gabbert is standing strong. 

While it is only preseason the best-case scenario is materializing. Gabbert is coming into his own. Gabbert is showing what made him a 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft. He is erasing those whispers and outright declarations of being soft. Remember when was the last time you took a hit from Justin Tuck?

So what is the worst-case scenario for the Jaguars?

The worst-case scenario is the return of Maurice Jones-Drew.

There is no argument that Jones-Drew is a dynamic and reliable runner.  But as of right now he has missed OTAs, training camp, and two preseason games.

It didn't help pass protection last year to have the leading rusher. It didn't help wide receivers catching passes to have the league leading rusher. And it didn't help the Jaguars to win more than five games to have the league's leading rusher.  

Last year Chris Johnson sat out the first three weeks of the preseason and all of training camp. He never regained his form. Johnson stumbled his way through the season a shell of the running back he was the year before. And that is with a contract that made him happy.  

Yes, Jones-Drew has been remarkably consistent for the last three years. Jones-Drew rushed for 1,606 yards, averaging 4.7 yards with eight touchdowns in 2011; rushed for 1.324 yards, with a 4.4 average and five touchdowns in 2010; and he rushed for 1,391 yards, averaging 4.5 yards with 15 touchdowns in 2009. 

But as we are constantly reminded, it is no longer a single-back league. You can count on one hand the teams that depend on one running back. And this year it does not appear that the Jaguars want to be in that category.  
Their acquisitions during the offseason point to a team that wants to step up with the big boys and rely on the pass.

The new coaching staff is offensive-minded. Quarterbacks' coach Greg Olson was the offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the last three years. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was recently the Atlanta  Falcons' quarterbacks coach. And head coach Mike Mularkey was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. It is clear they were not brought in to improve Jones-Drew. 

If Jones-Drew returns it would be natural for the offense to revert to the same old system. Rely on Jones-Drew at the expense of the passing game. Jones-Drew has excelled at rushing for six years with the Jaguars and it has not bought them any closer to being a perennial playoff team. 

When Jones-Drew returns he is likely to return without a new contract. He will also not be in game time shape having missed all of preseason. The sad fact is that no one is irreplaceable. Yes, the Jaguars may be forced to replace Jones-Drew with both Rashad Jennings and Montell Owens. Does it matter if the stats are amassed by two players as opposed to one player? 

There are worst-case scenarios.  The Jaguars could be plagued with injuries and be forced to replace 27 players. They could lose their starting quarterback in preseason only to have the number two quarterback prove to be inept two games into the season. They could start a 21-year old rookie unprepared and unsteady. Or their head coach could be fired in November.  

It is only preseason but the Jaguars are 2-0. Rashad Jennings is proving capable. Blaine Gabbert is looking poised. That is the best-case scenario. 

Last year's leading rusher Jones-Drew is a no-show. When he returns he then needs to become acclimated to the new regime. As Chris Johnson proved last year, preseason is important. Working with new coaches and the team is important.  When the Jaguars prove a cohesive unit without Jones-Drew, his return is the worst-case scenario for this team at this time. 


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