Week 1 is here.
Let’s kick it off by introducing you to the Jaguars. Here are five things to know about the squad Gus Bradley is bringing to town this weekend.
1. It’ll be Chad Henne, not rookie Blake Bortles, starting at quarterback for Jacksonville.
Bortles lit it up during the preseason, completing 32 of 51 passes (62.7 percent) for 521 yards (10.2 YPA), two touchdowns and no interceptions. But the organization’s plan is to ease the rookie in.
Barring some kind of late-career turnaround, we have a pretty good idea of what Henne is at this point. He’s started 50 games, thrown 55 touchdowns and 62 interceptions. Henne has completed 59.5 percent of his passes and averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt. If the Eagles can’t keep him in check, there’s going to be some panic in this city Monday morning about the defense.
2. Like the Eagles, Jacksonville spent a couple early picks on wide receivers. They took USC’s Marqise Lee with the 39th pick and Penn State’s Allen Robinson at No. 61. Regular readers of Birds 24/7 know I was a big fan of Lee. I thought the Eagles might consider him strongly in the first round. Instead, he went three spots ahead of Jordan Matthews in the second.
Lee is penciled in to start opposite Cecil Shorts III. The veteran was targeted 125 times last season, 40 more than any other Jaguars player.
Robinson, meanwhile, has been sidelined with a hamstring injury for a month. His status for Sunday is up in the air.
3. If Billy Davis can’t find a way to pressure the quarterback in Week 1, we can fairly label the pass-rush a serious issue. Jacksonville is starting second-year player Luke Joeckel at left tackle. He broke his leg in the fifth game of the season last year. Right guard Brandon Linder is a rookie. And Jacques McClendon is making his first start at center.
Jacksonville quarterbacks were sacked 50 times last season, second-most in the league. The Jaguars made a lot of changes up front, but catching this unit in Week 1 should be a big advantage for the Eagles.
4. Bradley did not a blitz a lot last season. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, Jacksonville rushed four 73.6 percent of the time, second-most in the NFL. They only blitzed (five rushers or more) 18.5 percent of the time.
Chris Clemons (4.5 sacks, 23 hurries last year) comes over from Seattle. Defensive end Andre Branch had six sacks in his second season. And edge rusher Sen’Derrick Marks led the NFL with eight batted passes, per Football Outsiders. It’s not a prolific pass-rush, but there are some names to account for.
5. The kicking game could be an adventure Sunday afternoon. The Eagles will be going with rookie Cody Parkey, and the Jaguars aren’t sure who they’ll be trotting out there.
Veteran Josh Scobee is nursing a quad injury. According to the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars likely won’t know until mid-week whether he’ll be able to go. They’re bringing in backup options just in case.
Jacksonville ranked dead-last in red zone offense last year, scoring touchdowns 43.9 percent of the time. Red zone efficiency could be a huge factor, depending on whether or not Scobee is healthy enough to kick.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles practice squad is complete. McManus has all the details.
In our season predictions series, T-Mac and I go back-and-forth with our thoughts on how Nick Foles will perform in 2014.
I asked a bunch of players in the Eagles locker room to name a teammate who’s primed for a big year. Here are their responses.
Several ex-Eagles are finding work with other teams. How much do Chip Kelly’s training methods have to do with that?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz with some information on practice squadder (WR/CB) Teddy Williams:
Williams played WR in high school and it is easier to learn that spot than CB so the fact he’s been moved to CB makes you wonder if he has bad hands. I’m sure Chip Kelly is fascinated by the size/speed combo that Williams offers.
While the Eagles are trying to develop him, there is another possibility. Williams could be a versatile practice player. In preparation for Dallas, he could be Dez Bryant. For the Skins, DeSean Jackson. For the Cardinals, Patrick Peterson. It is hard to simulate the speed and athleticism of some WRs/CBs with normal practice squad guys. Williams could help there.
Ryan over at The ChipWagon takes a look at the Eagles’ use of the pistol:
This brings us full circle back to the Pistol. Is Chip serious with it, and what is the thinking behind it and of what use can it play? If you’ve been following along, you’ll notice that one of the advantage of this pistol is because of the alignment of the running back directly behind the QB, the Eagles are not tipping the defense off on the direction of the run. It can go right or left. This is the same concept as the play against the Packers I highlight with Foles under center. Except, the pistol gives Chip and Nick Foles the luxury to take a snap in the shotgun instead of under center.
We’ll hear from Kelly and the players this afternoon. The opener’s five days away.