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Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 Season Preview
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - And now, as the latest contestant in "Are you absolutely sure you want to be an NFL head coach?, the Jacksonville Jaguars welcome first-year man Gus Bradley.
A 47-year-old from a small town in Minnesota, Bradley arrives in perhaps the league's least enviable top position in Jacksonville, a job that's claimed veteran Jack Del Rio and his replacement Mike Mularkey in the last two seasons as a once-successful franchise has ground to a 7-25 halt.
Bradley is a product of the coaching trees of former bosses Jim Mora Jr. and Pete Carroll and rose to "hot coach" status after a transformational 2012 season in Seattle, where the Seahawks were fourth in the league in total yards allowed and first in the league in opposition scoring.
Just two years earlier, his unit was 27th and 25th in those same categories, respectively, in 2011.
"Consistency in the NFL creates credibility," Bradley said. "I have some convictions about how to go about doing this. One of my coaches said, 'Gus, this is going to be a tough sell,' and I'm like, 'I'm not selling anything." We're going to stay true to who we are and remain consistent in our approach.
"Hopefully through that we'll gain the trust of the players. So far they've been open and willing to listen. Do they believe what they're seeing? I think belief comes after adversity hits, when they come back stronger. We'll have to wait and see on that."
Adversity seems an unavoidable object for the Jaguars given the recurrent mediocrity at quarterback, where third-year pro Blaine Gabbert has struggled with both injury and ineffectiveness in his initial two seasons since being selected 10th overall out of Missouri.
He was challenged by the arrival of ex-Miami Dolphin Chad Henne last season. Henne tossed 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in relief duty while Gabbert dealt with maladies, going 1-5 in six starts down the stretch.
Both QBs will benefit by the full-time presence of sparkplug runner Maurice Jones-Drew, who missed the majority of 2012 with a troublesome Lisfranc foot injury.
And, if preseason optimism means anything, all parties expect improvement.
"After the past two years here, this was a tough situation for (Bradley) to come into," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "At first, I was like, 'C'mon, man, this can't be real. You can't be that kind of guy every day.' Because this is my eighth year now, and I've seen it all.
"But he is like that every day. His energy is contagious. He's refreshing. He's a breath of fresh air. He set the tone for us in understanding that it's not about expectations or what everybody else thinks. We don't talk about wins or our record. We talk about our effort and our attitude and getting a little bit better every day."
2012 RECORD: 2-14 (4th, AFC South)
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2007, lost to New England Patriots in AFC Divisional Playoff
COACH (RECORD): Gus Bradley (first season with Jaguars)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jedd Fisch (first season with Jaguars)
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bob Babich (first season with Jaguars)
KEY ADDITIONS: CB Alan Ball (from Texans), S Johnathan Cyprien (second round, Florida International), S Josh Evans (sixth round, Florida), RB Justin Forsett (from Texans), CB Dwayne Gratz (third round, Connecticut), OLB Geno Hayes (from Bears), OT Luke Joeckel (first round, Texas A&M), DT Sen'Derrick Marks (from Titans), DT Roy Miller (from Buccaneers), RB Denard Robinson (fifth round, Michigan), WR Ace Sanders (fourth round, South Carolina).
KEY SUBTRACTIONS: G Eben Britton (to Bears), CB Derek Cox (to Chargers), RB Rashad Jennings (to Raiders), FB Greg Jones (to Texans), DT Terrance Knighton (to Broncos), S Dawan Landry (to Jets), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (to Jets), CB William Middleton (to Chargers), DT C.J. Mosley (to Lions), RB Jalen Parmele (to Titans), WR Laurent Robinson (free agent), CB Aaron Ross (to Giants), OLB Daryl Smith (to Ravens), OT Guy Whimper (to Steelers).
QB: To say ex-Missouri star Gabbert's first two seasons as a pro have been a struggle would be an understatement. The 6-foot-4, 234-pounder certainly looks the part of a No. 10 overall draft choice -- as he was in 2011 -- but his numbers have barely scraped respectable numbers, with a 50.8 completion percentage in 11 games as a rookie ticking slightly up to 58.3 in 11 more injury-riddled games last season.
Gabbert's iffy with a thumb injury to begin the 2013 schedule, and will get another push from veteran Henne, an ex second-round pick who made his way up the coast from Miami to start six games and throw 11 TD passes in Gabbert's absence last season.
RB: Big things were naturally expected from 5-foot-8 workhorse Jones- Drew last season as he came off a career-best 1,606 yards in 2011, but a Lisfranc fracture limited him to just 86 carries in six games and predictably hamstrung any real offensive scheme.
He's joined in the backfield this season by viable second option Justin Forsett, who's played 16 games in each of the last four years -- three with Seattle and one with Houston. There's been a transition at fullback, however, where standout blocker Greg Jones is gone to the Texans, leaving comparative novice Will Ta'ufo'ou, a 5-foot-11, 247-pounder, and Florida State youngster Lonnie Pryor.
WR: Justin Blackmon earned No. 1 receiver recognition with 64 catches for 865 yards and five TDs last season, but he'll miss four games to begin the season after a run-in with the league's substance abuse program.
No. 2 man Cecil Shorts steps up in his absence after compiling 55 catches for 979 yards and scoring seven times.
Jordan Shipley caught 23 passes in limited duty with the Jaguars in 2012 and returns, and other options include ex-Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson -- who's also available to help at running back -- and South Carolina draftee Ace Sanders.
TE: Lewis caught 52 passes for 540 yards and four TDs last season, but he's been hampered by a calf injury in the preseason and is questionable heading toward the Week 1 opener.
The ranks are significantly thinner behind him, with Iowa alum Allen Reisner, who caught one pass for 13 yards in 2012, taking the No. 2 slot on the depth chart behind him.
OL: The Jaguars presumably shored up the right side of the line by selecting 6-foot-6, 306-pounder Luke Joeckel out of Texas A&M with the second pick of April's draft. His left-side tackle colleague is Eugene Monroe, who started all 16 games last season.
The center is 6-foot-3, 292-pounder Brad Meester, who's 36 years old. Right guard Uche Nwaneri also started all 16 games in 2012, while left guard Will Rackley returns after missing all of last season with ankle problems.
DL: Former first-round pick Tyson Alualu moves from the inside to the left end spot after making 45 tackles, recovering a fumble and posting 3.5 sacks in 16 games in 2012. For the right end, Jacksonville goes with 33-year-old veteran Jason Babin again, after he split 2012 between Philadelphia and the Jaguars and compiled seven sacks.
On the inside, it's two newcomers -- Sen'Derrick Marks arrives from Tennessee and Roy Miller is in from Tampa Bay. Situational specialists include ends Jeremy Mincey and Andre Branch
LB: Penn State alum Paul Posluszny again mans the middle after a team-high 139 tackles, along with three interceptions and two sacks, in 2012.
He's flanked on the left side by Russell Allen and his 131 tackles from a year ago, though Allen has been slowed in the summertime by an ankle injury. On the right side is 6-foot-1, 226-pounder Geno Hayes, who's spent time in Tampa Bay and Chicago since being selected out of Florida State in 2008.
Depth players include LaRoy Reynolds.
DB: Third-round draft pick Dwayne Gratz earned himself a starting role after veteran Marcus Trufant was released in the final cutdowns, and he'll start opposite veteran Alan Ball, a former Cowboy and Texan who played 11 games with negligible stats a season ago.
Free safety Dwight Lowery has been bitten by injuries throughout his career, and was limited to just nine games in 2012. The strong safety of the present and future is second-round draftee Johnathan Cyprien, who arrives from Florida International.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Josh Scobee is back for year No. 10 and is an NFL anomaly among kickers because he's spent the entire time in one place. He was 25 of 28 on field goals in 2012, with all his misses coming from 40 yards and beyond, though he made 11 of 13 from 40 to 49 yards and one of two from outside of 50.
Handling punting is former third-round draft pick Bryan Anger, who averaged 47.8 yards per kick and landed 31 of 91 attempts inside the 20-yard line.
Options abound on the return side, with receivers Jordan Shipley and Sanders handling punt runbacks and Jordan Todman and hybrid Robinson taking back the kicks.
COACHING: Bradley gets his first shot as an NFL head man after three seasons as defensive coordinator in Seattle, where significant strides were made in 2012. The Seahawks were first in the league in scoring defense and fourth in total yards allowed, making Bradley a hot commodity after previous head man Mike Mularkey was dispatched. He'll notice the difference in personnel immediately and it'll take a significant transformation for him to avoid the coaching treadmill that's claimed both Mularkey and Jack Del Rio in the last two seasons.
THE SKINNY: The early guesses are that the Jaguars, with an ugly QB situation and a new coach, will perhaps contend with the New York Jets as the AFC's worst team.
The schedule does have some winnable games -- the Jaguars open with Kansas City (a fellow two-win team from 2012), travel to Oakland and later visit Cleveland -- but it'd be a big surprise if Bradley was able to do anything more than perhaps double the win total Mularkey posted in his only year at the helm.
08/31 10:42:32 ET