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By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Though the New York Giants had to replace a number of key players from last year's Super Bowl champion squad, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the one with the most conspicuous absence when the two teams open up their 2012 preseasons with a showdown at EverBank Field.
Mike Mularkey's initial offseason as the Jaguars' head coach has been a tumultuous one so far, with two expected major offensive contributors missing the early stages of training camp because of contract disputes. The team remains at odds with star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who's seeking a sizeable raise over his current 2012 salary of $4.45 million after leading the NFL in rushing a year ago, and a resolution doesn't appear to be coming any time in the near future.
With Jones-Drew not present, Mularkey and his staff will use Friday's contest to prep promising understudy Rashard Jennings for a possible every-down role to begin the regular season, with players such as special-teams ace Montell Owens, Jalen Parmele and DuJuan Harris likely receiving extended looks in case they'll be needed as backups when the games do count.
Jacksonville was able to finally reach an agreement with rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon on a four-year contract on Monday, putting an end to the No. 5 overall pick of this past draft's 12-day holdout. The two-time Biletnikoff Award winner is still getting up to speed in the offense, however, and won't make his debut until the Jags' Aug. 17 matchup at New Orleans.
Left guard Will Rackley and defensive end Austen Lane are also out for Jacksonville due to ankle sprains, with Lane's injury providing an opportunity for 2012 second-round selection Andre Branch to work with the starters.
While Jaguars fans will have to wait for their first in-game glimpse of Blackmon, they'll sure to be monitoring how quarterback Blaine Gabbert performs as he begins his second pro season. The 2011 first-round choice had a dud of a debut as the triggerman of an offense that finished at the bottom of the NFL in both total yards and passing yards, and though he's still entrenched as the starter at the moment, the team did sign ex-Dolphin Chad Henne during the offseason as insurance if Gabbert's struggles continue.
The Giants will be in action for the first time since their thrilling 21-17 victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI, but do so without several contributors to last season's playoff run. Wide receiver Mario Manningham, running back Brandon Jacobs, tight end Jake Ballard and cornerback Aaron Ross were among those that were either released or departed via free agency.
Ross signed a three-year contract with the Jaguars in March and is competing with franchise stalwart Rashean Mathis for the starting nod at left cornerback during camp.
New York also won't have the services of top wideout Hakeem Nicks, who's on the mend from surgery to repair a fractured foot suffered during the spring. Cornerback Terrell Thomas, who missed all of last year with an ACL tear, is likely out for the entire exhibition slate after hurting the same knee in a recent practice.
Linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring), defensive tackle Chris Canty (knee surgery recovery) and tight end Travis Beckum (torn ACL) will also be part of the Giants' inactive list against the Jaguars.
New York may have found ready-made replacements for Jacobs and Manningham by landing David Wilson and Rueben Randle in the first two rounds of April's draft. Wilson is currently operating as the main understudy to returning starter Ahmad Bradshaw at running back, while Randle is part of a camp battle with veteran Domenik Hixon and second-year man Jerrel Jernigan to be the No. 3 receiver.
These teams have split six previous preseason meetings, all of which were held between 1996 and 2001 when Giants head coach Tom Coughlin then held the same position with the Jaguars. New York evened the series by virtue of a 27-5 home triumph in 2001, but is just 1-2 in the games played in Jacksonville.
08/08 14:25:50 ET
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