NFL Preseason Preview - Atlanta (1-2) at Jacksonville (2-1)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Aiming to rebound from an ugly loss, the Jacksonville
Jaguars wrap up their 2012 preseason schedule when the Atlanta Falcons pay a
visit to EverBank Field.
Coming off a rough 5-11 season, the Jaguars appeared to be making strides
under new head coach Mike Mularkey based on the results of the first two weeks
of this year's exhibition slate. The momentum gained from narrow victories
over the defending world champion New York Giants and 2011 NFC South winner
New Orleans came to a crashing halt in last week's matchup at Baltimore,
however, with the Ravens pummeling Jacksonville in a 48-17 rout.
A defense that was believed to be the Jaguars' strength was torched through
the air, with Baltimore quarterbacks combining for a whopping 433 net passing
yards and five touchdowns on the evening. Starting signal-caller Joe Flacco
piled up 266 yards and two scores before exiting midway through the third
Jacksonville triggerman Blaine Gabbert couldn't find the same success against
the Ravens' formidable defense, with the 2011 first-round pick managing a
modest 117 yards on 11-of-21 passing while working the initial three quarters.
The Jaguars mustered only a field goal over that time frame.
There were a couple of bright spots on the Jacksonville side, though. Rookie
receiver Justin Blackmon hauled in four passes for 72 yards in the second
outing of his promising pro career, while current No. 1 running back Rashad
Jennings gained a game-high 57 yards on 13 carries.
Jennings, standing in for Maurice Jones-Drew as the reigning rushing champion
continues a prolonged holdout, has compiled an impressive 175 yards on 36
attempts through the first three weeks. Mularkey announced on Monday that
Jennings would be the starter when the Jaguars begin the regular season at
Minnesota on Sept. 9 even if Jones-Drew does report to the team before then.
Mularkey also said he plans to play his healthy starters up to a quarter in
Thursday's finale, though linebacker Daryl Smith (groin), left guard Will
Rackley (ankle) and defensive end Austen Lane (ankle) are among those likely
to be held out.
Left tackle Eugene Monroe, who's missed Jacksonville's last two tilts with a
concussion, was cleared to practice over the weekend and should be in the
Falcons head coach Mike Smith figures to take a more cautious approach with
his team in its final tune-up before a Week 1 meeting at Kansas City. Several
regulars, including quarterback Matt Ryan and possibly star wide receiver
Julio Jones, are expected to be rested for Thursday's contest.
Neither player seems to need the extra snaps anyway. Ryan has been sensational
throughout this preseason, hitting on a sizzling 75 percent (45-of-60) of his
throws for 549 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Jones has done
plenty of damage as well, with the second-year wideout amassing 240 yards and
a score on 13 catches.
Ryan was on the mark once again in last Friday's 24-6 win at Miami, completing
18-of-26 attempts for 220 yards and connecting with wide receiver Roddy White
for a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Jones, meanwhile, led all
players with 90 yards on four grabs.
With Atlanta releasing veteran Chris Redman on Tuesday, rookie Dominique Davis
becomes the favorite to draw the start at quarterback if Ryan is indeed
One Falcons starter who definitely won't play is defensive tackle Corey
Peters, placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list with a foot
injury on Sunday.
Atlanta snapped a seven-game losing streak in the preseason with Friday's
triumph, with a 15-13 setback to the Jaguars at EverBank Field last year
included in that slide. Jacksonville also bested the Falcons at home by a 13-9
count in a 2010 warm-up affair.
The Falcons did roll to a 41-14 decision over the Jags at the Georgia Dome
during Week 15 of last year's regular season behind three Ryan touchdown
passes and a 10-catch, 135-yard, two-score performance from White.
08/28 15:35:32 ET
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