By TPR Staff

In a division with a clear AFC contender and three teams looking to continue to rebuild, the Jaguars are unfortunately a part of the 75 percent this year and no one has argued that. But the team has shown more progress up to this point than many skeptics gave credit for.

With only one victory in the first quarter of the 2012 season, that is all some will see. However, the other two teams within the division have had the same success thus far. Yet, Jacksonville could very easily be sitting at 0-4 if not for a last second victory over the Colts in week 3. But it isn’t all bad and I’ll explain why now.

Offense

The biggest question mark going into this year was how quarterback Blaine Gabbert would respond after an abysmal showing in his rookie performance of 2011. To be truthful, there really isn’t any direction he could have gone but up, and I’d argue that he has. Other than being pummeled by Houston in week 2, he hasn’t had a showing anywhere as bad as last year. Sure, he got beaten and eventually benched against Houston, but they seem to be specializing in taking out quarterback this season (the tally is up to 2).

Gabbert’s improvement has been helped out largely by the additions of Laurent Robinson and rookie Justin Blackmon. Together, that duo has accounted for 213 yards receiving and allowing Maurice Jones-Drew to do what he does. “Mojo” is off to another strong start this year with 352 yards and a touchdown. His only down performance was, also, against the top-ranked defense the Texans currently hold.

There is obviously a lot of work still to do, but in a Mike Mularkey offense that is very running based, it looks like the Blaine Gabbert project just might be salvageable.

Grade: C+

Defense

I have to say that this one was a bit of a surprise to me, as I thought the thing that would keep them in games this year would be the Jags defense. However, after four games they find themselves currently ranked 26th in the league and allowing 405 yards per game. But they have done a good bit of “bend, but don’t break” after allowing just 24 points per game.

The biggest inconsistency for Jacksonville on defense has been the lack of a pass rush. Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton have been credited just one sack apiece. The rest of the team? Goose egg. Yep, two sacks is all the Jags have put together this year and it isn’t a “they were close, but the quarterback made a good play” kind of situation either. The opposition is having all day in the pocket to make a throw and that usually allows no secondary to lock down receivers, no matter how good the corners are.

This shows in the 21st ranked defense against the pass at 255 yards allowed per game. No consistent pass rush, or none at all, and you’re going to have a long season if you don’t have an offense that can win in a shoot out.

Grade: D

Overall

As I said in the opening, no one really expected much of the Jags this season. It was really a reclamation project on Blaine Gabbert to see if they could go forward with him in the future. It’s still up in the air, but he’s certainly showed progress over last season.

It’ll be curious to see how things play out with Marice Jones-Drew, who held out for a new contract in the preseason and never got it. Mularkey loves to run the ball and Maurice knows that. If he gets run into the ground before his new contract, things could get nasty.

Grade: C -

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