Change is the only constant in life, and the Jaguars experienced plenty of it in the past 365 days. The team has a new owner is Shahid Khan, who hired the franchise’s third full-time head coach in Mike Mularkey.
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Quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggled as a rookie, as he was thrust into the position with no offseason workouts and a poor set of weapons on the outside. The Jaguars believe that a scheme that better fits Gabbert’s talents, including upgrades across the board at wide receiver, will lead to better results in 2012. Jacksonville also will lean on the NFL’s leading rusher, Maurice Jones-Drew, to carry an offense that was primarily a run-first unit.
The Jaguars made it a point to upgrade the passing game in the offseason, signing free agent wide receiver Laurent Robinson, who caught 11 touchdown passes last season in Dallas. The team spent its first-round pick on two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon and upgraded the backup quarterback position with former Dolphins starter Chad Henne.
Defensively, Super Bowl champ Aaron Ross will compete for a starting job at cornerback opposite Derek Cox.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey had a solid 2011 for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars grabbed the consensus best receiver in the draft in Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, who will be a day-one starter. Second-round draft pick Andre Branch should add depth at defensive end, as he led Clemson in sacks with 10.5 last season. Jacksonville used its third-round pick on long-legged punter Bryan Anger from California. The team rounded out its draft with linebacker Brandon Marshall from Nevada, defensive back Mike Harris from Florida State and defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton from Ashland College.
The Jaguars will have some opportunities for good feelings in the early part of their schedule as they open with a winnable game at Minnesota before returning home to face Houston followed by two more manageable games against Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The Jags face Chicago at home before hitting an early Week 6 bye.
Jacksonville will have an extra week to prepare for a trip to Oakland, and the Jaguars' first six opponents had a combined 40-40 record a season ago. Jacksonville will then face a pair of NFC North opponents as they travel to Green Bay before returning home for a match-up against Detroit. The Jags then play their three divisional rivals (Indianapolis, Houston, Tennessee) before facing four consecutive AFC East opponents (at Buffalo, New York, at Miami, New England) and then ending the season with a showdown in Nashville against the Titans.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Maurice Jones-Drew, running back. Although threatening to hold out, Jones-Drew was the league's leading rusher a season ago and will remain the Jaguars best offensive weapon.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Jeremy Mincey, defensive end. Mincey went from journeyman to near Pro Bowler a season ago and his relentless motor makes him a tough day for any offensive tackle.
WILL WIN DIVISION IF ...
Blaine Gabbert can step up and play like the 10th overall pick in the draft, and the Jaguars defense picks up where it left off in 2011.