Week One Preview: Jacksonville at Indianapolis

If you happen to be the kind of football fan that likes matching a player’s name with his numbers, you might consider printing out a Jaguar roster listing, prior to kickoff on Sunday.

Following the end of the 2008 season, the Jags handed over control of player personnel to Gene Smith – he wasted no time putting his touches on what many consider to be a perennial, underachieving organization. The longtime face-of-the-franchise (Fred Taylor) was released, so Maurice Jones-Drew will now be THE MAN!

They needed weapons on the outside for David Garrard to get the ball to, so they brought in two veteran receivers in Tory Holt and Troy Williamson. All totaled, there are 21 new players on this year’s roster – only TWO players remain with the team from the 2008 draft class. In contrast, eight of the nine players drafted this year, survived the team’s final roster cuts.

In reading clips from the Jag’s web page, it appears that their first four picks in this year’s draft, “could” be in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game with the Colts. That much turnover in a single season might not bode well for the Jags early on, but Gene Smith must be banking on the changes paying dividends for the organization’s long-term success.

Changes though, have not been exclusive to just the Jaguars – less than two days after the Colts announced their 53-man roster, the staff felt the need for some additional “tweaking” and released fan-favorite Matt Giordano to make room for rookie linebacker Cody Glenn (6’0” 244lb Nebraska).

Glenn was a fifth round selection by the Washington Redskins in THIS year’s draft, but failed to make the Redskin’s final roster. One has to wonder if this was someone the Colt’s may have had on their draft board back in April, but for whatever reason, failed to get him at that time. The second change brings in four year veteran safety Aaron Francisco (6’2” 207lbs BYU) from the Arizona Cardinals – LB Jordan Senn was released from the team as a result. Francisco served as the Cardinal’s Special Teams Captain each of the last two years, so that may have as much to do with bringing him to Indy as anything else.

The Colts Defense has to be just a little eager to get this one started. After spending the entire off season listening to “what all is wrong” with the Indianapolis defense, the players will have the opportunity to quiet their critics (even if just for a little while) with a solid performance on Sunday.

In addition to that, Jacksonville will be starting TWO rookie offensive tackles (Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton) that will line up for their first NFL regular season game, across from arguably the best pass rushing combo in the league (Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis). David Garrard might have a difficult time sleeping the night before this one.

The Jags will also be starting a rookie cornerback (Derek Cox) who last played football for the College of William and Mary – it goes without saying that the next exam that Mr. Cox takes, will be administered by Professor Manning. Colts starting DT Ed Johnson, will have to sit this one out, as a result of his actions last year that led to his release from the team – the task of slowing down the Jags rushing attack (which might be impacted by a deep thigh bruise that Jones-Drew will attempt to play through), will go to Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson.

Indianapolis will be starting a few rookies as well as they announced Austin Collie will start at the third wide receiver position, and Jarraud Powers is slated to start at CB for Marlin Jackson, who will primarily be used in nickel and dime situations. Pat McAfee takes over the punting duties from longtime Colts Hunter Smith, and after a solid training camp/preseason he seems ready to go.

Donald Brown will platoon with Joseph Addai throughout the game, and will certainly get his share of touches. The tight ends (Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme) could have huge days down the middle of the field, against an aggressive Jaguar defense – especially if the offensive line can show the ability to protect Manning. If not, the tight ends will be asked to stay back to offer their assistance.

Jacksonville has gotten much younger, but perhaps a little hungrier at the same time. The Colts will need to apply pressure early and often, not allowing these young Jaguars to gain any confidence along the way. The defense will need to get off the field on third down and allow Peyton and company more opportunities to points on the board.

Opening weekend is finally here…time for speculation to cease and anticipation escalate. What Defense will show up for Indianapolis? Can a healthy offensive line do what is needed to protect Peyton, while at the same time, open holes for the Colts running game to be successful? Does Jim Caldwell get his first win as a head coach, after replacing a local legend? Come Sunday, we should get a pretty good initial look at the answers to these, and many other questions.

Indianapolis 24 Jacksonville 13

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