The Jacksonville Jaguars will open their 2013 preseason at home Friday night. Their opponent, however, has already played under the lights. The Miami Dolphins are looking to rebound from a sloppy showing against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game last week. Friday's game will be their second of five preseason games.
Both teams have plenty to prove. The Jags are coming off an awful 2-14 record in 2012, while the Dolphins are hoping to bounce back from a moderately better 7-9 season. After eventful offseasons, both teams are hoping to be improved.
Meet the Jaguars
The Jaguars plan to ride out Blaine Gabbert at quarterback for one more season, though Chad Henne is still around if Gabbert struggles. Whoever starts isn't likely to inspire much confidence in fans, which is too bad because the supporting cast isn't bad. Justin Blackmon came on strong last season, and could be solid once he is back from suspension. He'll help out an underrated Cecil Shorts III. The offensive line improved greatly with the addition of rookie Luke Joeckel, and the run game should be strong if Maurice Jones-Drew is healthy.
The Jags made some big changes on defense, but it's hard to tell whether they were for the better. Cornerbacks Derek Cox and RaShean Mathis are gone, vacating their spots to the inexperienced Alan Ball and rookie Dwayne Gratz for the moment. In the front seven, Geno Hayes will tag in for Daryl Smith at outside linebacker. The only position where the Jaguars may have definitively improved was at defensive tackle, where Roy Miller appears to be a strong addition.
Meet the Dolphins
The Dolphins already have a preseason came under their belt, though they eased the starters into action. The development of Ryan Tannehill will be the biggest story line for the Dolphins this season. Miami needs to figure out how to protect him, though, and Jonathan Martin is tasked with playing left tackle. He fared well in the team's first preseason game, but will have another good test on Friday.
Defensively, the Dolphins could be an upstart team. The pass rush will be dangerous with Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan coming off the edge. Jordan didn't get to do much during the Hall of Fame Game, but he's a versatile linebacker that can drop back in coverage and get after the passer. It will be interesting to continue to see how the Dolphins use him.
Local Takes: Jaguars
Alfie Crow from Big Cat Country thinks Gabbert can take the lead in the quarterback competition with a solid outing on Friday night.
If Gabbert can play well against the Miami Dolphins, mustering a scoring drive or two, and make some good decisions passing the football he could begin the first step in distancing himself from Henne in the competition.
Local Takes: Dolphins
Protecting Tannehill is the main objective for the Dolphins, and the folks at the Phinsider seems to think Jonathan Martin performed well in the team's first preseason game.
Notably, left tackle Jonathan Martin received a positive grade for his performance in 10 snaps. PFF joins the chorus of writers including the Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly and The Phinsider contributing writer Chris Early who have argued that national media pundits who declared Jonathan Martin was outmatched in the game were all simply, flat-out wrong.
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Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Big Cat Country and The Phinsider for analysis of Friday night's game.
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The Jaguars are favored by 1.5 points in most books, according to OddsShark.com