Opposing View: Jaguars' Insider John Oehser on the Lions-Jaguars matchup

Posted Nov 3, 2012

This week's opposing view comes from senior writer John Oehser. Oehser talks about Jaguars' QB Blaine Gabbert's progress and what the Lions are getting in WR Mike Thomas.

This week's opposing view comes from senior writer John Oehser. Oehser covered the Jaguars’ first six seasons for the Times-Union, and spent 10 seasons writing for before joining last year. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnOehser

What kind of player are the Lions getting in receiver Mike Thomas?

When the Jaguars traded Thomas to Detroit Tuesday, it ended a difficult time for the former fourth-round selection at the end of his Jaguars' career. He had been drafted in 2009, and played well enough to lead the team in receiving in 2010 and 2011. The team thought enough of Thomas to give him a contract extension midway through his third season.

While Thomas’ production fell off the last two seasons, he is capable of being a productive slot receiver, and could benefit from Calvin Johnson being the focal point of the Detroit offense. Thomas looked very good this preseason, and showed the ability to get open deep and on crossing routes across the middle. He also has potential as a punt returner, though he had lost that role earlier this season.

The biggest matchup concern the Jaguars have heading into Sunday?

The Jaguars’ biggest concern is probably the concern of most teams playing Detroit – how to defend wide receiver Calvin Johnson. That’s particularly concerning for the Jaguars because Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis – their two starting corners – are dealing with injuries.

Mathis is out with a groin injury and Cox – their best corner so far this season – is questionable with a back injury. If Cox plays, he could be asked to cover Johnson at times all over the field, but no one covers Johnson without significant help over the top. If Cox is out, Will Middleton, Aaron Ross and rookie Mike Harris will play corner, but the Jaguars rarely assign those players to specific receivers.

What's been the most pressing issue so far with the Jaguars and their 32nd-ranked offense?

The main issue for the Jaguars the last season and a half has been the passing offense. With quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggling at times, and with the receiving corps still young, the passing offense has shown signs of progress, but hasn’t been consistent enough. That showed signs of changing last week when Gabbert had the best game of his career with a 303-yard performance against Green Bay.

In recent weeks, the Jaguars’ running game also has struggled. Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL’s leading rusher a year ago, left a loss to Oakland two weeks ago after sustaining a sprained foot. But even with Jones-Drew, the running game has been unproductive, failing to rush for more than 70 yards in any of the last four games.

How is quarterback Blaine Gabbert progressing in his second year under center?

Gabbert, the Jaguars’ starting quarterback in the last 21 games, showed significant improvement in the preseason, and although he struggled at times early this season he has progressed in the last two games.

Gabbert two weeks ago against Oakland completed 8 of 12 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. He returned the following week to have the best game of his NFL career, completing 27 of 49 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown against the Packers. Jaguars receivers had nine drops in the Green Bay game.

Gabbert at this stage is still a very unfinished story. His development is perhaps the biggest storyline facing this franchise, and the last two weeks have been his most significant improvement. He needs to build on that moving forward the rest of the season.

The Lions are heading into Sunday's matchup a little banged up on either side of the football. How are the Jaguars health-wise at the midway point of the season?

As with any team, the Jaguars have injury issues, with perhaps the most pressing this week at cornerback with Mathis out and Cox uncertain.

Linebacker Daryl Smith (groin, their best defensive player, is on injured reserved/designated to return and can’t return until two weeks remaining in the season.  With linebacker Clint Session on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a concussion, two of the team’s best three linebackers are unavailable.

The Jaguars this week also are without not only Jones-Drew, but fullbacks Greg Jones (hip) and Montell Owens (shoulder), as well as safety Dwight Lowery (ankle).