Week 3 of the preseason is always the most important: Starters play the longest, so teams get one final chance to test their opening day regiment. For the Jags, however, Week 3 may be of even greater importance.
The Jacksonville Jaguars may be 1-1 this preseason, but their starters are essentially 0-2. Specifically, neither David Garrard -- who started in his first game last week -- nor Blaine Gabbert -- who has looked very rookie-ish against both the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots -- have inspired much confidence in Jags fans or locked down the starters' job.
Frankly, given Blaine Gabbert's rookie-like performances, the job is still very much David Garrard's to lose -- and he was quite possibly never in danger of losing it. But still, Gabbert represents a significant investment by the team and the cornerstone hope for future success. Which is why it's particularly stinging that Luke McCown has thus far out-performed Gabbert's statistics.
McCown, likely the team's third string quarterback, is the only Jags QB to throw a touchdown this preseason. In his one game of action (playing against future roster cuts on the Atlanta Falcons) completed 8 of 9 for 86 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
The blame, however, does not fall solely on the Jacksonville quarterbacks. Gabbert (5) and Garrard (1) have been sacked a combined 6 times this preseason -- a staggering amount considering they have played only a combined 1 and half games. Unfortunately, the offensive line his a huge concern for the Jaguars -- especially in pass protection.
Add to that problem (a) the dropitis rampantly eating away at the receiving corps and (b) the shoddy defense thus-far displayed by the starters, the Jaguars have the makings of tough season ahead.
The Buffalo Bills may be 0-2 this preseason, but in Week 1, they were able to sack the Chicago Bears quarterbacks a whopping 9 times. Credit a healthy and fanatical Shawne Merriman, who sat out Week 2 when Kyle Orton and the Broncos torched the Bills. Merriman should play against the Jags, so the test will be on for the o-line.
Curtis Painter -- who may be the opening day starter for the AFC South perennial playoff Colts -- looked surprisingly good against the reigning Superbowl champion Green Bay Packers Friday night. If Peyton Manning cannot start Week 1 for the Colts, then Painter might need to fill in -- possibly for a few weeks -- which could give the Jaguars a chance to gain early ground in the division.
But, if the Jaguars cannot find a rhythm early -- or, more importantly, a starting quarterback -- their toughest challenge in the rapidly-equalizing AFC South won't be beating the Colts; it will be staying out of last place.