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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
As Cleveland and Jacksonville prepare to meet for the fourth consecutive season, we reached out to Jaguars radio play-by-play voice Brian Sexton to get his take on several topics, including how Jack Del Rio has handled speculation about his job security. Here are our questions and his answers:
PFW: Assess Blaine Gabbert's play through seven starts. What has he done well, and what must he improve upon?
Sexton: Blaine has been up and down on the field, but from the first practice of training camp, it was clear he had a skill set well beyond any quarterback the Jaguars have ever had, including Mark Brunell. Blaine needed an offseason as much as he needs better receivers and his Pro Bowl tight end (Marcedes Lewis) to start catching the ball. He was going to back up (David) Garrard and two weeks into the season, he's the starting quarterback. He has the work ethic that the great quarterbacks do and has a gym-rat personality in that he wants to be working on football constantly. He would have been better off to have had a strong veteran to work behind for a season as Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers had but that wasn't the hand dealt, and all in all, he is dealing with it.
PFW: Obviously, Jack Del Rio's future with the club has been much speculated about. Assess the job he's done in a unique situation. How has he handled the speculation?
Sexton: Del Rio likes to say "you either feel the pressure or you apply it." He knows that his chance to make the playoffs with a rookie quarterback isn't very strong and a 3-6 record seems to set the stage for his departure already. I host both his radio and TV shows and don't see a guy who is angry or who shies away from the questions about his future. He's handled it about as well as you could ask anyone to. Of course, it helps when you have another year of $5 million whether you coach or not. …
PFW: What have been some of the keys to the defense's significant turnaround?
Sexton: The defense is built around the two young tackles. Terrance Knighton is a two-gap tackle who has great strength and quickness, and if he played for the Eagles or Patriots, (he) would be a Pro Bowler. Tyson Alualu has played with a knee injury all season that has slowed him down but as a three-technique he is very disruptive which lets (OLB) Daryl Smith and (MLB) Paul Posluszny flow to the ball. All those two guys needed were some linebackers and safeties that could take advantage of what those two guys did. (General manager) Gene Smith did a tremendous job getting so many guys who could come in on a shortened schedule and adapt to one another and the scheme. (S) Dawan Landry, (CB) Drew Coleman, (S) Dwight Lowery, (OLB) Clint Session, (DE) Matt Roth and Poszluzny are all difference makers whose skills complement those of Knighton, Alualu, Smith, (CB Rashean) Mathis and (CB) Derek Cox.
PFW: You've watched Maurice Jones-Drew throughout his career. How does this season stack up with some of his other productive years?
Sexton: Maurice Jones-Drew is having his best season both statistically and in the way he's running the ball. If you go back and watch any game, including the Steelers and Ravens games, you'll find defenders who slow down and try to gather him in instead of running downhill against him. Jones-Drew had every reason to be upset with the move to Gabbert since it's another year of his career spent rebuilding but he has embraced the rookie quarterback and it looks as if he is running to keep the heat off him. Jack Del Rio has always said (MJD) has the heart of a champion and his production and performance both back that up this season. Mix in a class guy who smiles and takes photos and signs autographs for anyone who asks and you couldn't ask for a better face for the franchise.
PFW: Finally, it's been a banner season for PK Josh Scobee to date. What has keyed his success?
Sexton: Scobee has as strong a leg as any kicker other than (Raiders PK Sebastian) Janikowski and has been steady since he arrived in 2004. He's probably as confident this season about his ability to drill a long kick (five over 50 thus far) and he actually wants to be in the most difficult situation possible and thrives off the pressure. He pushed the kick in Indianapolis last week for his first miss but I would expect him to rise to the occasion late in the season … his mentality is strong in 2011.
Brian Sexton, who has called Jaguars games since the team entered the NFL, can be followed on Twitter @JagsVoice.