Broncos-Jaguars Preview

BY foxsports • September 9, 2010

Whether or not Tim Tebow makes his NFL debut in the same state he starred in college could be the least important question facing the Denver Broncos in their season opener.

The Jacksonville Jaguars hope they have enough right answers to secure success in what could be the most important season in franchise history.

Two teams looking to bounce back from disappointing 2009 seasons meet Sunday afternoon at EverBank Field.

One of the biggest surprises of the 2010 draft came when Denver selected Tebow 25th overall. Though the three-time All-American from Florida won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and led the Gators to a pair of BCS national championships, his ability to be a pocket passer in the NFL was questioned.

That's still the case until Tebow sees regular-season action. That might not happen Sunday with Kyle Orton holding a firm grasp of the starter's job.

"The best player will play," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "That's really the best thing that we can do for our team no matter who that is. Ultimately our goal is just to win football games and try to compete for a championship."

Acquired from Chicago in April 2009 as part of the Jay Cutler trade, Orton set career highs for passing yards (3,802) and touchdowns (21) in his first season with Denver.

However, the Broncos lost eight of their final 10 after starting 6-0 and missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. Getting back to the playoffs likely won't be easy this year.

While Orton has the potential for another big year, Brandon Marshall and his 101 receptions from 2009 are in Miami. A hamstring injury has running back Knowshon Moreno (947 rushing yards, seven TDs in 2009) uncertain for Sunday's contest.

The Broncos don't have a true No. 1 receiver, though veteran backup Jabar Gaffney played well in the preseason and caught 14 passes for 213 yards in a 44-24 loss to Kansas City in the 2009 finale.

Questions remain on an offensive line that could feature two rookie starters in J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles.

Defensively, the Broncos must find a way to improve after allowing an average of 25.8 points over the final 10 games a year ago. That could be tough without Elvis Dumervil, who lead the league with 17 sacks but is out for the year with a torn chest muscle.

"Those are question marks to people outside the locker room but not concerns for us,'' right guard Chris Kuper insisted. "We have confidence in everybody here.''

That confidence could help as the Broncos face the Jaguars for the first time since losing 24-17 on Oct. 12, 2008 in Denver.

The Jaguars have won four of the last five over the Broncos, but have questions of their own entering this season. Most importantly, what is their status to remain in Jacksonville?

Jacksonville lost the final four games of 2009 to finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 seasons. Making matters worse, the team had seven of the league's 20 regular-season blackouts due to lack of ticket sales.

Majority owner Wayne Weaver invited NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to visit last month and he expressed support for the franchise. However, Goodell hinted fans need to do more to keep the team in town.

"This is definitely a pivotal year for everybody," quarterback David Garrard said.

The Jaguars have nearly sold out the opener, possibly because of Tebow. However, only a winning season might be enough for fans to come out consistently.

"When we go out and play well and (the fans) see the type of young men we have battling their butts off, I think they're going to like it,' coach Jack Del Rio said.

Offensively, Maurice Jones-Drew remains a major key to the team's success.

Jones-Drew set career highs with 1,391 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns last season. He has scored 56 TDs the last four seasons, only LaDainian Tomlinson has more during that span with 73.

He rushed for 125 yards and two TDs against the Broncos in 2008.

Jones-Drew missed some practice time during the preseason while "care of all the nicks and bruises," but denied reports he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.

The Jaguars, however, need to improve overall after ranking 18th in the league in total offense (336.6 yards per games) and 24th in scoring (18.1 points per game).

Garrad has thrown 30 touchdown passes with 23 interceptions the past two years, and been sacked 84 times.

Defensively, Jacksonville finished with a franchise-low 14 sacks in 2009. Looking to raise that total, the Jaguars signed proven pass rusher Aaron Kampman, traded for veteran linebacker Kirk Morrison and used their first four draft picks on defensive linemen.