What We Learned: Jaguars-Falcons
What We Learned from the Jaguars’ 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2014 preseason finale at EverBank Field Thursday
JACKSONVILLE – Here’s What We Learned from the Jaguars’ 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2014 preseason finale at EverBank Field Thursday …
1. Chad Henne is the Jaguars’ starting quarterback … OK, we didn’t learn this Thursday, but to hear the buzz and debate, it sounds as if people might need a reminder. Blake Bortles’ start Thursday in the preseason finale was because the Jaguars were sitting a slew of front-line players and not because there are plans to stray from the plan. The plan is for Henne to start the regular season as the starting quarterback. No change.
2. The Jaguars got out of the preseason pretty healthy. That was clearly a goal entering the preseason finale, and it was why you didn’t see Henne, tight end Marcedes Lewis, defensive end Chris Clemons, defensive tackle Roy Miller, safety Johnathan Cyprien, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, running back Toby Gerhart and left tackle Luke Joeckel in the lineup Thursday. The Jaguars enter the 2014 regular-season opener with their core pretty much intact. That matters.
3. Cecil Shorts III is ready. The veteran wide receiver missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury. After playing 15 plays against Detroit in Preseason Week 3, he played deep into the second quarter Thursday. That was by design, and Shorts said the design worked. He said two weeks ago he felt he was getting healthy just in time to be full-go for the regular-season opener. He said so again on Thursday night.
4. Allen Robinson is closer. The rookie second-round wide receiver missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury that has hampered him since the beginning of the team’s on-field offseason work. He hasn’t practiced since early in training camp, but he warmed up with the team – in uniform – on Thursday. He’s moving in the right direction. Stay tuned.
5. Josh Scobee should be ready for the regular-season opener. The veteran kicker missed Thursday’s game with a quad issue, and he said in the days leading to that game his absence wasn’t just precautionary. But Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said late Thursday he expects the 11-year veteran to be ready for Philadelphia September 7.
6. Blake Bortles has a chance to be good. It sure looks that way, doesn’t it? The No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Bortles turned in a fourth consecutive impressive preseason performance Thursday, completing four of six passes for 86 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. His 57-yard touchdown to fellow rookie Marqise Lee ended Bortles’ night and may be Bortles’ final play for the foreseeable future. What “foreseeable” means in this case remains to be seen, but if that was Bortles’ last play for a while, he went out on an impressive note.
7. Bortles has poise. The Jaguars’ offense wasn’t smooth early, and with a young line missing three starters, Bortles was under significant pressure. Bradley said afterward he liked how the rookie handled adversity, and he said he liked, too, that Bortles had the patience to go to a second read on the long touchdown pass to Lee. Bortles continues to show a lot of good signs – a lot of good signs.
8. Luke Bowanko is the favorite at center. The rookie sixth-round selection didn’t start getting mentioned in the center competition until just before the second game of the preseason. But his playing time has increased steadily and he started at center against Atlanta, a sign that he could be the starter against Philadelphia. Mike Brewster started the first two games of the preseason at center, and Jacques McClendon started Week 3. The Jaguars worked McClendon at left guard Thursday in place of Zane Beadles, so with Bowanko starting at center Thursday, he may be the guy at the spot.
9. Lee has deep speed. That has been known for a long time, and it’s a reason the Jaguars selected the wide receiver from Southern California No. 39 overall. But the touchdown from Bortles was the first time Lee had shown that sort of dynamic, deep-ball ability with the Jaguars. If it’s a sign of things to come, that’s a significant sign for the Jaguars’ offense.
10. Robinson feels comfortable at running back. Denard Robinson spent the offseason working to improve as a running back. The second-year veteran worked a variety of positions as a rookie, and never felt completely comfortable. He started the game Thursday against Atlanta with the Jaguars resting Gerhart, and though he gained just 12 yards on seven carries, he said he feels significantly better at the position than a year ago. “Pass protection, hitting the holes, catching the ball, showing I can make a guy miss … that’s the goal I set myself this offseason, to be a running back,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to show.”
11. The Jaguars won’t be overly active this weekend. The team must trim the roster from 75 to 53 players, and those are significant moves. But remember last preseason? When the Jaguars acquired seven players off waivers, including several players who made significant contributions? Bradley said not to expect that sort of activity this weekend. The team’s depth isn’t where it needs to be, but it’s come a long way in a year.
12. It’s time for the regular season. Doesn’t it just feel that way? Doesn’t it?