Here’s what we learned from the Jaguars’ 24-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason finale at EverBank Field Thursday night . . .
1) Mike Thomas will be a factor. Gabbert has developed trust in Thomas, and Thomas has earned that trust. He’s making plays consistently on third down and doing it in a way that makes you think it can continue in the regular season.
2) Blaine Gabbert is growing. A telling story of preseason came Thursday, when Mike Mularkey talked about Gabbert narrowly missing a deep ball to Laurent Robinson. Mularkey said he was pleased Gabbert made the throw, because it was one he missed in practice that week. It made you remember that Gabbert is still learning, and in terms of experience, he’s very young. We are still seeing progress before our eyes.
3) The starting line works. Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri, Cameron Bradfield. That’s the offensive line. The version of it without Monroe played well against the Ravens. The version of it without Nwaneri played well against the Falcons. If it stays healthy, this could be a real strength.
4) And yes, the pass blocking appears to be improved. We already knew the offensive line could run block. The unit has pass-blocked well in preseason, giving Gabbert time. The Vikings are a bigger test, but so far, this area looks better.
5) Mike Brewster is making the team. There are no absolutes on cut-down day, but it’s safe to say Mike Brewster is going to be around this team. The free agent rookie is the backup center behind Brad Meester and has impressed everyone around the organization in the last few weeks.
6) Jeremy Mincey is ready. You know how you worry sometimes guys will get complacent after a big contract? Mincey is the opposite of that.
7) Kevin Elliott is a tough cut. The Jaguars like his potential. They like that he can play special teams. They like that he might be able to contribute someday. There’s no lock the team keeps six wide receivers, but he makes it very tempting.
8) Chad Henne was signed for a reason. It became very, very vogue in the offseason to say Henne was going to push for the starting job. It became even more vogue in training camp to say he was going to be released. He showed Thursday he’s a capable backup, which is sort of why he was signed.
9) D’Anthony Smith was worth the wait. He missed all of each his first two seasons. I spoke to him after the game, and this was a guy thrilled to have made it out of the preseason. This is more than a feel-good story. He played well in preseason. He’ll contribute. Sometimes, you have to be patient with an injured player. You don’t want to rush talent out of the building.
10) The Jaguars are deep. With the exception of the loss to the Ravens, the Jaguars have been better late in the game than their opponents. That’s not always proof of significant depth, but this team has quality at a lot of spots.
11) The cuts will be difficult. Deep teams mean difficult cuts. Players released by the Jaguars in the offseason signed with other teams. It wouldn’t be surprising if that happened again in the next day or two. That’s not to say this is the most talented team in the NFL, but there are players outside the 53 who could contribute.
12) It’s time for the regular season. I mean, isn’t it?