The Jacksonville Jaguars are running a little behind schedule this preseason. As they prepare for their third exhibition game – that all-important dress rehearsal in which the starters often play well into the third quarter, the Jaguars still don’t know who some of their starts will even be.
That is certainly the case at quarterback, where coach Doug Marrone decided just last week to throw the competition wide open, and at left guard. There are also a couple of already-decided starters whom the Jaguars have yet to play in a preseason game. This game tonight against Carolina, then holds special meaning.
The Jaguars need to make some good decisions soon regarding not just the makeup of their roster but their starting lineup, so this game will go a long way toward determining just how the Jaguars look coming out of the gate this year. With that in mind here’s three things to keep an eye on tonight as the Jaguars wrestle with the Panthers.
Well, duh. The Jaguars have a quarterback controversy on their hands and Marrone is hoping it will be decided tonight by the play of either Chad Henne or Blake Bortles. The fear, of course, is that it will not, that neither Bortles nor Henne will step up and “take’’ the job from the other, which is what Marrone badly wants someone to do. That would be a worst-case scenario, and it’s possible it could happen but the sentiment around the team is that the Jaguars are leaning toward naming Henne, tonight’s starter, their starter for opening day. It will probably take a combination of a horrible outing by Henne and an otherworldly outing by Bortles to change that. In essence then, this is Henne’s job to lose. The fear of course is that he will indeed lose it while Bortles fails to win it.
The running game
The Jaguars offensive game plan is to build their attack around a power running game, but their running game has not looked powerful or even effective so far this preseason. A week ago, for example, the Jaguars ran 20 times for just 57 yards in a 12-8 loss to the Buccaneers. They did that, of course, without rookie first-round draft pick Leonard Fournette, but Fournette alone may not be the key to success. What the Jaguars want to do with their running game requires strong blocking up front and the Jaguars have yet to show they have the ability to win in the trenches or help their backs by staying on blocks and getting to the second level. The Jaguars are toying with a few combinations at left guard in an effort to shore up that area of weakness, but they need better play from the line as a whole to make their scheme work.
The defensive front seven
With Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church in the lineup, the Jaguars have the makings of what could be one of the best secondaries in the league. It will never play that way, though, if the Jags don’t get a little more help from their defensive front seven. That unit did little in the way of making an impact in the passing game during a half of play against Tampa Bay last week and it wasn’t just in the passing game where its play was lacking. Of the Jaguars four starting D-lineman last week, the only one to even record a tackle was Malik Jackson and that was an assist. Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell and Abry Jones were all shut out and that just can’t happen, so the Jaguars will be looking for a bounce back game from this group.