The Jaguars beat the Falcons in the third game of the team's 2018 preseason slate. A 17-6 victory is always a positive, but there were plenty of negatives for the Jags on Saturday. Let's take a look at five things you should remember from this one.
1. Blake Bortles was up and down . . . again.
In week two of the preseason Bortles completed a respectable sixty percent of his passes against a stout Vikings defense, but he threw an unfortunate interception that became a black mark on an otherwise solid performance.
Fast forward to week three and Bortles was very accurate against another good defense in the Falcons. He completed 17/23 passes for 204 yards and also had one rushing attempt for four yards. He guided the team to 10 first half points. But he also threw two interceptions. Yikes.
Bortles has been turnover prone in the past, so he needs to try to nip this recent trend in the bud. Throwing three interceptions in his last 43 passing attempts isn't going to get it done in the regular season. He's been strong throughout the offseason and training camp and has a good foundation to get back on the right track, but he needs to have better vision, decision making, and placement if the Jaguars hope to earn a week one victory on the road against the Giants.
2. Marqise Lee sustained what appeared to be a bad injury.
The Jaguars seemingly have quite a bit of depth at wide receiver this year. But their most reliable and experienced receiver, Marqise Lee, took a helmet to the knee early in the game and was carted off the field. It looked pretty bad. While there's been no word from the team on the severity of the injury head coach Doug Marrone did not seem optimistic in the post game press conference. If Marqise Lee is forced to miss an extended period of time then the Jaguars will have to rely on their young guns, DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Keelan Cole even more than they were already planning to.
3. Leonard Fournette and company look ready to carry the Jaguars offense on their back.
The Jaguars rushing attack was brilliant against the Falcons. Leonard Fournette carried the ball 10 times for 57 yards including a 21 yard touchdown. He also caught three passes on three targets for an additional 18 yards. His primary backup, TJ Yeldon, carried the ball five times for 23 yards and also added three catches for 23 more yards. Corey Grant rushed five times for 32 yards and caught all five of his targets for an additional 39 yards. This three headed monster at running back looks primed and ready to carry the Jaguars offense throughout the regular season. If this group stays healthy there's no reason the Jaguars shouldn't lead the league in rushing for a second consecutive season.
4. Pass protection is still an issue.
The Jaguars pass protection has been abysmal this preseason. While the first unit looked somewhat improved with the preseason debuts of Andrew Norwell and Jermey Parnell there was still far too much pressure on Blake Bortles. In total Bortles was sacked twice and his backup Cody Kessler was sacked three more times. The Jags have now given up 16 sacks in three preseason games. They simply must perform at a higher level come the start of the regular season.
5. The Jaguars pass defense is ready to dominate again in 2018.
In consecutive weeks the Jaguars faced two of the more talented passing offenses in football. Combined Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins produced eight completions on 20 attempts for just 69 yards. The combination of the Jaguars star studded secondary, pass rush, and elite athletes at the linebacker positions makes them lethal when it comes to defending the pass. They brought down Matt Ryan three times last night and put pressure on him in several more instances.
In Summary: Blake Bortles has been shaky over the past couple of weeks, but has led his team down the field and scored points. He's completed a high percentage of passes, but needs to reduce the big mistakes. But even with Bortles being a liability of sorts, the Jaguars running game and defense looks strong enough to carry the team if/when Blake struggles in the regular season.
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