Entering the third and final game of the 2021 preseason, Jaguars' first-year head coach Urban Meyer, rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and the entire fanbase were desperate for some excitement ... and some offense. Unfortunately, the Jaguars' first-team offense failed to move the ball consistently and hadn't found the endzone even once through the first two games.
A contest against mostly backups for the Cowboys was exactly what the doctor ordered. The Jaguars cruised to a 34-14 victory in Dallas and will head into the regular season with some serious confidence.
Trevor Lawrence looked every bit the first overall pick and showed the NFL why he'd been considered a generational talent for the last half-decade. He was sharp with his accuracy, showed command of the offense (both pre and post-snap), and hit all areas of the field. In three drives for Trevor and his offense, which was without four starting offensive linemen and two of their top three receivers, they marched down the field and scored two touchdowns.
On the Jaguars' first drive of the game, Lawrence went 3/3, including a 38-yard dime down the right side to Phillip Dorsett and an 18-yard touchdown pass to Pharoh Cooper, who beat his man with ease.
The second drive stalled after one first down. Collin Johnson failed to haul in a contested slant on third and four, and the Jaguars punted.
But Trevor and his Jags got right back after it on their next possession. The final drive for the first-team offense turned into the Laviska Shenault show. He hauled in three straight passes from Lawrence to cap off the drive. The most impressive came on a wide receiver screen in which Shenault dragged Cowboys defenders for a 20 yard gain. On the drive's final play, Shenault created enough separation towards the left sideline for Trevor to squeeze the ball in between the boundary and the defender for a score.
After Trevor exited the contest with a 14-0 lead, Urban Meyer went to him, smiled, and gave him a jubilant hug. Urban Meyer, who had yet to see his prized first overall pick lead a touchdown drive, needed that type of performance more than anyone. And he got it.
After the starters left the field, it was all about players fighting for roster spots. This was their last opportunity in the 2021 preseason to earn a spot in Jacksonville or show another team that they belonged. Teams around the NFL will cut their rosters from 80 down to 53 on Tuesday. Fortunately for these players, the practice squad remains expanded in 2021, so each club can add up to 16 players after cuts.
Several receivers made a strong impression for the Jaguars, and they needed to. The race for the last couple of spots in the wide receiver room is as tight as ever. Jeff Cotton led the way with three catches for 66 yards. He nearly hauled in an impressive touchdown grab, but the ruling on the field was overturned as Cotton bobbled the ball while sliding out of bounds on his back. Still, Cotton came back and made the grab of the day, stepping in front of his defender deep down the right side and extending for a tough grab. Cotton also took a simple screen and turned it into a 29 yard gain. Still, Cotton's efforts may not be enough to make it in Duval. Pharoh Cooper, Devin Smith, Josh Hammond, and Laquon Treadwell all had strong outings. Did any of them do enough to secure a roster spot?
Devine Ozigbo paced the team in rushing with 11 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown. He'd be my fourth running back on the active roster behind James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, and Dare Ogunbowale. I'm still not sure how the Jaguars will opt to construct their roster from a numbers standpoint, so Ozigbo could be on the outside looking in. Nathan Cotrell received the second most work on the ground, with five carries for just two yards.
Jaguars' kicker Josh Lambo had a much-needed perfect performance. He struggled during the first two preseason games, missing as many field goal attempts as he had made, but on this day, Lambo nailed kicks from 34 and 45 yards, to go along with four made PATs. His spot as the Jaguars' starting kicker now appears safe for the time being. He should have a fairly long leash after being the most accurate kicker in football since 2017.
Rookie safety Andre Cisco continued to impress, and he came away with a big pass breakup. Jihad Ward, Dawuane Smoot, K'Lavon Chaisson, and Jordan Smith all applied pressure, while Roy Robertson-Harris was able to deflect a pass at the line of scrimmage.
While not quite as strong as it had been over the first two preseason games, the Jaguars' run defense remained stout, allowing only 76 yards on 21 carries from the Cowboys' backs. Run defense continues to look like a strength of this team.
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