The Jaguars take on the Eagles in their preseason home opener tonight. After a somewhat demoralizing 29-0 loss to the Ravens last week, the Jaguars will look to get back on the right track.
Here are ten things to pay attention to.
Most of the starters will not play.
If you've been hiding under a rock, you might not have gotten the memo: the Jaguars are being overly cautious this summer, trying to avoid any unnecessary injuries. It's hard to blame Doug Marrone and company when you look at just how hard they got hit by the injury bug in 2018. Just like last week, very few starters will see game action. But for those concerned with the starters getting reps, Marrone has a plan for that. He's been allotting more reps for the starters in the team's practices since the start of the preseason. With those reps coming in a more controlled environment, the hope is the Jaguars will be healthy entering the regular season.
Is Taven Bryan getting better?
In recent days Doug Marrone has praised the team's 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan. The defensive lineman is focusing primarily on the 3-tech position but has yet to flash regularly as an interior disruptor. Sure, Bryan may not have been terrible last week, but he certainly didn't look like a guy that was ready to assume Malik Jackson's former role. Bryan needs to get pressure. He needs to make a big play. He doesn't figure to start on the interior with Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones on the squad, but Bryan will eventually need to put up or shut up. This game is another opportunity for him to show the world why the Jaguars' front office valued him so highly.
Can Gardner Minshew have a bounce-back effort?
Gardner Minshew's preseason debut was... let's just say less than ideal.
He completed 50% of his passes but was unable to guide the team to a single scoring drive. Sure, he needs more protection up front this time around, but the Jaguars need Minshew to rebound in a big way. He's their second-string QB. Unless they go out and sign a vet, that's not going to change. So Minshew is one unfortunate play away from being the starter in Duval. For those words to not be wholely terrifying, he needs to show up against the Eagles. His work over the last week has been encouraging. Now it's time for him to prove that he can carry that into a live game setting.
Can Quenton Meeks show why the coaching staff liked him so much entering this summer?
Quenton Meeks was a priority undrafted free agent signing following the 2018 draft. He developed nicely during his rookie year, but he appears to have plateaued. Meeks has regularly been outshined by some of the other young cornerbacks on the roster. If Meeks is to hold onto his job as the final cornerback on the 53, he's going to have to earn it over the next couple of weeks.
Can Tre McBride build off the last couple of weeks?
Tre McBride has been a delight to watch in recent practices and carried that performance over to his first preseason game with the Jaguars. McBride hauled in three receptions for 42 yards and averaged a team-leading 25.5 yards per kick return. Marqise Lee's seemingly slow recovery has opened the door for another receiver to potentially make the initial 53-man roster. If McBride continues to shine, he could be that lucky wideout.
Will Dontavius Russell continue to Dontavius Russell?
The forgotten man in the Jaguars' 2019 draft class, Dontavius Russell has been a bright spot this summer. At 6'3'' tall and 320 pounds, Russell is a load at defensive tackle. But his quickness and foot speed continues to impress. He was unable to register any tackles last week, but I'm looking for that to change over the rest of the preseason.
Who will step up at linebacker?
With Quincy Williams recovering from surgery on his meniscus and Myles Jack unlikely to suit up, which linebackers will step up for the Jaguars this week? If Williams isn't ready for week one of the regular season, Najee Goode will start in his place on the weak side. Does Goode continue his good (ha) play?
And who stands out on the strong side? The SLB position is going by the wayside in the Jaguars' defense and around the league, but teams still need someone to fill that role for 20-30% of the snaps. Leon Jacobs is the incumbent starter. Will he show that he deserves to retain that role?
Can Breon Borders have a standout performance?
Perhaps the most impressive of all the backup secondary players, Breon Borders has been a revelation in practice for the Jaguars. He's picked off three passes and broke up three more in a single practice leading up to the Jaguars' preseason opener. He played well against the Ravens, picking up three tackles, but a couple of pass breakups or a pick would add to his resume. If he continues to play at a high level, Borders might be the man to take Quenton Meek's roster spot.
Speaking of cornerbacks that are playing well: Tae Hayes has been dynamite as of late. His ability to anticipate and undercut routes has been a sight to be held. The diminutive cornerback registered three tackles, and two passes defended in his NFL debut last week. At just five-foot-nine, Hayes will have to continue to stand out if he wants to compete for a roster spot, especially in Jacksonville, where length in the secondary is valued highly.
Will Richardson vs AJ Cann
This position battle may be the most critical thing to watch tonight and through the rest of the preseason. AJ Cann has started at right guard in Jacksonville for the last four years, but Will Richardson may have something to say about that. Doug Marrone made it clear earlier in the week that the starting spot is up for grabs and he's been complimentary of Richardson throughout the summer. Who has a better outing tonight?
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