The final score was disappointing, but that's not important.
Yes, the final score of the Jaguars loss to the Ravens was gut-wrenching. Losing 29-0 never feels good. But that's not what's important here. After all, the Jaguars sat 32 players, while the Ravens trotted out their starting offense for multiple drives to start the game. The examination of individual players is the most crucial part of the preseason. And despite the lopsided score, some Jaguars stood out as positives.
The Jaguars are in trouble if Nick Foles goes down.
If you've been following the Jaguars on this website, you would've likely already known that the cupboard is pretty bare for the Jaguars behind Nick Foles in the QB room. The first preseason game furthered that notion. Backup Gardner Minshew looked like a deer in the headlights during his first NFL contest. The Jaguars' offensive line couldn't protect him, but still, he could have performed at a much higher level. It was his first game action, so a ton of development could take place throughout the rest of the preseason. But this was ugly. One concern is his penchant for having balls batted at the line. My biggest concern, however, is his lack of arm strength, which was readily apparent on Thursday night. Tanner Lee was awful, starting his night with two sacks and then an interception. Alex McGough wasn't much better but has indeed shown more potential than Lee.
Ryquell Armstead played well but is in the concussion protocol.
Ryquell Armstead had a solid first outing. His YPC won't wow you, but that's why you watch the games. Armstead looked smooth and seemingly always knows how to squeeze a couple of extra yards out of a run. He caught his lone target out of the backfield and continued to show that he can be a presence as a receiver. Armstead is in the concussion protocol after a hit to the head, so that's something to keep an eye on moving forward.
The good Josh Allen!
Will the good Josh Allen please stand up? Josh Allen, the Jaguars 2019 first-round pick, is the real deal, ladies and gents. He regularly flashed in this one and was particularly impressive against the run. On his first play, Allen snuffed out a run and stuffed the Ravens' runner behind the line of scrimmage. Josh Allen is going to be a factor for the Jaguars defense sooner rather than later.
DJ Chark needs to develop situational awareness.
DJ Chark has had a marvelous last week and a half of training camp, but his performance on Thursday reminded me of just how inexperienced Chark is. The second-year wideout needs to develop his understanding of the field around him. Chark got rocked on a play where he should have been able to feel or anticipate that a linebacker would be coming across the middle. I continue to believe that Chark will be a boom or bust type of player in 2019. He may make some of the most difficult catches look easy, but he'll make some of the most routine plays look hard.
Keelan Cole needs to show something as a WR.
Keelan Cole has been quiet throughout training camp at receiver. That continued on Thursday night. Sure, Cole flashed on a spectacular kick return touchdown that called back thanks to an Andrew Wingard holding penalty. But Cole didn't do anything as a receiver. His lone target on the night was an out route where he made little effort to haul in an underthrown ball. It was a catchable pass that Cole didn't seem interested in trying to get. I'm worried about his headspace.
Tre Herndon could be a starter elsewhere.
Tre Herdon, a 2018 undrafted free agent, could be a star in the making. In almost every practice he's participated in, Herndon's impact has been undeniable. That continued onto the game field Thursday night. Herndon made a big boy pass breakup — this type of play is becoming routine for the young cornerback — and also registered three tackles. He's solidified his spot as the primary backup on the outside and at nickel for the Jaguars.
CJ Reavis must've been listening to the critics throughout the offseason. Many, including myself, have questioned the Jaguars' depth at safety, but Reavis did a lot to help put those questions to bed on Thursday night. He made eight bone-jarring tackles on the day and looked like a man amongst boys. If Reavis continues to play like this, depth at strong safety will no longer be a point of criticism.
The Jaguars might not be in trouble when it comes to depth at linebacker.
With Quincy Williams out for the next several weeks, the Jaguars depth at linebacker is being tested. Ramik Wilson and Najee Goode were up to the task in Baltimore. Wilson picked up seven tackles, and a pass defended. Goode tallied three tackles and looked good enough in coverage. Rookie linebacker Connor Strachan made his presence felt with seven tackles.
Tre McBride will make it difficult not to keep him if he continues to perform.
WR Tre McBride is a long shot to make the team. But his performance Thursday night was an eye-opener. He hauled in 3 catches on five targets for 42 yards. Perhaps more important, he was fluid as a kick returner. McBride returned two kicks, one for 24 yards and one for 26 yards. If he proves himself on offense and special teams throughout the rest of camp, he might make it hard not to find a spot for him.
Overall this was a disappointing effort, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but it was preseason week one, and nearly every starter for the Jaguars stayed on the sideline. The biggest storyline to watch for the remainder of the preseason will be the development of Garnder Minshew. The Jaguars may be making a mistake not having a veteran QB behind Nick Foles.
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