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What we learned: Buccaneers week

Posted Aug 18, 2017

Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned about the Jaguars during this week’s two joint practices with – and Thursday’s Week 2 preseason game against – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned about the Jaguars during this week’s two joint practices with – and Thursday’s Week 2 preseason game against – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1.The job is open. Quarterback won’t be every entry in this week’s “What We Learned,” but it’s worth a deep dig: the position is that important. This week’s big news came in the second quarter Thursday when backup Chad Henne took first-team reps with the starters in place of starter Blake Bortles. The week’s really big news came after the game when Head Coach Doug Marrone said the position was “up for grabs.” And away we go …

2.The reps were real. When Marrone gave Henne first-team practice reps Sunday, he said it was about Bortles seeming to have a tired arm – and not particularly about the two interceptions Bortles had thrown in practice that day. Henne’s repetitions Thursday weren’t about arm fatigue. They were about wanting to see Henne with the ones.

3.Bortles isn’t benched. Henne entering the game with the ones Thursday wasn’t about Bortles playing poorly against Tampa Bay. The plan before the game was for Henne to get some first-team reps. And Henne’s reps also weren’t a final statement about who will start at quarterback in Week 1 of the regular season. It was about seeing Henne with the ones, and about Marrone wanting to determine the best quarterback to lead the offense. Stay tuned.

4.Marrone means what he says. Since taking the Jaguars’ head-coaching position, Marrone has been clear that he will play the best player at every position – i.e., the one that gives the Jaguars the best chance to win. Giving a backup quarterback first-team reps is bold evidence that he means it.

5.Marrone REALLY means what he says. If the quarterback job can be open with two weeks remaining in the preseason, any position can be open. Marrone made that clear Thursday during the game and afterward. There no reason to not believe him.

6.The Jaguars will fight back. Let’s not make too much of the scuffles between the Jaguars and Buccaneers in practice this week. Skirmishes, after all, are pretty common in dual-practice environments. But seeing Jaguars players supporting one another and retaliating when being tackled to the ground Tuesday in what wasn’t designed as a tackling practice … well, you couldn’t help have a sense of a young team that might not want to be pushed around anymore.

7.Dante Fowler Jr. might be making strides. We say “might be” here, because we don’t want to go too overboard based on practice. Fowler, after all, looked very good at times in practice last offseason before struggling in pass rush in the regular season. But the difference between the third-year defensive end’s performance against the Buccaneers in joint practices this week compared to his performance in a similar setting last August was notable. The arrow just “might be” up.

8.Wide receiver Allen Robinson is having a big-time camp. We keep learning this each week, and it keeps being notable.

9.Marqise Lee is not out for the season. We learned this early in the week, but it’s worth revisiting. When the fourth-year veteran went down on the Daily’s Place Flex Field turf Sunday, it initially looked like his season could be in jeopardy. It’s not known how long his ankle injury will keep him out, but its comparatively short-term nature was relieving news for the Jaguars.

10.Paul Posluszny is back in the middle – and Myles Jack is back on the outside. That’s how it was in base situations this week – this after Posluszny spent the offseason at strong side and Jack spent the offseason in the middle in base. Jack is expected to stay on the field in nickel situations along with Telvin Smith – and Jack is expected to keep making the defensive calls. But for now it appears Posluszny will be back where he started the past six seasons: in the middle of the Jaguars’ defense.

11.The defense needs its front-line corners. Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Aaron Colvin remained out Thursday for a second consecutive preseason game. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston exploited their absence early.

12.The defense needs pass rush to take a next step. Fowler looked good Thursday, and Yannick Ngakoue has looked good at times in camp. But the pass rush wasn’t consistent enough most of the game Thursday and it allowed the Buccaneers to sustain first-half drives. This has been an issue in recent seasons. It still needs to improve.

13.The run game still needs work … Rookie running back Leonard Fournette missed Thursday’s game with a foot injury. That’s one reason for the sluggish early running game, but no yards on the first three possessions? That’s not what this team wants to be.

14.Jason Myers is struggling. The Jaguars’ kicker missed two field goals of 50 yards or more in Preseason Week 1. His missed 40-yarder and a missed extra point Sunday … those are more concerning.

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