JACKSONVILLE – First, a title-oriented clarification.
We lead with that because the title of this weekly in-season segment is "10 Things." In it, we offer 10 things to watch for the Jaguars in the week's upcoming game.
This week's clarification? We may have trouble reaching 10.
That's because we're discussing the Jaguars' preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It's Preseason Week 4, which means it's the preseason finale. That means the Jaguars' starters will play sparingly – if they play at all.
It means a lot of the front-line reserves will play sparingly – if at all.
It means a steady dose of third-team quarterback Brandon Allen – a dose so steady it might last from kickoff to final play. It means a steady dose of reserve players playing throughout. And while it's a critical game for general managers and coaches evaluating the roster, Preseason Week 4 …
Well, let's just say it's not usually an enticingly terrific watch.
With that in mind, the question: will we indeed find 10 things to watch for the Jaguars in their Preseason Week 4 game against the Falcons? Let's find out:
1)Remember the baseball caps.The early game's early moments will be about a few things. Totaling the number of starters on the sidelines (hint: upwards of 22) and finding enough baseball caps to go around. The post-game will be a bit calmer. With the Georgia Dome air conditioned, Blake Bortles might not even need a post-game rinse.
2)Get a lo-o-o-o-ong look at Myles Jack …Jack, the Jaguars' rookie linebacker and second-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, is expected to play at weak-side linebacker Thursday after working at middle linebacker throughout preseason and training camp. It will be his first NFL work at outside linebacker and Week 4 is a chance for him to get extensive experience there.
3) … a really long look. Jack's opportunity Thursday is more than entertainment value. Working him at weak-side linebacker is a chance to see how well he works there – and to see if playing him there is an option during the regular season. And yes, that may be an option even with the presence of Telvin Smith.
4)Make extra points and field goals.This is about second-year kicker Jason Myers, who missed seven extra points last season. The Jaguars released Sam Ficken in the move to 75 players this week, so Myers is the kicker. But the last thing that needs to happen for Myers is a missed extra point or two.
5.Play Luke Joeckel.This isn't going to happen. Head Coach Gus Bradley said as much on Tuesday. On the one hand, it makes sense because the team is confident he will play well after moving to left guard this week. At the same time, the former left tackle has one career start at left guard. His second will come against Green Bay Week 1.
6.Take advantage of the opportunity.This is about Allen. The guess here is backup quarterback Chad Henne won't play Thursday. There's little Henne's going to gain from the preseason. That means Allen, the Jaguars' sixth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, likely will start and play the whole game. Allen probably will make the roster and could be the backup of the future. Every NFL snap is valuable in his position – and he won't likely get many more in games for another year or so.
7.Complete passes.This is a message to Allen and whoever is playing quarterback for either team. Complete passes. Incomplete passes stop the clock. Stopped clocks are evil the preseason, particularly in the fourth quarter. Therefore, incomplete pass are bad … "Boo, incomplete passes!!!"
8.Don't commit penalties.This is partially about the Jaguars' propensity to commit silly, avoidable penalties this preseason. They have committed 36 in three games. That's 12 per game, and that's too many. But this is just as much about what penalties do. They stop the clock. As mentioned before, stopped preseason clocks are bad … "Boo, penalties!!!"
9.Evaluate, evaluate.There are positions deep on the Jaguars' roster to be decided. The 10th defensive lineman. Whether to keep eight or nine offensive lineman. Reserve safety. Depth at running back, receiver and tight end.
10.Stay healthy.Yes, this remains No. 10, because even with the starters not expected to play, there will be valuable depth playing at a lot of positions Thursday. Valuable depth is not something this team can afford to lose.
11.Savor the moment.Yes, we indeed got to 10 – and then some. But on a serious note, Week 4 of preseason matters. It's about evaluation. It's a chance for players to make rosters, which also means there will be players who don't make rosters. Some players will be playing for the final time a game they have played their whole lives. So, play hard, play well … and yes, savor the moment.