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Quick thoughts: Steelers 16, Jaguars 15


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 16-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 2022 Preseason Week 2 game at TIAA Bank Field Saturday…

John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…

1. We're seeing glimpses – and the glimpses are good. We're talking the entire offense here, but the offense is very much about quarterback Trevor Lawrence – and what we're seeing is starting to be impressive. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, completed 14 of 21 passes for 133 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions Saturday. Those numbers are just OK because they didn't include a touchdown, and Lawrence knows the importance of finishing the drives that ended in field goals Saturday. But Lawrence had multiple moments on successive drives – a beautiful 14-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., an equally beautiful 22-yarder to wide receiver Christian Kirk and another 11-yarder to Kirk – that showed his ability to convert in key situations with throws to the second and third levels of the defense. Lawrence must finish better and be more consistent, but the glimpses we're seeing show a quarterback capable of being special. "There were some throws that were missed that I know he would want back, and we've seen him make those throws in practice, so we know he's capable of doing it," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "It's just a matter of just kind of taking a deep breath as he starts the game and settle in. But those are all things that we continue to work on. We've got a couple of weeks left here in camp, and we'll try to get better."

2. The defense is encouraging. Yes, it's only preseason. But you couldn't watch the Jaguars' defense the last two weeks and not be encouraged – particularly by the front seven. A line that struggled last season to stop the run, to rush the passer and to create turnovers has been perhaps the team's strongest area the last two weeks; until a Steelers drive late in the first half Saturday, the Jaguars' first-team defense had a streak of not allowing a score on seven consecutive possessions – three against Cleveland last week and four against the Steelers Saturday. "Other than the two-minute drive at the end of the half, I thought they played well," Pederson said. "I really felt like they got after them early and often. Two-minute drive, though, is something that we've got to get better at." Player to watch: Defensive lineman Arden Key, whose eight-yard sack Saturday gave him three in three preseason games.

Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…

1. This defensive front is going to be a game-changer in 2022. The unit pushed the pocket from every angle Saturday – and more importantly, created pressure with just four rushers. General Manager Trent Baalke couldn't contain his smile when he joined us on television in the third quarter Saturday. "It lets us do so many different things on the backside," he said of being able to create pressure without blitzing. "It's so difficult to do in this league, but we got it done in the first half this evening. We can build on that." The Jaguars' defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage and smothered Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky, plus held the Steelers to just 1.7 yards per carry and only 24 yards rushing. They Jaguars are deep and talented in the defensive front, and it showed Saturday against a team that is used to winning the battle in the trenches.

2. Pederson wanted a more efficient offense Saturday in two particular categories: third-down conversions and red-zone production. Check the box on third down, where the first team converted five of eight and moved the ball well. The Jaguars earned one trip into the red zone and settled for a field goal. They have plenty to do on that side of the ball and there are signs of progress: the pass protection was solid, Lawrence had a good night though he could have been better, and it was good to see wide receivers Christian Kirk on the field with Marvin Jones Jr. and Zay Jones. They didn't look as sharp as they did against Cleveland, but it's a young team with lots of new players and plenty of things left on the to-do list before the season begins in Washington.

Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars Team Reporter…

1. The Good and The Bad. The Jaguars' starting offense did some good things Saturday, but still cannot score in the red zone. Lawrence finished 14-of-21 passing for 133 yards, he had good awareness of when to take a chance and the offense as a whole played clean football. What is concerning is the lack of third downs the offense was able to convert (50 percent), with Lawrence twice missing Kirk open on third-down opportunities. The good news? Kirk told us after the game the Jaguars are showing very little of their total offense, so it sounds like we have something to look forward to.

2. Lights out. That is what Pederson called the defense before the Steelers' two-minute touchdown drive just before halftime. It makes sense why Pederson then wanted the starting defense back on the field for the start of the third quarter. As a whole, the defense only allowed 24 yards rushing – a dramatic improvement from last season. No, Steelers running back Najee Harris was not playing Saturday, but as a whole, the defense was obviously getting off its blocks very quickly and stuffing gaps before any running back could do anything. Cornerback Tyson Campbell laughed in the locker room when I asked if the defense is ready for the regular season. "Yeah," he said.

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