JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 31-18 victory over the Miami Dolphins in a 2023 Preseason Week 3 game at EverBank Stadium Saturday
1. Fuuumble. The Jaguars' opening drive Saturday was impressive – but a fumble by rookie running back Tank Bigsby ended the possession and prevented the Jaguars from taking an early lead. The Jaguars' first-team offense, playing for the first time since a Preseason Week 1 victory at Dallas, moved 78 yards in 12 plays and had second-and-five at the Miami 6. Bigsby ran over right tackle from there, with Dolphins safety Javon Holland forcing a fumble at the Dolphins 2 and recovering it in the end zone for a touchback with 5:52 remaining in the first quarter. "Tank will learn from that," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "That's something we have to eliminate in the red zone, but we were pleased with the way the offense executed the first two drives." Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed three of three passes for 35 yards on the drive, with running back Travis Etienne Jr. rushing five times for 26 yards and Bigsby rushed four times for 17 yards. The Jaguars had six first downs on the series.
2. Two feet in – even after review. After a field goal on the second Dolphins possession gave Miami a 3-0 lead, the Jaguars moved effectively again – and this time, they capped the drive with a touchdown. This was another balanced drive with Etienne and Bigsby running effectively, but the big play on the drive came when Lawrence passed deep to veteran wide receiver Calvin Ridley on second-and-10 from the Dolphins 31. Lawrence threw to the left sideline, with Ridley making a twisting reception and keeping his feet in bounds at the three. An officials' review upheld the reception. "I love the relationship me and Calvin have," Lawrence said. 'I think that chemistry is becoming really strong. He's doing a great job. The guy works really, really hard. He deserves it. I'm happy for him and happy things are going well. I'm excited to have him out there." Etienne's three-yard run on the ensuing play with 9:15 remaining in the second quarter gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead. Also key on the drive: A tackle-breaking run by Bigsby for 14 yards on first-and-10 from the Miami 45 one play after Lawrence converted fourth-and-six from the Jaguars 47 with an eight-yard pass over the middle to wide receiver Christian Kirk. "Both T.J. (Etienne) and Tank did a nice job in the run game," Pederson said.
3. Piiiiiick. The Jaguars' defense was effective creating takeaways last season. That continued during the preseason and also continued Saturday, with rookie cornerback Erick Hallett II registering a second-quarter interception that kept momentum for the Jaguars as the reserves replaced the starters. Hallet, a cornerback from Pittsburgh selected in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, did a nice job keeping two feet in bounds on a pass overthrown on the sideline by Dolphins reserve quarterback Skylar Thompson. That gave the Jaguars a first down at the Miami 49, with backup C.J. Beathard throwing 10 yards to tight end Gerrit Prince and 15 yards to tight end Brenton Strange to set up a 37-yard field goal by kicker Brandon McManus for a 10-3 Jaguars lead with 4:26 remaining in the half.
4. Another piiiiiiiick. The Jaguars' preseason takeaway trend continued on the series after McManus' field goal, and it was again a rookie who registered the turnover. Outside linebacker Yasir Abdullah, a fifth-round selection from Louisville in the 2023 NFL Draft, read Thompson's pass to the right flat on the first play of the possession. Abdullah, who entered Saturday with a sack and multiple preseason pressures, intercepted the pass at the Dolphins 25 and returned it to the 20. Running back D'Ernest Johnson, acquired as an unrestricted free agent from the Cleveland Browns this past offseason, capped the ensuing drive with an eight-yard touchdown. It was the third rushing touchdown of the preseason for Johnson, who had two against the Detroit Lions in a Preseason Week 2 victory at Detroit.
5. Wide open – and perfect. The Jaguars' backups and reserves were as impressive as the starters much of Saturday, and that extended into the early part of the third quarter. Beathard, the backup to Lawrence the past two seasons, extended the Jaguars' lead on the first series of the third quarter. Beathard on second-and-nine from the Jaguars 26 threw deep to second-year wide receiver Tim Jones, who got well behind the Dolphins' secondary and scored on a 74-yard touchdown that extended the Jaguars' lead to 24-7 with 14:15 remaining in the third quarter. Beathard completed eight of 10 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions Saturday.
5a. Big play for the rookie. Rookie quarterback Nathan Rourke has impressed throughout the preseason. He continued to do so Saturday, leading the Jaguars to a touchdown on his first series. That came midway through the third quarter, with the key play on the drive a 43-yard pass from Rourke to rookie wide receiver Seth Williams. That turned a second-and-eight from the Jaguars 49 into first-and-goal at the Dolphins eight, with running back JaMycal Hasty's eight-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play pushing the Jaguars' lead to 31-12 with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter.