JACKSONVILLE – Brandon Allen understands his situation.
A young, third-team NFL quarterback only gets a few opportunities. So, Thursday's 2017 preseason finale isn't just big to Allen.
"It really is," Allen said Tuesday as the Jaguars prepared to play the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 preseason finale at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday. "These preseason games, not just this last one, but all of them …
"Any time you get in a game situation, the coaches look at that a little bit harder than practice. I think they notice what goes on when guys are flying around and people can hit you.
"I think that's what they see a little bit more."
Preseason games haven't just been Allen's best opportunity since being selected by the Jaguars in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft from Arkansas. They have been his only opportunity.
Allen is expected to get significant playing time Thursday – his most significant time since he started and played the entire preseason finale at Atlanta last season.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone has yet to specify playing time or rotation for Thursday, but if starting quarterback Blake Bortles or backup Chad Henne play they likely won't for long.
"It's not been said yet, but I'm approaching like I'm taking every snap in the game," Allen said.
That makes Thursday critical as Marrone and Jaguars coaches try to determine Allen's role for the 2017 season.
"He's been a player who has played well in games and not practiced as well as he has played," Marrone said. "He's had good practices, but when he gets in there, you're looking to see, 'Can he make plays? Can he throw the ball? Can he stay in there? Can he take the punishment? Can he take the hits?'
"There are a lot of things that go on as you're evaluating it."
Marrone said the same questions will be asked about Allen as any young reserve player.
"You look to say, 'Hey, is this someone we want to spend time with?''' Marrone said. "'Do you think this is someone who potentially at the end of the day can be a starting quarterback for you?' Those are all of the things I ask myself, and I ask myself that at every position.''
Allen was asked about the idea that he had been better in games than practice.
"I think so," he said. "As far as me looking at all performances, there are a lot of things in practice I'd like to do better. I think in games, things slow down a little. You're going against somebody who hasn't seen the same play over and over. It's a fair assessment and obviously I need to do better in practice."
Allen has played in six of seven preseason games since joining the Jaguars and made the roster as the third quarterback as a rookie last season. He completed 27 of 48 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions last preseason but has yet to play in a regular-season game.
There was speculation during last week's Bortles-Henne quarterback competition about Allen's candidacy, but he has been the third-team quarterback since arriving. Marrone said early in training camp that Henne was clearly the No. 2 quarterback at the time.
He has played in all three preseason games this season, completing 16 of 27 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in a Week 2 loss at Tampa Bay.
"I'm a lot more confident in what's going on the field," Allen said. "Last year my heads was spinning a little bit, and this year things have slowed down a little bit for me. I think just the confidence in plays we're running, and what's going on the field – I think that's where I've made my biggest jump.
"It's been a lot of fun. It's been a big learning thing for me. I'm excited about some of the things that went on, but as a quarterback you obviously reflect on the things you could have done better.
"That's what I see in the majority, but I'm excited about Thursday. For me, this is a game I'm treating like a regular-season game."