JACKSONVILLE – Each week during the 2018 season, nine Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the following day’s Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Atlanta Falcons at TIAA Bank Field for Preseason Week 3.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
1.Offensive issue to watch: Get the ball to ASJ. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t involved two weeks ago in the Jaguars’ impressive, 15-play, 79-yard game-opening drive game against the Saints. He also missed last Saturday’s game in Minnesota because of a chest injury. I expect Seferian-Jenkins to lead the Jags in receptions this season. He got off to a great start in camp with quarterback Blake Bortles. Look for him to be involved early against the Falcons.
2.Defensive issue to watch: Safeties and the nickel position. Safety Tashaun Gipson missed the Minnesota game and was replaced by Ronnie Harrison, who played well but missed practice time this week. Harrison ran with the first team at nickel during practice in Minnesota. D.J. Hayden appears to be the starting nickel, but Tyler Patmon played well at corner in place of Jalen Ramsey. Saturday should tell us for sure who the starter will be.
3.Player to watch: Leon Jacobs. He’s taking most of the snaps at strong-side linebacker. Has he won the job, or does he need a solid performance against Atlanta?
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
1.Offensive issue to watch: The Jags must find tight-end play. In this day and age, teams HAVE to have the matchup problem created by good tight ends. Seferian-Jenkins has yet to be a factor and there don't appear to be other potential stars at the position. Would love to see ASJ heavily involved Saturday.
2.Defensive issue to watch: Until Dante Fowler Jr. returns, Yannick Ngakoue is the only proven exterior pass rusher. Can anyone else emerge to provide depth there? Lerentee McCray? Hunter Dimick? Dawuane Smoot? Concerning.
3.Player to watch: For me, it will be Taven Bryan. He's not a true exterior pass rusher, but he will play that big end spot some. Very interested to see how he impacts this defense.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
1.Offensive issue to watch: Offensive line – with the high-priced free-agent guard Andrew Norwell making his debut, right tackle Jermey Parnell returning from injury, and left tackle Cam Robinson coming off a game in which he struggled mightily.
2.Defensive issue to watch: Depth at linebacker is a big concern. There is no question with Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. Jacobs took a big step up last week but the fourth and fifth linebacker positions are up for grabs. Donald Payne has the lead, but some answers may be found elsewhere.
3.Player to watch: Surprise … Bryan. Who doesn't want to watch the first-round pick!? And I'm kind of a fan of that position ;)
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
1.Offensive issue to watch: This might be our best look at the offensive line yet and the unit still likely won't have everyone. I'd be surprised if center Brandon Linder plays Saturday but am hopeful that Norwell and Parnell can play. Robinson has struggled a bit and I think the addition of Norwell on the left side will help him. I'd like to see the line open some holes in the running game and obviously keep Bortles clean.
2.Defensive issue to watch: The Jaguars had a bunch of players sit out against Minnesota and still looked dominant. I'd like to see them all together, and I’d like to see Bryan make his debut. This is a fast and experienced offense coming to town Saturday night. They won't have all their parts, but watching this defense flex its muscles has become an event. We get a front row seat this weekend.
3.Player to watch: The Jags’ defense is so good it's hard to be apprehensive about anything. It looks like a pretty incredible thing is happening this month. A seventh-round draft pick is going to start as a rookie on THIS defense after replacing a very good player in Paul Posluszny. My eyes will be on Jacobs to see if he can cement that job.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
1.Offensive issue to watch: Offensive line. Not only did Robinson struggle last week in Minnesota, Saturday likely mark the debut of Norwell and Parnell. The Jaguars were strong on the offensive line last season and expect to be strong again this season. A strong performance Saturday would provide a good feeling in that area.
2.Defensive issue to watch: How will Bryan play in his Jaguars debut? The rookie from the University of Florida has drawn praise for his athleticism and professional approach, but he has yet to play a game. If he can provide an extra weapon up front, it’s a huge bonus for this defense.
3.Player to watch: Seferian-Jenkins. He looked throughout the offseason and early training camp every bit the pass-catching threat the Jaguars wanted when they signed him in March. A good two quarters on Saturday would mean a lot of confidence in this area entering the regular season.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
1.Offensive issue to watch: I’ll have my gaze on Robinson and tackle Josh Wells. Both struggled at times with the talented Minnesota defensive front; truthfully, many do. Robinson is being counted on to deliver a strong season on the left side of the line; he was in Jacksonville a lot during the offseason and knew he needed to get stronger to handle an entire NFL season on the edge. He has played to mixed reviews this summer, which is problematic because Wells has done the same – and so there is no clear choice at tackle. Wells has shown promise in his years with the Jaguars and can usually be counted on to play swing tackle; last week in Minnesota may have exposed his potential or shown it to be closer to the ceiling than the Jaguars’ brass may have thought.
2.Defensive issue to watch: Is there an issue with this side of the ball? I’ve heard people worry about depth at linebacker and question whether there is a fourth cornerback. If that doesn’t tell the story, nothing else will. This defense is tuned up and for the moment fairly healthy. I am interested to see how they deploy Taven Bryan. Other than that, my greatest concern is that a unit that was ridiculously healthy in 2017 avoid ridiculous injuries before the 2018 season begins.
3.Player to watch: Give me more Harrison, please! The rookie safety from Alabama has quietly had a nice summer and was Jaguars’ leading tackler last week in first start, forcing a fumble and blowing up a running back on the sideline. I’ve heard from more than one personnel guy that the defensive backs from Alabama are almost always ready to play when they arrive in the NFL. Harrison looks the part at 6-feet-3 and 215 pounds; in Minnesota he played the part with five tackles. He won’t start this year with strong safety Barry Church and free safety Gipson in the lineup, but my guess is he’ll play at some point in the season when injuries arise. He’s fun to watch, so I’ll watch intently.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
1.Offensive issue to watch: Offensive line play. Can the Jaguars get the entire starting offensive line together in a game before it gets real? There is confidence that Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann and Jermey Parnell will be able to perform together once the season gets going since they spent most of training camp working together. It would feel much better if they showed it at least for a bit Saturday, but nagging injuries could keep this from being a reality.
2.Defensive issue to watch: Will we finally see the preseason debut of Bryan? He has missed the first two preseason games, but in practice he has flashed with his size and strength in an already large and strong room. Veteran end Calais Campbell called him the best rookie he has been around when it comes to preparation and his approach. Let’s see if it translates to the game field against a real opponent.
3.Player to watch: Dante Fowler Jr. He missed a week of work with a team-issued suspension, and that was only after practicing two days in training camp after rehabbing a shoulder injury. It’s time for Fowler to get it together both on and off the field. When things are going well, Fowler is one of the best players on a really good defensive line, and one of the league’s most athletic physical specimens. If he keeps things going well and performs at the level he is capable of, he will command a large guaranteed paycheck entering 2019. That process starts now.
Ashlyn Sullivan, jaguars.com Digital Reporter and Host
1.Offensive issue to watch: Cam Robinson. He needs to improve from his play last week for the offensive line as a whole to take the next step. Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter beat him on the line a number of times Saturday. Head Coach Doug Marrone said this week Robinson knows more than anyone that he didn’t play well and needs to improve.
2.Defensive issue to watch: Depth at linebacker. Despite the impact Jacobs has made on the linebacker unit, depth is still a question mark. Blair Brown and Payne both had good games against Minnesota, so I am looking for them to continue to improve the depth at linebacker behind Smith and Jack.
3.Player to watch: Taven Bryan. The first-round draft pick has yet to play an NFL game but is expected to play this week. Bryan said earlier this week he is just excited to start getting hit; I’m excited to see how he holds up on the strongest unit on this team. Veteran defensive linemen such as Campbell are excited to see how the rookie will fare under the lights.