JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars looked good early. Again.
This time, it lasted past halftime.
Chad Henne threw two touchdown passes, one on the offense's first series and another on the first drive of the second half, as the Jaguars' front-line offense and defense turned in its best performance of the preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday at EverBank Field.
The Eagles rallied from an eight-point third-quarter deficit to win, 31-24, but for two and a half quarters, the Jaguars turned in a solid effort in the dress rehearsal that is Week 3 of the NFL preseason.
Henne, starting at quarterback in place of injured Blaine Gabbert, led the Jaguars on a 90-yard drive on the team's first possession, completing 5 of 6 for 67 yards and a 17-yard touchdown to wide Justin Blackmon. Henne also threw a touchdown pass to Allen Reisner on the first drive of the third quarter.
Reisner's touchdown gave the Jaguars a 24-16 lead.
Henne finished 11 of 18 for 106 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew got his most extensive action of the preseason, rushing seven times for 28 first-quarter yards.
"It feels good that we can get in a rhythm quickly and get a lot of guys the ball and that we're just very efficient on that first drive," Jones-Drew said. "On the second drive we didn't do as well, but that's something that we can work on and just come back and keep going.
"Once we get going we have a lot of playmakers that can score from a long way and we just want to continue to work on that and once we get everybody healthy we will be alright."
Wide receivers Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon, playing together for the first time since the 15th game of last season, combined for five receptions for 70 yards. Blackmon caught four passes for 50 yards and Shorts caught a 20-yard pass on the first series.
Rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel, expected to be a game-time decision after missing Preseason Week 2 with a hip flexor, started and played 28 snaps into the second quarter. Shorts also played into the second quarter.
The Eagles outgained the Jaguars 228-184 in the first half and had 13 first downs to seven for the Jaguars, but Jacksonville forced two turnovers and committed just one.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said he was pleased with how the defense handled the up-tempo offense of the Eagles under first-year Head Coach Chip Kelly. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick played into the third quarter, completing 15 of 23 passes for 184 yards with an interception.
"For the most part, the tempo is such a tremendous strain on the defense," Bradley said at halftime. "I thought we've handled it really well, we had a good game plan to handle the tempo and it slowed down somewhat as the game has gone on."
The Jaguars lead 24-16 midway through the third quarter before the first-team offense left the game. The Jaguars' reserves, who had struggled in the first two preseason games, allowed two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 99-yard drive that secured the victory for Philadelphia.
- Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen, who missed the second preseason game with an ankle injury, started and turned in several open-field stops in the first half, including an open-field stop on Vick for a four-yard gain in the first quarter.
- Prosinski forced Eagles punt returner Damaris Johnson to fumble after an eight-yard return early in the second quarter. Linebacker Andy Studebaker recovered to set up a 35-yard field goal by Josh Scobee.
- Rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien made a nice open-field tackle on a second-quarter kickoff return.
LOOKING ON . . .
*The Jaguars' starting offense could look slightly different in the regular-season opener than it did in Saturday's Preseason Week 3 dress rehearsal. Saturday's starting lineup was wide receivers Shorts, Blackmon, Jones-Drew, Reisner, Henne, fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou and Eugene Monroe, Will Rackley, Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri and Joeckel across the line. If Gabbert (thumb) is healthy, he'll start at quarterback in the opener, with rookie Ace Sanders likely starting in the opener in place of Blackmon (suspension). The question becomes who will replace Rackley if his leg injury is serious. Second-year veteran Mike Brewster has struggled at guard at times this preseason.
*The Jaguars' starting defense Saturday: ends Tyson Alualu and Jason Babin, tackles Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks, with linebackers Geno Hayes, Paul Posluszny and Russell Allen and Dwayne Gratz, Cyprien, Dwight Lowery and Alan Ball in the secondary. Barring injury, that's the likely opening-game lineup.
*Defensive end Andre Branch had his first sack of the preseason, tackling Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for a 10-yard loss late in the half. Branch hasn't made the impact coaches had hoped during preseason, with Saturday's pressure his first standout play since an tackle for a short gain on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill early in the preseason opener.
Rackley sustained a left leg injury on the game's first series and did not return, and reserve safety Chris Prosinski left with a head injury in the second half. Brewster replaced Rackley at left guard.
Gabbert missed the game with a thumb injury sustained against the New York Jets last week. He is expected to miss the rest of the preseason. Defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick and tight end Isaiah Stanback, game-time decisions, dressed for the game.
Also missing Saturday: running back Justin Forsett (toe), Lewis (calf) and cornerback Jeremy Harris (back).