JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 24-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns in a Preseason Week 1 game at TIAA Bank Field Friday
1. Lawrence to Jones. This was the start the Jaguars wanted in the 2022 preseason home opener. After forcing a three-and-out possession on the game's first drive, the Jaguars called a play-action pass to start their first series of the game. The line gave quarterback Trevor Lawrence time, and the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft found wide receiver Zay Jones deep down the right sideline. Jones, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Las Vegas Raiders last March, made the reception despite good coverage for a 32-yard gain to the 50 – a play that helped set up an early Jaguars field goal and a 3-0 lead. "To start the game down the field, with those two connecting, with Zay being new to the football team, it's good to see," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "It's something they can continue to build upon." Jones caught a 15-yard pass on the Jaguars' third drive of the game, again leading to a score – this one a nine-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to tight end Evan Engram. "I think we did a decent job, honestly," Jones said of a first-team offense that scored 13 points on three possessions. "I'm my worst critic, so I'm going to be my team's harshest critic. I think we did a good job, but we've got a long way to go."
2. Etienne running hard. The opening pass from Lawrence to Jones was one big play from the Jaguars' first drive Friday. Perhaps as impressive – and important – was running back Travis Etienne's run four plays later. Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, played the first three series Friday – marking his first game action since sustaining a Lisfranc injury last preseason. Etienne, who had been running hard and with confidence throughout training camp, did so again Friday on the Jaguars' fifth play from scrimmage and rushed for an impressive 12-yard gain through the middle of the defense. This turned second-and-10 from the Browns 39 into a first down at the 27 and set up a 23-yard field goal by Elliott Fry that gave the Jaguars a 3-0 lead with 9:13 remaining in the first quarter. "I felt great," said Etienne, who rushed for 23 yards on nine carries with one reception for 10 yards. "I felt like myself. I love the offense. I feel like Doug puts playmakers in the right place to make plays."
3. Fu-u-u-u-u-mble – and recovery. The night's early storyline was offense – understandably so considering Friday marked the 2022 debut of the first-team offense. But the Jaguars' first-team defense was impressive, too – with its highlight play coming on the Browns' second series. After forcing a three-and-out on the first Cleveland possession, the Jaguars' first-team defense got its first takeaway of the 2022 preseason with safety Rayshawn Jenkins forcing a fumble by Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson that cornerback Shaquill Griffin recovered at the Browns 21. That led to a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Santoso that pushed the Jaguars' lead to 6-0 with 7:27 remaining in the second quarter.
4. Engram touchdown. The Jaguars' starters for the most part were impressive Friday on both side of the ball. Still, the Jaguars led just 6-0 despite dominating the first quarter – which made the touchdown pass from Lawrence to Engram important to Friday's storyline. With the Jaguars facing 4th-and-2 at the Browns 9, Pederson opted against the field attempt and instead order a tight, run-apparent formation. Instead, Lawrence ran play-action. When he rolled to his left, he found Engram open for a nine-yard, catch-and-run touchdown and a 13-0 lead with 14:09 remaining in the second quarter. "It was a good situation for us to get the work in," Engram said. "We drove downfield. Doug trusted us to get it in. He made a great call. We just executed. It was just playing pitch and catch and we got it into the end zone." Said Lawrence, "Obviously, that's the goal – to end with a touchdown. It helps a lot when you turn field goals into touchdowns. We'd had some opportunities and didn't finish in the red zone. It was nice to get that and finish the right way."
5. Flags and a first down. The Jaguars' offense struggled much of the second and third quarters. But midway through the fourth, third quarterback Jake Luton threw deep to wide receiver Jeff Cotton Jr. on second-and-16 from the Jaguars 49. Reserve cornerback Herb Miller was called for interfering with Cotton, giving the Jaguars first down at the Browns 10. The play set up the Jaguars' best scoring opportunity since early in the second quarter, an opportunity that ended three plays later when Miller intercepted a pass from Luton to wide receiver Tim Jones four yards deep in the end zone with 4:50 remaining.