ATLANTA, Ga. – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 28-12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in a 2022 Preseason Week 3 game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday.
1. Thomas interception. Saturday's preseason finale was about lower-on-the-roster players getting an opportunity, and third-year safety Daniel Thomas took advantage quickly. Thomas, a reserve safety and a fifth-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2020 NFL Draft, intercepted a pass on the game's first play. Falcons reserve quarterback Desmond Ridder overthrew wide receiver Damiere Byrd and Thomas intercepted after a diving effort at the Falcons 45. Thomas returned the interception 10 yards, after which the Jaguars lost one yard on the next three plays. Rookie kicker James McCourt, claimed off waivers Tuesday, converted from 54 yards for a 3-0 Jaguars lead with 13:28 remaining.
2. Deep to Jones. Among the more productive players of the Jaguars' preseason and training camp: Wide receiver Tim Jones, who originally signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent after the 2021 NFL Draft and who spent time on the Jaguars' practice squad last season. Jones, who led the Jaguars in receiving yards in Preseason Weeks 1 and 2, got open on the first play of the Jaguars' second series for a 49-yard reception from quarterback E.J. Perry to the Falcons 26. The drive stalled there and kicker Jake Verity, claimed off waivers Friday, missed from 46 yards. Jones also caught a 41-yard pass in the second quarter that led to a touchdown. He has 14 receptions for 219 yards in four preseason games. "Some of these guys have really taken advantage of their situation and opportunities, and Tim was one of those guys," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said.
3. Blocked Punt. Oops. The Falcons led 7-6 as halftime approached, with neither team having produced much offensively to that point aside from an early Falcons touchdown drive and Perry's deep pass to Jones. The game's momentum changed somewhat with just under four minutes remaining before halftime. With the Jaguars facing 4th-and-3 from their 17, Falcons outside linebacker Quinton Bell got around Jaguars cornerback Joel Thompson, whose missed block allowed Hill to block Jaguars punter Logan Cooke's punt. Falcons outside linebacker DeAngelo Malone recovered and was ruled down at the Jaguars 1. Falcons running back Qadree Ollison's one-yard run one play later pushed the Falcons lead to 14-6 with 3:31 remaining in the half.
4. Touchdown for Treadwell. The Jaguars cut back into the Falcons' lead quickly, with Perry leading his most impressive NFL drive to date. Perry, who originally signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent before re-signing with the team in 2022 Training Camp, started and played the entire game Saturday. On the series after Ollison's one-yard touchdown run, Perry drove the Jaguars 75 yards on nine plays. Perry, who completed 19 of 37 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions Saturday, completed four of five passes for 69 yards on the drive – including a seven-yard touchdown to veteran wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to make it 14-12 before Perry's incomplete two-point pass to tight end Gerrit Prince. "I thought he did some good things," Pederson said of Perry. "I did feel like maybe there were some things he tried to press a little bit and try to make something happen, which sometimes players can do that – especially a quarterback. But overall, he made some good decisions and good throws. It's something he can learn from."
5. McCourt good – and good again. The Jaguars' preseason search for a kicker continued Saturday, with both McCourt and Jake Verity making their debuts with the team. Both players were claimed off waivers this week, McCourt from the Los Angeles Chargers Tuesday and Verity from the Indianapolis Colts on Friday. McCourt took advantage of two opportunities, converting from 54 yards in the first quarter and 38 yards in the second quarter. Verity missed his lone field-goal attempt Saturday from 46 yards in the first quarter. "Going into this week and the last preseason game, I've kind of realized there's an opportunity here for the taking," McCourt said. "It's really important in these situations to put your best foot forward. There's a lot of pressure that goes into it, but I enjoy it at the same time."