JACKSONVILLE – The starters played. That mattered.
Those starters also played well, which mattered as much – or more – than the final score in a 24-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the Jaguars' second game of the 2022 preseason.
"It thought it went well," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence flashed early. So did running back Travis Etienne Jr. So did the defense in a positive early performance in the Jaguars' '22 preseason home opener in front of 54,789 at TIAA Bank Field on a warm mid-August Friday night in downtown Jacksonville.
"We're getting more and more in sync," Lawrence said. "I thought we were on the same page for the most part."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, played three series and completed six of 12 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. His highlight play: a 32-yard play-action strike to wide receiver Zay Jones on the game's first play, a pass that set up a Jaguars field goal and a 3-0 lead.
"I thought we played well," said Jones, who caught two passes for 47 yards in three series. "Overall, it was pretty solid."
Lawrence's nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Evan Engram ended the night for the starting offense, making it 13-0 on the first drive of the second quarter.
"The energy felt really good," Engram said. "We're taking a lot of pride in putting a good product on the field."
The game marked the first time the Jaguars' first-team offense played in a game this preseason, with Pederson not playing most starters on offense in a loss in the Hall of Fame game on August 4.
"I thought for the first time they did some good things," Pederson said. "It wasn't perfect, but they settled in and did well – both sides of the ball."
Pederson said the 25-26 snaps for the first-team offense were a bit longer than expected.
"I just wanted them to have the feel of the game, and go back out [for a third series]," Pederson said. "Sometimes in [training] camp, conditioning becomes an issue. You want to see those things. I thought they did really well with that. There are some things to learn from, and get better at, but I thought it went well."
Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, played for the first time since sustaining a Lisfranc injury last preseason. He also played three series, rushing for 23 yards on nine carries, catching one pass for 10 yards and looking confident in his first game in nearly a year.
"Great energy," Etienne said. "Love the crowd, love being back out there with my brothers and being able to just play football again."
A slew of splash plays gave the Jaguars positive momentum early, leading to two field goals – one each by Ryan Santoso and Elliott Fry – and leaving the Jaguars leading 6-0 midway through the first period after dominating to that point.
The Browns outscored the Jaguars 24-0 after the Jaguars' starters left the game early in the second quarter. The Jaguars for the game outgained the Browns 267-254.
Step by step:
- A 23-yard field goal by Fry gave the Jaguars a 3-0 lead with 9:13 remaining in the first quarter, capping an impressive first Jaguars drive of the game that featured 42 yards passing (and 11 rushing) from Lawrence and 20 yards rushing by Etienne. The Jaguars drove 78 yards on 11 plays after forcing a three-and-out possession by the Browns on the game's first series. Santoso's 38-yard field goal on the ensuing Jaguars series made it 6-0 with 7:27 remaining in the quarter; safety Rayshawn Jenkins forced a fumble by Browns running back De'Ernest Johnson on the second play of the Browns' second possession, with cornerback Shaquill Griffin recovering at the Cleveland 21.
- Lawrence's nine-yard pass to Engram gave the Jaguars a 13-0 lead with 14:09 remaining in the second quarter, with the Jaguars' starters' last drive of the game covering 63 yards in 11 plays. The Browns trimmed the lead to 13-7 on running back Jerome Ford's three-yard run through a large hole in the middle with 8:58 remaining in the second quarter. Browns cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. wrestled a pass by Beathard away from Jaguars wide receiver Jeff Cotton Jr. and returned the interception 74 yards for a touchdown and 14-13 Browns lead with :25 remaining in the half.
- A 31-yard field goal by Browns kicker Cade York pushed the lead to 17-13 with 9:43 remaining in the third quarter, capping a 44-yard drive that took eight plays. Ford caught a 14-yard pass from former Jaguars reserve quarterback Josh Dobbs, capping a 65-yard drive to make it 24-13 with 4:48 remaining in the quarter.
Notable: The full list of Jaguars players ruled out for Friday's game: Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., wide receiver Christian Kirk, cornerback Darious Williams, running back James Robinson, linebacker Devin Lloyd, wide receiver Jamal Agnew and offensive lineman Badara Traore.
Injury report: Jaguars offensive lineman Will Richardson Jr. sustained an ankle injury and did not return. Defensive lineman Arden Key was poked in the eye. Pederson said Kirk (ankle) likely would have played had Friday been a regular-season game.
Let's get loud. Football is back at TIAA Bank Field. Click through the best live-action game photos from the Jaguars Preseason Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.