JACKSONVILLE – There were familiar names, and young names playing for jobs.
This was the 2023 preseason finale – and for the Jaguars, a 31-18 victory over the Miami Dolphins in front of 64,516 at EverBank Stadium Saturday night was an early dress rehearsal followed by a lot of auditioning and evaluating.
The game ended in worrisome fashion, with officials ending the game with 8:35 remaining after Dolphins wide receiver Daewood Davis left the field on a stretcher following an injury. He had been the intended receiver on a third-and-three play from the Dolphins 41.
Officials announced that the teams elected not to continue play, therefore suspending the game.
"It was the right thing to do at that time," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said.
Pederson added: "As a head coach, you start looking at your team, you start looking at their team, you start looking at body language and kind of where guys are. After the amount of time that had passed, [Dolphins Head Coach] Mike [McDaniel] and I got together and talked about suspending the game from where it was. We had player reps involved and obviously [the NFL office in] New York involved.
"This game is all about player safety. I know it's a preseason game and some guys are fighting for spots, but at the same time, we want to make sure that everybody's 100 percent."
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence opened his post-game media availability speaking of Davis.
"It's obviously not anything you want to see," he said. "It's obviously a tough, tough scene, a game we all love and play, to see a guy go down like that. I know we're all thinking about him."
Jaguar safety Andre Cisco said he favored the decision.
"I'm glad that the NFL makes the move," he said. "At the end of the day, we're wired to keep going. I don't think you expect them to ever call it a game. So for them to kind of just humanize it a little bit and bring us together and say, 'This is not right, we're going to move on, we're going to end the game here,' I appreciate it.
"It's tough and it's a lot of guys playing for spots right now. That makes it difficult and I could understand if they kept it going, but I understand them stopping it.
The dress rehearsal was particularly impressive for the Jaguars' first-team offense, which turned in two extended drives and left the game early in the second quarter.
The Jaguars led at that time, 7-3.
Pederson said he originally planned to play starters for a half, but opted to play the backups because he was pleased with the first two drives.
"We wanted to come out and [start fast] and we did," he said.
Lawrence, who along with the rest of the first-team offense played three series in a Preseason Week 1 victory at Dallas and sat out in a Preseason Week 2 victory at Detroit, completed eight of 10 passes for 92 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions Saturday.
Lawrence and the first-team offense produced 168 yards in their two series against the Dolphins.
The Jaguars also ran effectively during that stretch, with starter Travis Etienne Jr. rushing for 39 yards on eight carries and rookie Tank Bigsby rushing for 37 yards on six carries. Bigsby's lost fumble on the one-yard line ended a 78-yard first drive and resulted in a touchback.
"Really, where it starts is running the ball," Lawrence said. "We ran the ball great."
Etienne's three-yard run capped the Jaguars' second drive, giving them their first lead of the game on the starting offense's final play. The Jaguars had outgained the Dolphins 168-117 at that point with 12 first downs to four for the Dolphins.
The Jaguars extended their lead through the second and early third quarters, with reserve running back D'Ernest Johnson's eight-yard run with 3:11 remaining in the first half giving them 17-3 lead and a 74-yard pass from backup quarterback C.J. Beathard to reserve wide receiver Tim Jones giving them a 24-6 lead with 14:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Beathard completed eight of 10 for 134 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions Saturday, with rookie third-team quarterback Nathan Rourke completing four of six passes for 74 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Jaguars allowed 117 yards in the first quarter and 348 for the game. Rookie pass rusher Yasir Abdullah and rookie cornerback Erick Hallett II registered interceptions.
"As a first-team defense, I think I'm happy about what we got done, but at the same time, big picture, I think we have a lot to work on," Cisco said.
The Jaguars finished the preseason 3-0.
Step by step:
- An impressive first Jaguars drive ended when Dolphins safety Jevon Holland forced Bigsby to fumble at the Dolphins 2, with Holland recovering in the end zone for a touchback. A 24-yard field goal by kicker Jason Sanders capped an 11-play, 74-yard drive on the Dolphins' next possession and gave Miami a 3-0 lead with :16 remaining in the first quarter.
- The Jaguars' starters turned in a second impressive drive in as many series to start the second quarter. The touchdown came one play after a 28-yard pass from Lawrence to wide receiver Calvin Ridley, with Lawrence extending the drive with an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk on 4th-and-6 from the Jaguars 47. The Jaguars extended the lead with the second team playing the rest of the half, with kicker Brandon McManus 37-yard field goal giving them a 10-3 lead with 4:26 remaining in the half and running back D'Ernest Johnson's eight-yard run making it 17-3 with 3:11 remaining in the half. The scores were set up by interceptions by Hallet and Abdullah, respectively. Sanders' 28-yard field goal with :37 remaining cut the Jaguars' lead to 17-6.
- Beathard's 74-yard touchdown pass to Jones came on the second play of the third quarter. Dolphins running back Chris Brooks' four-yard run cut the Jaguars' lead to 24-12 with 8:49 remaining in the third quarter.
- Running back JaMycal Hasty's eight-yard run pushed the Jaguars' lead to 31-12 with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter; Rourke's 43-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Seth Williams set up the touchdown, with Hasty scoring on the ensuing play. Another four-yard run by Brooks with 13:02 remaining pulled the Dolphins to within 31-18.
- Jaguars players not playing Saturday: Left tackle Walker Little, defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi (foot), defensive lineman DaVon Hamilton (back, non-football), guard Cooper Hodges (patellar), linebacker Chad Muma, safety Andrew Wingard, wide receiver Jaray Jenkins and outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson. Defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot (Achilles) remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start 2023 Training Camp.
- Jaguars rookie linebacker Ventrell Miller sustained a lower leg injury Saturday.
Feels good to be back! Click through top game flicks as the Jaguars face the Dolphins in EverBank Stadium 🏈