TAMPA – Senior writer John Oehser examines the game that was in the Jaguars' 25-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2018 preseason finale at Raymond James Stadium Thursday …
Doug Marrone made one thing clear.
"These next 48 hours, we're going to have to make some tough decisions," the Jaguars' head coach said late Thursday.
Marrone was talking about reducing the roster from 90 to the NFL's regular-season limit of 53 players, a process that must be complete by Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern.
The Jaguars rested 36 players, including all projected starters, against Tampa Bay Thursday. One reason was to rest those players for the 2018 regular-season opener against the New Yok Giants on September 9, but as big a reason was to evaluate final roster decisions.
"Guys really played well – some of the younger guys," Marronesaid. "Tonight's a good example – plays they were able to make out there. We have a great appreciation of them, the players who are going to wind up not being here.
"It's just the nature of the beast. From their standpoint, they really didn't do anything not to be here, meaning they gave us their best effort. They were always giving their best to make us a better football team."
Marrone said he told players there was a "good chance" multiple players released would sign with other NFL teams. He also said there would be players released the Jaguars would like to sign back in the event of injuries.
"We do have some talent on this team," he said. "You never know how this league works."
One of the memorable plays of the Jaguars 2018 preseason came late in the third quarter when rookie punter Logan Cook leveledBuccaneers wide receiver Bobo Wilson after a 36-yard return. The tackle drew a flag for lowering the helmet to initiate contact, but was among the harder hits delivered by any Jaguars player this preseason. "We knew he was a good athlete," Marrone said. "We don't want those types of hits. We want that out of the game, but at the same time we've got to do a better job coaching to make sure he is using the proper technique. That's the one thing we've been preaching all of camp – not just for him, but for all of the players."
Jaguars third-team quarterback Tanner Lee completed 11 of 22 passes for 164 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions Thursday, entering the game late in the second quarter for backup Cody Kessler. Lee showed significantly better pocket awareness and accuracy Thursday than in the preseason opener, when he was sacked five times in a loss to the New Orleans Saints. "It's hard not to [look better than he did Preseason Week 1]," Marrone said of Lee, who was not sacked Thursday. "The first game was real difficult for him, really tough. I was happy with the way he bounced back in this game. He showed good poise and made some good decisions. I was happy to see that."
Marrone after Thursday's game addressed reserve running backs Tim Cook and Brandon Wilds. "Those guys have had a hell of a camp," he said. "They've worked their butts off. They're strong runners. … They've done everything we wanted out of them. Wilds rushed for 88 yards on 17 carries Thursday and Cook rushed for 51 yards on 16 carries with two third-quarter touchdowns. The Jaguars' top three running backs are Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant – and this weekend will determine if the team keeps a fourth player at the position. "I'm just going to try not to think about it," Cook said. "I'm going to let whatever happens happen. Whatever happens I know I worked hard and I'll continue working hard regardless of anything."
Perhaps the biggest pregame story Thursday was third-year veteran wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, who was among the 36 Jaguars players not playing against the Buccaneers. That's a strong indication Mickens will be on the roster after competing throughout training camp and preseason for the team's punt returner job and a spot as a reserve wide receiver. "All I did was come out here and have fun and do what the coaches asked me to do – and did it to the level I know I can do it on the football field to my abilities," he said. "It's a humbling experience to know the hard work and the perseverance put me in a position – and the coaches believed enough in me to let me rest. Mickens said although he knew not playing likely was good news, "I actually wanted to play." He added, "There were some good punt returns out there and some deep balls that could have been gotten. But I will take the inactive for a great reason. I couldn't pass that up."
Wide receiver Rashad Greene Sr.: "If I felt like I was lacking in any way, I would be honest – with myself first of all. But to be honest with myself, I know I did a great job (throughout the preseason) to earn a spot."