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Game that was: Tough task ahead

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ATLANTA – Senior writer John Oehser examines the Jaguars' 17-15 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2016 preseason finale Thursday – with an eye on General Manager David Caldwell's thoughts as the cut down to 53 players approaches  

TOUGH TASK TO 53 David Caldwell likes a lot about what he sees from the Jaguars.

That was evident from the Jaguars' general manager's comments during the team's preseason finale Thursday, and this much was evident, too: The next day or so won't be easy.

Caldwell, in his fourth season as the team's general manager, will be at the heart of discussions/decisions as the team trims the roster from 75 to 53 in the coming hours. And to hear Caldwell tell it, a lot of those 22 decisions will be difficult.

"This is probably the most exciting game in the preseason for us," Caldwell said during a loss to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Sunday. Caldwell on Thursday lauded the play of quarterback Brandon Allen, the third-team quarterback who played and started the entire game with starter Blake Bortles and backup Chad Henne held out for precautionary reasons. The Jaguars held at least 28 players out to emphasize evaluation Thursday. Allen completed 17 of 26 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

"He has been what we expected," Caldwell said. "He has gotten better every week and every day. We are excited to have him."

Caldwell also discussed Leo Chris Smith, saying the third-year defensive end has "really come on in the preseason." "He has done that the last three preseason games," Caldwell said.

"He has really been showing up all over the place across the board. We are excited about him."

He also discussed cornerback Josh Johnson, who signed in the offseason from the Canadian Football League. Johnson has two interceptions in the last three preseason games.

Images from the Jaguars fourth preseason game against the Falcons.

"Our personnel staff did a great job in identifying him," Caldwell said. "He has come in and really made a case to make this team." Caldwell said the decisions on the final roster could be the toughest in his four seasons with the team.

"Usually at this time of the year, we are looking for players from other teams like these last couple of years," Caldwell said. "This is a situation where we are going to cut some players who are going to go out and play for someone else."  

NOTABLE … Rookie linebacker Myles Jack registered four tackles on Atlanta's first four offensive plays, catching the eye of observers – and of Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley. "He played really fast and his explosiveness showed up," Bradley said. "It will be really cool to watch this tape just to see how he played. I'm really glad we did it." Jack was one of the few front-line Jaguars players in the lineup against Atlanta. The Jaguars had played him at backup middle linebacker in the first three preseason games, but started him at weak-side linebacker Thursday. "It gives us some really good flexibility," Bradley said. "He'll have a role on our team. When you have guys like that on the team you find a way to get them on the field somehow."  

QUOTABLE I "I thought it was good. I thought I did well. They kind of gave me the call at the weak-side spot two days before the game. I tried to do the best I could and just go from there. It's been a blur. I've been taking it day by day. Looking back to where I started and where I am now I feel like I've made a great improvement in overall knowledge of the defense and getting used to the speed of the NFL." **

---Jack

… AND ALSO NOTABLE Bradley said he was also impressed with the play of rookie Sheldon Day. The fourth-round defensive tackle missed the first three preseason games with a back injury, but showed flashes of quickness and penetrating ability in the first half Thursday. "He was explosive," Bradley said. "I thought he did a great job penetrating. You can see he disrupted some plays with his ability to get off the ball in a hurry." Day said he felt fatigued late in his playing time Thursday but that he felt no aftereffects of the injury.  "Mentally, being out weighed on me but staying in a positive mindset helped me out," he said.  

QUOTABLE II "This was a good game for us as far as evaluation. We really wanted to use it as an evaluation tool for guys fighting to make the team, and that's exactly what it was. We have decisions that are going to be tough."

---Bradley * *

QUOTABLE III "I think it's going great for us. I think it's going to be great to just have two guys that play a lot of football playing next to each other. I'm looking forward to it. Me and Luke are doing a great job at getting that relationship and chemistry so I'm looking forward to it." **

---LT Kelvin Beachum on playing alongside former LT and current LG Luke Joeckel 

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