JACKSONVILLE – The start was a start. And it was a good one. Now, it's time to maintain.
That's the overriding objective for the Jaguars when they play the New York Giants in the second game of the 2015 preseason Saturday at MetLife Stadium.
Yes, there are roster spots to be decided.
Yes, the starting center job at some point must be decided, too. The quarterback must keep improving and the offensive line needs to do the same, and all of those things are important.
But if there is a big-picture objective for the Jaguars Saturday it's to do enough to return to Jacksonville early Sunday morning feeling as they did following a 23-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason opener.
This is a team that's starting to show good signs. Win or lose on Saturday, it needs to keep showing them.
With that in mind, here are 10 things the Jaguars must do in the second game of the preseason against the Giants Sunday …
1.Maintain momentum.The Jaguars don't need to dominate the Giants Saturday to do this. They can do it by playing well, particularly when each team's starters are in the game. There was a good feeling around this organization all offseason. It continued after the preseason opener. Keep it going.
2.Play with poise.This is about quarterback Blake Bortles, and it's getting to the point where it's OK to expect that he will do this. Bortles was cool under pressure most of last season, and he exhibited impressive poise in the pocket in the preseason opener. He needs to keep showing that is his default mode. There's no indication so far that it's not.
3.Play fundamentally sound.Just as Entry No. 2 was about Bortles building on the preseason opener, Entry No. 3 is in the same vein. Bortles showed a lot of good things – accuracy, pocket presence, footwork, decision-making – in the preseason opener. Those things appeared to be the effects of a lot of intensive offseason work. The more he does it, the more confidence he'll have he can trust that work. So far so good, but it must continue.
4.Run. The Jaguars did it last week and did it effectively. They want to depend on this area in the regular season. To do that, they have to keep doing it well in the preseason.
5.Protect Bortles.The line run-blocked well last week – and for the most part, it pass-blocked OK. If this game is about maintaining last week's good feeling, protecting Bortles again hardly could be more important.
6.Stop the Giants early. If there was a concern in Preseason Week 1 it was the ease with which the Steelers' first-team offense scored on its only drive of the game. Pittsburgh expects to be a very good offense, but you still don't want to get in the habit of allowing easy touchdown drives early.
7.Get a pick.Forcing interceptions is a huge priority entering the season. Getting them in the preseason will get the Jaguars into the habit. No time like the present.
The grind continues in prep for the New York Giants. Check out photos from Wednesday's practice.
8.Decide on a center.Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley has made it clear he would like to decide between Stefen Wisniewski and Luke Bowanko before Week 3 of the preseason. It's Week 2, so Decision Day is approaching. Bowanko started last week, and Wisniewski will start Saturday. There appears to be no clear-cut leader here, but a decision almost certainly is coming soon.
9.Get a look at T.J. Yeldon.The rookie running back could get his first NFL action Saturday. Rookie backs typically don't need a world of preseason time to prepare, so Yeldon doesn't need to play a whole lot. The Jaguars also figure to be cautious with the finger injury that kept him out of the preseason opener. Still, he could use game action behind the first-team line. Ideal scenario for the Jaguars: Get Yeldon in, see him run effectively for a series or two and get him out. Keep this guy healthy.
10.Win.As was the case last week, it's not imperative the Jaguars win Saturday. It's not even imperative that the first-team outscores the Giants. But getting a winning feeling sometime during the game is key. That means having a stretch when you look and feel like the best team on the field. The Jaguars earned that feeling in the opener. Earning it again would go a long way toward giving this franchise a feeling of being ready for the regular season. So, in some capacity … win.