JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the Jaguars' 22-17 loss to the Detroit Lions Friday at EverBank Field in the third game of the 2015 preseason …
1) Pressure still a concern.We begin Preseason Week 3 takeaways with Head Coach Gus Bradley, who expressed some of the same concerns as many observers about the pass rush Friday. Bradley talked after last week's loss to the New York Giants about needing to create pressure in base – first- and second-down – packages, and said the same thing after the Jaguars allowed 173 first-half yards and two touchdowns passing to Lions quarterback Matt Stafford. The Jaguars did not sack Stafford, who threw a 62-yard second-quarter touchdown to wide receiver Golden Tate with Otto linebacker Dan Skuta blitzing on 2nd-and-7. "We're trying to find different ways to create pressure," Bradley said. "We wanted to see the effectiveness of guys blitzing. … This is the time to do that, in the preseason – to find out how we can create pressure." Bradley said he remains confident the team can pressure the passer in passing situations with its three-Leo "lightning" packages. "It's our first- and second down; can we create enough pressure or affect the quarterback enough to get some turnovers?" Bradley said. "I think that's a question that's legit."
2) "Fingers crossed" on DE Andre Branch.The Jaguars' most significant injury Friday won't help the pass-rush. Branch, a fourth-year end who started at the Leo position Friday, sustained a knee injury in the first quarter. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI and Bradley said the Jaguars "have their fingers crossed on that one. We'll see." Guard Brandon Linder (toe) left around the same time as Branch in the first quarter Friday, but Bradley said he likely could have returned had it been a regular-season game. Wide receiver Allen Robinson returned after sustaining a first-half shoulder contusion and wide receiver Allen Hurns left in the second half for precautionary reasons with hip tightness. Tight end Clay Harbor also left with an ankle injury. "Other than that we came out in pretty good shape," Bradley said.
3) Lessons learned.Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, the Jaguars' second-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, did some learning Friday in his NFL debut. Yeldon, who rushed for 10 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, said his primary goal Friday was to get accustomed to the speed of the NFL. He said he did, although he said afterward the increased pace surprised him a bit. Yeldon also said he learned a lesson on his one-yard, second-quarter touchdown. "Never to jump again," he said with a laugh. "It was a 'Welcome to the NFL' [moment]. I got a touchdown. It was ugly, but I still got a touchdown." Yeldon on the play leaped the pile and had the ball knocked loose just after he crossed the goal line. "He learned a lesson about ball security … on that short on the goal line, he's going to meet someone," Bradley said. "I think it was a good start for him although the stats didn't show it." Yeldon, who missed the first two preseason games with a finger injury, showed versatility Friday, pass-blocking and also catching a 12-yard pass for a first down.
Some shots from the second half of the Lions vs. Jaguars matchup.
4) Punching it in. If it was finishing you wanted from the Jaguars' offense it was finishing you got – and the result was a better feeling about the red-zone offense after the third preseason game. The Jaguars entered the game with the first-team offense having scored on five of six possessions, but four of the scores had been field goals. On Friday, the first-team offense very definitely finished drives, with Bortles passing 13 yards to Allen Hurns to cap the Jaguars' first possession and Yeldon scoring on a 1-yard run to cap the second. The first-team offense now has scored on eight of 11 preseason possessions. The most notable offensive stat? The first-team offense converted 10 of 12 third downs. "I think it was good," Bortles said. "It's just a tribute to preparation, knowing what to expect on third down and guys doing a good job up front. We were able to move the chains."
5) Offensive line.If the first three games are indeed the bulk of the preseason, consider the preseason test passed for the offensive line. The play of left tackle Luke Joeckel remains under constant scrutiny by observers; he had one rough series in the second quarter, including being beaten around the end by Lions defensive end Phillip Hunt on a play on which Bortles was pressured. But Joeckel was solid much of the game, particularly early, and Bortles was not sacked Friday. As significantly, Bortles had ample time to throw on the vast majority of his attempts, something that has been the case throughout the preseason. "The offensive line … how much credit can you give them for what they did tonight – and what they did in the preseason?" Bradley said. "They've done a really good job giving him time and he's taken advantage of it." Said center Stefen Wisniewski, "We've just been getting better every day. You can see a lot of improvement from the beginning of camp to now in our pass-protection technique. I think it's showing out there."