JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways Monday as the Jaguars begin preparations to play the Detroit Lions Friday in the third game of the 2015 preseason …
1)Ready for his close-up.We begin Monday Takeaways with what would have been the day's story if not for the team deciding a starting center – that is, running back T.J. Yeldon's pending debut. The second-round rookie from Alabama missed the first two preseason games with a finger injury sustained in an August 8 scrimmage at EverBank Field, but Head Coach Gus Bradley on Sunday said not only will Yeldon play Friday, but he should get extensive first-team repetitions. "I'm very excited," Yeldon said. "I'm ready for my first NFL game. I've been waiting for this since I was little, so I'm excited to get out there and play with the team." Yeldon, who worked in a red, non-contact jersey for two weeks following the injury, practiced without the red jersey Monday. He said he will play Friday with a protective pad that will allow him to catch the ball and block. "The one thing I've got to get used to is the NFL speed," he said. "I get a little bit at practice, but it's never going to be the same as in a game."
2)Dress rehearsal.The Jaguars worked in full pads Monday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. Bradley said the team wouldn't normally go full pads so early in the week, but with Friday's game being the third of the preseason, the focus is on making the week as much like a normal game week as possible. That's the norm in the NFL, so because the Jaguars normally would have Wednesday be a full-padded practice, they went full Monday. They will have a "normal Thursday" practice Tuesday with a shorter, lighter "Friday" practice Wednesday. The team's walkthrough will be Thursday followed by the Friday game. "We're treating it much like a regular-season game week as possible," Bradley said. "As much as we can we want to try to replicate it and that's what we're doing."
3)No reduction needed.Don't include Bradley among those pushing for a shorter preseason. With several high-profile players around the NFL sustaining season-ending injuries, reducing the number of preseason games again is being discussed. Jaguars wide receiver Arrelious Benn on Monday was placed on injured reserve with a broken collarbone sustained against the Giants Saturday, but Bradley said too much evaluation time would be lost with fewer preseason games. "I think it's good," Bradley said. "These next couple of games here we've got some tough decisions to make and I think the number of games allows us to do that." Bradley said while the Jaguars have had players miss time with injuries this preseason, overall the team has been healthy as far as soft-tissue injuries. "We came in with a certain mindset to try to keep as many guys healthy as possible, especially for our offensive side," he said. "I think it's working out for us." The Jaguars on Saturday planned to play the first-team offense all or most of the first half, but when the unit reached its planned 30-to-35 play plateau after three series it left the game with around 8:00 remaining in the second quarter.
Take a look at images from Monday's practice as the Jaguars were back on the field preparing for the Detroit Lions.
4)Fresher and better.Rashad Greene appears more and more likely to play a key role this season. The rookie wide receiver worked with the first unit at punt returner Saturday and Bradley on Monday said, "I think this coming game, too, you should see him getting a lot of the reps." Greene returned a punt 37 yards in Preseason Week 1, and while he had a six-yarder and a muff against the Giants on Saturday, Bradley praised him the following day. Bradley has talked in the last week of being impressed with Greene's quickness and explosiveness after the team gave him the day off last Monday to rest a lingering Achilles issue. "It definitely helped a lot," Greene said. "I felt a lot better coming off the extra day he gave me. I felt a lot quicker. I'm definitely more comfortable, getting more relaxed. It's slowing down for me, and I'm getting a good feel for it. I'm going to keep pushing forward."
5)Keep an eye on … Dwayne Gratz.The third-year veteran could play an increased role this week. That's because cornerback Demetrius McCray, who had been working with the top three cornerbacks, missed practice with a knee contusion sustained against the Giants. "It's important, because it's a big opportunity to display who I am as a person and a player," Gratz said. "Every opportunity you have to show that you have to take it as seriously as possible." Gratz, a third-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, missed time early in training camp with a calf issue, but performed well in the offseason. "I'm way past that (the calf)," Gratz said. "It's good to be back. As a competitor, you never want to be on the sideline."