JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's notes and observations as the Jaguars begin preparing for the 2018 preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Thursday …
1.Expectations were already high for the 2018 Jaguars defense – and the first three preseason games pushed them even higher. "We've made a few plays, but we have a lot of room for growth," defensive end Calais Campbell said. That's true, but a defense that ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed, interceptions, points allowed and takeaways last season has been dominant in the three games with the first unit not allowing a touchdown and allowing just four field goals. "That's the beauty of it: Even when we make mistakes, we still play some good ball out there," Campbell said. "This 'D' can be very, very good. We wanted to intimidate people and send a message across the league. That was the goal going into preseason: the first couple of teams we play, we wanted to make sure they see a team that's fast and physical and plays with a different kind of intensity. … The ultimate goal would be to have offensive coordinators looking at the defense like, 'I don't know where to attack … I don't know how.' That's the ultimate goal."
2.Anyone wondering the Jaguars' approach to Thursday's preseason finale need to look no further than Head Coach Doug Marrone's media availability Monday. With most NFL teams now resting most or all starters in the preseason finale, Marrone was asked his approach against Tampa Bay. "That's always the age-old question that you get," Marrone said. "I know we're going to be smart about it. I think a lot depends on how we do during the week, what our focus is and what we're trying to take care of. I'm going to be smart and do what I have done in the past. I think that is the best way to explain it." Marrone last season rested the majority of the team's front-line players in the preseason finale. The idea behind the approach is not only to prevent injuries but to ensure players are as fresh as possible entering the regular season. "You really can feel it," defensive tackle Malik Jackson said of the extra time off between Preseason Week 3 and the regular-season opener. "That's why for example we fight for a bye week in the playoffs. A week off means a lot. So, to get two weeks off to get your body back and let it recover from what we just did is awesome."
3.One area the Jaguars will miss wide receiver Marqise Lee is as a downfield blocker in the running game. Lee, who Marrone said Monday will miss the 2018 regular season with a knee injury sustained against Atlanta Saturday, was perhaps the Jaguars' best receiver in this area. "He did a heck of a job that way, we all know that," Marrone said. "Obviously, the people in that [wide receiver] room are going to have to step up. That's why as soon as everything is done, we want to get him [Lee] back in that room, because there is a toughness about him that we want to make sure we keep." The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, and Lee's ability as a run-blocker was a factor in the team re-signing him to a contract extension this past offseason. "We work on it," Marrone said. "It's hard when you work on that stuff. In training camp with full pads, we do defensive back/wide receiver blocking drills. Those guys do get a lot of work on it."
4.Marrone on Monday discussed multiple players against Atlanta, praising starting right tackle Jermey Parnell's first appearance of 2018 after missing the first two preseason games with a knee issue. "I thought he looked good," Marrone said. "I really did. He had good sets, stayed squared, worked well, so I was happy with that." Marrone also said second-year left tackle Cam Robinson improved against Atlanta after struggling the previous Saturday against end Danielle Hunter and the Minnesota Vikings. "I thought Cam, obviously, played much better than he did than the first two games, but I still there is room for improvement from everybody," Marrone said. Marrone also addressed the NFL debut of rookie defensive lineman Taven Bryan, who missed the first two preseason games with an abdominal injury. "I thought he got some good movement," he said of Bryan, the No. 29 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft who was penalized late in the game for roughing the passer. "I wasn't happy with the penalty. He did some good things. He showed his power, he showed his strength. He was up on his feet and got involved on some plays. It is a pretty good progression of a guy that really hasn't practiced or played. I think it's difficult. I think he will just get better as he keeps playing."