FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Working remotely, Day Two …
I followed Jaguars 23, Steelers 21 on Twitter at the end of a long, emotional day of freshman orientation, then watched the replay later Friday night.
The first thought is it's time to come home. Junior O-Zone is doing fine, and it's clear parting will be fa-a-a-a-a-a-a-r more difficult on father/mother than son. Ah, well … that's how it should be – and that's more than enough family talk.
A second and far more pertinent thought in our odd corner of the interweb is Friday's preseason opener was a success for the Jaguars. There were the hiccups that accompany most preseason openers, but quarterback Blake Bortles and the offense looked good, as did running back Toby Gerhart, wide receiver Allen Robinson and running back Denard Robinson.
(Did we mention Bortles looked good? Yes, it's only preseason, but is there better news than that?)
A third thought is that any concern over tight end Julius Thomas is a big concern and a legitimate concern. Thomas sustained a stable fracture to the back of his hand on the Jaguars' second offensive play Friday. Head Coach Gus Bradley said after the game the expectation is Thomas will play in the regular-season opener against Carolina September 13. The Jaguars obviously need that to be the case; he's critical.
We'll answer more questions this morning about Friday's victory best we can. Which is sort of what we always do, come to think of it.
(Did we mention Bortles looked good …?)
Let's get to it …
Brian from New Hampshire:
Minus the two dropped touchdowns from Clay Harbor and a bad sack from Luke Joeckel, the first-team offense looked pretty darned good to me. Better than I expected it to look for the first preseason game. Potential is showing itself; now let's hope consistency follows.
John: That's a good assessment. As I watched the replay of the game late Friday, what stood out was how although the Jaguars' offense was shaky at first, it recovered in a big, assuring way. A lot of things the team hoped would look good did look good. Bortles looked comfortable in the pocket, and overall he looked accurate and confident. Gerhart looked good. Rashad Greene had a nice punt return, and both Robinsons – Denard and Allen – looked good. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson's offense looked far smoother and more potent than I expected in Preseason Week 1. Those are all good signs, though obviously Joeckel's sack allowed and a long touchdown pass allowed by cornerback Davon House were glaring. All in all, though, there was more good than bad with the starters in the game – and that's a good thing for the Jaguars.
Jerry from Orange Park, FL:
Is Denard Robinson the kickoff returner?
John: He's going to be difficult to unseat for that spot, but the way he ran Friday it appears he's going to play a key role at running back, too. I've sensed a little skepticism this offseason whenever I talked about the depth of the running back position and about there being a rotation in which a lot of backs play a key role. Maybe there will be less skepticism after Friday.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
In the sack given up to James Harrison Friday, and in the one-on-one drill against Ryan Davis, it looks like Luke Joeckel reads the defensive end, but after two steps … you just see his feet stop and then he can't keep up. Very odd.
John: I know you're referring to Joeckel in Friday's preseason game against the Steelers and I assume you're also referring to the video of a one-on-one drill from practice that circulated last week. And I agree that there do seem to be times when Joeckel looks exactly as you say. I can tell you there are a lot of occurrences when he looks good – and those are why the Jaguars feel good about Joeckel and his progress. It's difficult to know exactly why Joeckel has those bad-looking plays; the sack he gave to Harrison Friday without question was just such a play. If I had to guess, the hiccups stem from him trying to get a few technique issues just right and overthinking it. You hope this is a case of working through some things. Whatever it is, he must improve in that area and must improve overall. While he has looked good at times during camp, he still has too many head-scratchers – and at left tackle, those head-scratchers hurt and get noticed.
David from Broward County:
O-Man, I'm sure you'll get like a million-plus questions about our LT, Luke "the bad joke" Joeckel, getting stone-cold smoked by Old Man Harrison. Joeckel turned himself perpendicular to the LOS almost immediately, and once you do that you and your quarterback are toast. How long of a leash will Bradley give Joeckel? Will it be all season? With all the other improvements on the OL and elsewhere, plus Bortles working his tail off to improve himself, they can't allow that type of play to carry forward to the regular season. It is far more than one play. But as one play, it was horrible. Please talk us off this ledge.
John: It was a bad play. Bad plays by left tackles get discussed. Those have to get reduced. I can't talk you off the ledge, though. Joeckel will have to play better to get you off there and only he can do that.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
Last week you had questions asking if Olson should be fired before we had even played a game. Just curious if anyone suggested he run for President after tonight. Ahh, the preseason.
John: As per usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There has been nothing to indicate this offseason that Olson wasn't right for the job, just as there is no indication that he plans to run for president. That's what you were asking, right? Sort of?
Chris from Jacksonville:
Looks like Gerhart got a re-tread. I heard he was done.
John: What you saw from Gerhart Friday was what the Jaguars sort of thought and hoped they would see from him this season. He caught the ball effectively and ran well when given the opportunity. He ran hard and ran with confidence and authority. This is what they started to see from him at the end of last season and it appeared Friday he was playing the same way. One scrimmage does not always a season make.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
It's just preseason … It's just preseason … It's just preseason …
John: True that, but preseason or not it's a good thing to see the quarterback play well. In the Jaguars' case Friday, it was a good thing to see the backup and the starter play well.
Andrew from Jacksonville:
Hi, do you think Mr. Luke Joeckel will win the starting left tackle gig?
Mark from Charlotte and formerly Duval:
In response to Adam from Jacksonville, does a 5-23 record as a Jaguar quarterback (Chad Henne) really warrant "one-of-the-best backup-quarterbacks-in-NFL" response? Stephen Morris could trip and fall into 5 wins over 28 games with the Titans and Texans on the schedule twice. Wouldn't trade because of his value to Blake, but John....he's not one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
John: Your response is impressive, even memorable, for its boldness. And your confidence is impressive, probably even self-assuring. It sounds like you're on what might be thought as a "hot streak." Don't let being incorrect stand in the way of that. Go forth. Fight on.
Austin from Athens:
Where does Benn stand on your depth chart as of right now? No. 3? No. 4? Surely, he has done more to put himself in front of a banged-up Lee, and is right on the tail of Hurns.
John: Whoa there, Austin! Slo-o-o-w down there, big fella. Arrelious Benn has had a nice camp and he had a nice catch early in the preseason opener Friday, but let's not overhaul the depth chart based on a couple of weeks of training camp practices and one preseason game. Benn for now is not ahead of a healthy Lee, nor is he on the tail of Hurns. Lee when healthy is one of the top three receivers on the team – top two, almost certainly. Hurns was productive last season and he and Allen Robinson each had outstanding offseasons. The latter was productive last season and had a very good offseason and camp. I see Benn making the team, but I don't see him in the top three yet.
Roger from Jacksonville:
Zone, please just reassure me it's only preseason and everything is gonna be OK. The first five minutes look like we're poised to go a solid 2-14. I'm dying for a good Jaguars team; I've been telling myself that all offseason, but it's just not looking well. Maybe it shall change.
John: This is the kind of emails I get early in games.
William from Section 241:
Wow. Was I didn't realize people could jump that high, nice move Pierce!
John: Pierce's first-half jump was cool. A lot of people liked it.