JACKSONVILLE – Minutes afterward, Gus Bradley was thinking of the inevitable.
And while the Jaguars' first-year head coach said no doubt tough decisions will be made on Sunday when the team trims its roster to at least 75 players, his impression of the third preseason game Saturday night overall was positive.
The Jaguars lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-24, at EverBank Field, losing an eight-point fourth-quarter lead. But Bradley said the loss was not without its highlights.
"I thought we saw some really positive things," Bradley said.
Bradley said he liked how the defense responded against the Eagles' high-tempo offense, and the team as a whole forced four fumbles and three turnovers. Cornerback Dwayne Gratz also intercepted a pass for the second time in two preseason home games.
Defensive tackle Roy Miller and end Andre Branch each recorded a sack of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
Reserve running back Jordan Todman rushed for 105 yards on eight carries, including a 63-yard touchdown run that put the Jaguars ahead, 17-10, in the second quarter. Backup quarterback Chad Henne threw two touchdown passes – a 17-yarder to wide receiver Justin Blackmon on the Jaguars' first series and an eight-yarder to tight end Allen Reisner on the first series after halftime.
"I thought Chad Henne had some nice throws throughout the time that he was in and he finished well in the second half," Bradley said.
Bradley said the Jaguars will cut the roster to 75 players before they practice Monday. The NFL mandates that teams reach 75 players by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday.
"It's always a tough day today," Bradley said. "You finish the game and some tough decisions have to be made. I talked to our guys about that. In this business, you want to keep it genuine. We have guys that are with us for a long time that we are going to have to make decisions on whether they're going to be here or not.
"I talked to them about having a genuine appreciation; they're always going to be a part of us. We're going to pull for them and I told them there's going to be some great things in the future, we may not know right now, but I told them to keep that trust going."
Bradley said he has not decided if starters will play against Atlanta in the preseason finale Thursday.
"We may play our starters next week," he said. "We will evaluate it on tape; it's a decision we have to make. If we do play them, it will be for a short period of time, but there's always competition.
Rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel returned after missing the second game of the preseason with a hip flexor injury.
The No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft played into the second quarter, and said afterward he was pleased overall with how he played in his return from his first missed game since his sophomore season in high school.
"Being out for two weeks has definitely slowed the process a little bit, but it's going well," Joeckel said. "(I) haven't gone against a full speed pass rush in two weeks so I had to settle in a little bit, but I definitely felt good as the game went on and run blocking felt good throughout the game."
Bradley said during the week Joeckel would be a game-time decision, and that if he played, he likely wouldn't play as long as the other starters. He played into the second quarter, with Henne playing through the first series of the second half.
"It was great to get back out there," Joeckel said. "I definitely wanted to get back, I wanted to get back the week before, but it was definitely a smarter move to let this thing heal up. Things went great, got some great reps out there today."
Jaguars guard Will Rackley left the game in the first half with a leg injury. Bradley said X-Rays were negative, and he will undergo an MRI Sunday on his ankle. Second-year veteran Mike Brewster replaced Rackley in the lineup.
"The challenge is for the next guy to step up," Bradley said.
Safety Chris Prosinski sustained a head injury and is being evaluated for a concussion, Bradley said.
- Bradley: "A lot of guys were out there competing for jobs and it showed by their aggressiveness."
- Todman: "Any opportunity I get, my goal is to score and make a big play. I'm definitely trying to take advantage of every opportunity. I leave it on the field every day."
- Henne: "It was good to get in a rhythm and move the offense down the field and get some points out of that drive. The guys did a nice job making plays."
- Henne: "I'm just looking at this as an opportunity to come out here and play. The only thing I can worry about is running this offense and leading the team down the field, everything else will take care of itself."
The Jaguars will visit Atlanta Thursday in the preseason finale with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.