JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 24-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns in a Preseason Week 1 game at TIAA Bank Field Friday
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
1. Splashy start for first-team O. Talk about an ideal start. Friday marked Doug Pederson's first home game as Jaguars head coach, and it also marked the '22 debut of the Jaguars' first-team offense – and the night hardly could have gone better for quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the starters. Lawrence threw for 95 yards and a touchdown, with his 32-yard pass to wide receiver Zay Jones on the Jaguars' first play setting the tone. Running back Travis Etienne Jr. looked very good, a topic we'll discuss in the next quick thought. A major storyline was Jones, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March and continued the speed/playmaking ability he has shown throughout 2022 Training Camp. The first-team offense capped its night with a 63-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard pass from Lawrence to tight end Evan Engram, a 4th-and-2 "go-for-it" call by Pederson that capped an impressive night for the first-team offense in a fitting fashion.
2. Etienne looks ready – very ready. There were multiple positives for the Jaguars' first-team offense Friday, with Jones' two receptions for 47 yards and Lawrence's big plays chief among them. As impressive and encouraging as Jones: The early play of Etienne. He rushed for 23 yards on nine carries, but his first run of the game – a 12-yarder through the middle of the defense – was important. Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, missed his entire rookie regular season with a Lisfranc injury and Friday marked his first in-game action in nearly a year. Etienne ran hard on that early run and looked confident throughout his three series. He also had a nice 10-yard reception for a first down on the Jaguars' second drive, showing the versatility that the Jaguars hope will add a playmaking element to the offense. "I wasn't worried about getting hit," Etienne said. "I was trying to be the hammer, not the nail. I feel like I have a lot to work on. I feel like I showed some good things, but I want to be the best player I can be. Just knowing what I know, I feel like I've got to get back to the drawing board."
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…
1. Pederson set the tone for Friday night with practice on Sunday morning. He went live and the players responded with a great practice that became a great performance in Friday's first quarter. The Jaguars were more physical and bullied the Brown' starting offensive line a week after the Raiders bullied the Jaguars. The Jaguars' defensive front isn't just big; it's huge and it attacked the line of scrimmage and pushed the Browns backward until they pulled their starters at the end of the first quarter. Roy Robertson-Harris, Foley Fatukasi, DaVon Hamilton, Travon Walker, Josh Allen … it was a complete team effort up front. It was a very encouraging sign for a team that has struggled to set the tone the last couple of seasons.
2. It seemed as if the offensive line was equally efficient against Cleveland. Lawrence had plenty of time to see the field and had time to be patient. There was room for Etienne to run, especially behind five-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff and the combination of right tackles Jawaan Taylor and Walker Little. There is plenty of detail work that has to get done, but from what I saw it looked like the offensive line was a solid group with plenty of upsides. It would have been fun to see Marcus Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney but even without two guys who gave the Browns 25 sacks last season, it was still a formidable defense and one the Jaguars had success against.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars Team Reporter…
1. The starting defense is where it needs to be. The Jaguars' front played fast as a unit Friday and had great communication – and rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker looked even better this week than he did last week. The Jags held the Browns to seven total offensive yards on their first three offensive drives. Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson did nothing to this defense, completing one of five passes. We always knew this Jaguars defense was way better on paper than last season; now I see the biggest difference in the Jags' secondary. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins rushed and made the play for a fumble – and coverage from cornerback Tyson Campbell and safety Andre Cisco was lockdown. As a whole, I wanted to see the Jaguars' defense stop the run after that was an area of concern last week. They did just that.
2. I want to be worried about the depth. But it's the preseason and the starters look vastly improved. Pederson said afterward it's up to him and the coaching staff to get this second and third team on track. Pederson said fighting for a roster spot impacts how you play; he was there when he was a player and sometimes you can play "hero ball" to show you have what it takes to make the team. There was a vast drop off for the Jaguars on Friday when the teams' starters left the game. What I will remember from Friday is the Jaguars scored on each of their first three possessions. I cannot say last year's offense would have done that. That's progress.