CANTON, Ohio – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 27-11 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, Thursday
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
- A strong start for the rookie. The Jaguars weren't near perfect Thursday – defensively or offensively. And a lot of front-line players didn't play in the preseason opener. But a key storyline was positive for the franchise – and that's that rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker showed up in his first NFL "game." Walker, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, showed impressive power and pressure in two series Thursday. He had pressure on the game's first play, though he was penalized (perhaps questionably) 15 yards for unnecessary roughness on quarterback Jarrett Stidham on a 31-yard pass that set up a Raiders field goal. Playing against Raiders tackle Brandon Parker, Walker handled himself well and got a consistent push – then registered a sack on Stidham on the second series. Walker must improve his pass-rushing technique but he was impressive physically in his NFL debut. "I thought he played extremely well," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "Travon did a nice job. When he got around the quarterback, he was disruptive. You saw his strength, his athleticism and his power."
- Breathe … and keep perspective. This wasn't a pretty game for the Jaguars. They allowed some big runs early that led to a couple of Raiders field goals – and the offense struggled. But the caveat that always must be remembered in August – that it's indeed just preseason – was particularly true for the Jaguars Thursday. Pederson held pretty much every frontline skill position out of the game, including: quarterback Trevor Lawrence, wide receiver Christian Kirk, wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., wide receiver Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram and running back Travis Etienne Jr. And don't get too panicky over the early Jaguars run defense. Defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, linebacker Foye Oluokun, linebacker Devin Lloyd and outside linebacker Josh Allen figure to be key to front seven's ability to stop the run. None played Thursday. "It's hard because this game's so violent," Pederson said. "You lose one player, two players … it can turn your year around in a hurry. So, you balance it. We still have a long way to go until we get to the regular season and I think our starters know that."
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…
- We saw the immense potential of Walker on the game's opening snap. We also saw a player whose pash rush needs development. Let's start with what was good. His bull rush moved the six-foot-seven Parker backward in a violent way, his long arms gave him a shot at the quarterback and he managed to tip the ball that was caught by Cole. Now the bad. He hesitated engaging Parker, which gave the quarterback time to step up and into his throwing motion. When Walker tossed Parker at Stidham's feet and lunged for the quarterback, he made contact with his helmet. That drew a flag, which added to Cole's reception and put the Raiders in scoring position on the game's first play. He's a powerful player with the ability to impact the game, but his pass rush skills need work. He finished with a tackle, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
- The Jags spent a lot of money and draft capital to make their defense better, but we didn't see many of those dollars in action Thursday. Fatukasi and Oluokun sat on Thursday, as did first-round draft pick Lloyd and cornerback Darious Williams. The guys who did play struggled to get their run-defense fit correctly and watched as Raiders running backs Josh Jacobs, Ameer Abdullah and Zamir White hit them for 10-plus yard gains. It's fair to expect them to be better with those guys in the lineup; I think we will all be watching closely next week when the Cleveland Browns come to Jacksonville with one of the NFL's best rushing attacks. It's also fair to look at an area that appeared to be deep with guys like DaVon Hamilton and Jay Tufele up front and linebackers Shaq Quarterman and rookie Chad Muma and think they should have fared better Thursday.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars Team Reporter…
- Let's start with the good, shall we? The Jaguars made the right pick No. 1 overall with Walker. He made an impact on the game's first play; his power and length were obvious. Everyone on the Jaguars sideline freaked out when Walker walked off the field after that first defensive series. Allen had a pen and paper in hand and was taking notes for Walker; we knew they had a great mentor/mentee relationship, but I thought Allen doing that was on another level. Pederson mentioned in his postgame press conference he would like to find the balance with Walker to eliminate penalties while not limiting his athletic ability. "Travon is going to be fun to watch this season," Pederson said.
- Now, what must improve: The running game on both sides of the ball. Pederson started almost all of his defensive players this game; the Raiders should not have been able to run as they did in the first quarter on what we have heard is an improved defensive unit. It is tough to be a critic of this defense after one preseason game and the entire unit not playing all together. Offensively, Pederson said rookie running back Snoop Conner can be more patient. Pederson wants to be more successful with the running game. The return of running back Travis Etienne Jr. should help with that.