JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 34-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in a Preseason Week 3 game at AT&T Stadium Sunday
The Jaguars finally put together a complete game against the Cowboys. From start to finish, the Jaguars put on a dominating performance against a collection of backups and bubble players at AT&T Stadium. After hearing the criticism regarding the "college-like" atmosphere and practice methods of Head Coach Urban Meyer, the Jaguars responded with an A-plus performance that creates some positive momentum heading into the regular season. With the defense suffocating the Cowboys' offense and Trevor Lawrence and Co. throwing with ease, the Jaguars should step into the regular-season opener with an extra bounce in their steps.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Jaguars started fast and furious in the preseason finale. Lawrence sparked the effort with a spectacular performance in which he completed 11 of 12 passes for 139 yards with two touchdowns. The rookie looked comfortable and confident directing an offense that mixed quick-rhythm throws with a variety of high-completion-percentage bootlegs and movement throws that showcased his athleticism and accuracy on the move. Reserve quarterbacks C.J Beathard and Jake Luton picked up the baton and kept the Jaguars' offense rolling. Defensively, the Jaguars throttled the Cowboys' offense with a stout run defense, complementing air-tight pass coverage that made life miserable for their unproven quarterbacks. With the Cowboys' "B" team unable to hang with the Jaguars' starting units, Meyer's squad looked like a well-oiled machine in the preseason finale.
If there were any doubts about Lawrence's talent and potential, he quickly changed the narrative with a spectacular performance that showcased his athleticism, arm talent and instincts as a playmaker. The rookie was nearly perfect as a passer as the Jaguars' coaching staff made a concerted effort to help Lawrence find his rhythm in the pocket. Watching the game from the press box, the game plan appeared to feature a mix of plays from the Clemson playbook and traditional high-completion passes (bootlegs) designed to help the new QB1 get off to a fast start. The tactic paid huge dividends with Lawrence lighting up the Cowboys' defense with a variety of short, intermediate and deep balls that capitalized on the youth and inexperience in the defensive backfield. Considering the ridiculous critiques from haters looking to pick apart Lawrence's game, the spectacular performance should help the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft step into the regular-season opener with plenty of confidence.
UNDER THE RADAR
Duval County has been waiting for wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr to break out as a five-star playmaker for the Jaguars. The second-year pro provided a sneak peek at how he could impact the game as a multifaceted weapon on the perimeter. The 6-feet-1, 227-pounder finished with 33 receiving yards and a touchdown while flashing impressive skills as a "catch-and-run" specialist on the perimeter. Shenault's combination of power and skill could enable the Jaguars to feature him more as the designated "H-Back" role with rookie running back Travis Etienne Jr. out for the season.
Despite missing four starting offensive linemen, the Jaguars' offense looked like a well-oiled machine against the Cowboys. The unit clicked on all cylinders with the running game perfectly complementing a sizzling passing game that featured a mix of quick-rhythm throws from the shotgun and an assortment of movement throws (bootlegs) from under center. With Lawrence, Luton and Beathard taking turns picking apart the Cowboys' coverage, the Jaguars' running backs were able to find more room to run between the tackles on an assortment of zone-based runs. The Jaguars' carefully crafted approach resulted in a balanced effort and solid performance that gives the team confidence heading into the regular-season opener.
The defense coordinated by Joe Cullen continues to improve in front of our eyes. The young and hungry collection of athletes on the defensive side of the ball are starting to play as one, and the on-field results are starting to reflect that unity. Against the run, in particular, the Jaguars are stifling opponents attempting to pound the ball between the tackles. The Cowboys ran into a teal brick wall on most of their rushing attempts, as evidenced by the Jaguars surrendering just 76 rushing yards on 21 carries. Those numbers were inflated due to some late-game runs, but my film study reveals a solid overall effort from a frontline that consistently bottled up the running game throughout the preseason. The combination of improved size and strength at the point of attack, and the overall effort of the unit, has resulted in fewer leaks against the run. The Jaguars' pass coverage was also on point with the unit holding Cowboys passers to a 52.5-percent completion rate and 4.9 yards per attempt average. The Jaguars' sticky man-to-man tactics and creative pressure disrupted the rhythm of the Cowboys' passing game and made it harder for "America's Team" to sustain drives. With the defense starting to pick up their play at the end of the preseason, the Jaguars have some momentum heading into the regular season.