JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 2017 Preseason Week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday
- There are fewer bigger preseason happenings than the creation of uncertainty at quarterback. That's what happened at EverBank Field Thursday when backup quarterback Blake Bortles played first-team repetitions in place of starter Blake Bortles in the second quarter. This was planned before the game so coaches could get a look at Henne running the first team; whether or not it was planned, the significance is obvious: a decision must be made on starting quarterback – and there are only about three more weeks to make it. Bortles was inconsistent early Thursday, and had a couple of really rough throws; Henne's statistics weren't great, but he had two accurate, aggressive passes dropped in the end zone by wide receivers Blake Bortles and Keelan Cole. It felt like something close to a spark on a night the Jaguars needed it. The guess here is this decision gets made before the fourth preseason game, but who will start at quarterback Week 1? Henne or Bortles? Right now, that's anyone's guess.
- It would be easy to be all-quarterback all the time in these quick thoughts, but we'll have plenty of time and places to cover that elsewhere. There were other issues Thursday, including some significant struggles for the Jaguars in the running game early. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette missed the game with a foot issue, and the starting offensive line of left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Chris Reed, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell struggled to create holes in the Buccaneers' defensive line. The Jaguars rushed for no yards on four carries on the first three possessions. This is a team that wants and needs to run effectively. Even with Fournette unavailable, this area must be better.
Images from the Jaguars second preseason game as they welcomed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to EverBank Field.
- This will be a difficult game for the defense to digest. Yes, the team was playing without its top three corners – Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Jalen Myrick – and a lot of the Buccaneers' effectiveness on an early touchdown drive was quarterback Jameis Winston working the ball around the secondary. But the Buccaneers drove the length of the field on their first three possessions, producing 187 yards and a 12-0 lead in that span. Buccaneers running back Doug Martin was averaging six yards a carry at that point, and Winston had completed 14 of 18 passes for 138 yards. Winston finished the first half completing 21 of 29 passes for 196 yards. This wasn't the Jaguars' entire first-team defense, but it was still too easy too often for the Buccaneers' offense. A bright spot for the Jaguars' defense: a sack/fumble by defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. on Winston late in the first half. Fowler continues to have a good preseason/camp.
- When Keelan Cole dropped Chad Henne's pass in the end zone at the end of the first half I thought we might be talking about a quarterback competition. When Allen Robinson dropped the ball I knew we would. Blake Bortles joked with the media this evening, at least I think he was joking, that we made the job difficult sometimes. The truth is his inability to grab the reigns and take control of the offense opened the door wide to this kind of conversation.
- Cole and rookie Dede Westbrook continue to shine. Westbrook posted 6 catches for 131 yards and looked effortless in the open field. I thought at one point on his catch and long run that his body control and ability to move in traffic reminded me of Justin Blackmon which I mean as a compliment. Cole's 31 yard punt return set up what should have been a touchdown late in the first half and it's just another thing he can do to build his resume for the final cuts. He dropped what should have been his second touchdown catch of the pre-season but he's flashed so brightly that it's almost impossible for that play to diminish what he's done every day on the practice fields and in the games.
- The most troubling part of the loss this evening was the relative ease with which the Bucs ran the ball. Doug Martin consistently befuddled the linebackers and safeties with his cutbacks and Peyton Barber played with the kind of power that I wasn't sure this defensive front would be susceptible to. They're going to have to work to manufacture a pass rush this season until or unless Dante Fowler Jr comes alive and they're hoping to create more turnovers with a supplemented secondary…but stopping the run…that they expected to be able to do from the very early parts of training camp and the pre-season.