Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Jaguars 25, Buccaneers 10

Quick Thoughts 083018
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler (6) warms up prior an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

TAMPA – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 2018 preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium Thursday …

Oehser…

1.Cody Kessler started at quarterback for the Jaguars on Thursday, but his preseason story already had been written. Credit the third-year veteran for playing so well in his first three preseason games that only the uninformed Jaguars fans/observers spent much time wondering about the Jaguars' backup quarterback situation. Kessler completed four of six passes for 32 and touchdowns with no interceptions Thursday in three series, making a relatively short appearance because there was no reason to expose him to further injury risk. Kessler, acquired by the Jaguars in an offseason trade from the Cleveland Browns, completed 36 of 46 passes for 332 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for the preseason and firmly established himself as the backup behind starter Blake Bortles. You want your backup quarterback to be able to get you through a crisis and give you a chance to stay competitive in the starter's absence. Kessler has played well enough to make the Jaguars feel good on that front.

2.Dante Fowler Jr. looks ready for the regular season. With few front-line players playing for the Jaguars Thursday, Fowler was one of the primary pre-game storylines – and he unsurprisingly looked active and dominant playing against the Buccaneers' reserve offensive line. The fourth-year defensive end had a five-yard tackle for a loss early in the game, and appeared to get good pressure on at least one first-half pass rush. Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, missed the first two preseason games because of a shoulder issue and team-issued suspension. He also will miss the regular-season opener against the New York Giants because of an NFL suspension. But he remains important to this defense. He was impressive in his first game preseason action last week in the second half of the Jaguars' victory over Atlanta, and his performance against Tampa Bay continued a preseason trend that – though brief – is encouraging.

3.Thursday featured good news for several Jaguars players, particularly wide receiver Jaydon Mickens. The third-year veteran was among 34 players ruled out before the game, with the Jaguars opting to sit all projected starters and many of their front-line players. A player being out of the fourth preseason game doesn't guarantee a roster spot, but it's the next-closest thing. Mickens figures to be one of at least five receivers on the roster along with D.J. Chark Jr., Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. Other veterans of note not playing on Thursday included tight end Niles Paul and defensive end Lerentee McCray, both of whom figure to be key special teams players. And while safety Cody Davis played on Saturday, he also figures to be on the roster because he is one of the team's better special teams players. Special teams were a major priority for the Jaguars in the offseason, and the aforementioned players are on the roster largely for that reason.

Sexton …

1.The Jaguars' two young running backs on Thursday each made a case for a spot on the team's practice squad. Tim Cook scored two touchdowns and Brandon Wilds ran wild at times, each impressing with their blend of size, quickness, change of direction and power. For a team that wants to run the ball as much as the Jaguars, it would seem to be a no-brainer than one of the two makes the practice squad – if not both. I don't see the Jaguars keeping a fourth running back but with the ferocious running style of Leonard Fournette it would seem wise to have both available so that you never miss a beat on the practice field – and if need be, the active roster. Flip a coin as to which one you'd like; they were both excellent in Tampa.

2.I didn't think there was any way third-team quarterback Tanner Lee would made it to the practice squad before Thursday. He looked so lost against the New Orleans Saints in the preseason opener that I thought the Jaguars would scour the waiver wire and find someone that could at least function in the pocket. Head Coach Doug Marrone told me on Wednesday evening at our preseason television production meeting he didn't have a good enough feel for Lee and wanted a good dose of the rookie from Nebraska before making a decision. He entered the game in the second quarter Thursday and delivered in the third, leading two touchdown drives and a field-goal drive to break the game wide open. He stood in the pocket and delivered the ball on a dime on two big gains to wide receiver Montay Crockett – and he even used his legs when things broke down to keep a drive alive. He's so far from being able to help this team on Sunday that it doesn't even bear mentioning, but he has made progress – maybe, just maybe, enough to earn a job preparing the defense for their opponent Wednesday through Friday.

3.I'm interested in a few guys who have practice-squad eligibility and have had some interesting moments in the preseason. William Poehls played left guard in Tampa after working exclusively at tackle in the first three preseason games – and from the look of it played pretty well. Rookie Quenton Meeks worked at corner and looked natural, then the rookie free agent from Stanford moved to free safety and looked almost as comfortable. Crockett should absolutely get a shot after running by defensive backs to make a couple of big catches, and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga held the point against the Bucs' running game. The focus now shifts to the stars and the starters, but it's worth mentioning the scouting and coaching staffs have done a nice job in building depth for a team that has its sights set on an extended period of winning. These are the guys that keep it going from the bottom of the roster.

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