JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 26-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016 Preseason Week 3 Sunday …
1.The Jaguars struggled in several areas early Sunday, perhaps most notably stopping the run. Bengals running back Giovani Bernard rushed for 27 yards on three carries in the first quarter and Jeremy Hill rushed for 18 yards on four carries. One major reason was the absence of Jaguars nose tackle Roy Miller, who has missed the last two games with a quad injury. Miller's stoutness and physicality is key to the run defense and his absence showed up in a big way on the interior Sunday. Still, this was not the performance needed from a unit that prides itself on stopping the run. This team can't win defending the run poorly and it must play better than it did Sunday – with or without Miller.
2.With starters and front-line players not expected to play extensively if at all in Week 4, this wasn't the finish the Jaguars wanted to the preseason – and particularly at the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars throughout the first half not only struggled to stop the run, they failed to run as effectively as they had in the first two preseason games. That wasn't a total shock because the Bengals have one of the NFL's most physical, athletic defensive fronts. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins was particularly effective working against Josh Wells, who was making his first career start at left guard for the Jaguars. The Jaguars' starters left after the first half, and while quarterback Blake Bortles managed just 52 yards passing and no touchdowns, just as noticeable were the Jaguars' 38 yards rushing on nine carries. Take away a 23-yard cutback run by T.J. Yeldon and Yeldon/Chris Ivory rushed for 15 yards on eight carries. Those numbers are too similar to last season when the Jaguars rarely established the all-important threat of the run. The running game looked like a strength in the first two preseason games. If this team is going to do what it expects to do, it needs to get it looking like that again.
3.Mistakes continued to be an issue for the Jaguars in Preseason Week 3, continuing a preseason-long trend. While the Jaguars looked good early in the first two preseason games, they also committed 25 penalties. Jacksonville committed six in the first half against the Bengals, but even beyond penalties there was an overall sloppy feeling early Sunday. Yeldon's first-drive fumble led directly to Cincinnati's first touchdown and a touchdown reception by Jaguars linebacker/fullback Hayes Pullard III midway through the second quarter was negated because Pullard did not report as eligible. This hasn't been an overly-penalized regular-season team in recent years. Head Coach Gus Bradley and staff have two weeks to ensure that remains the case.
1.This wasn't what they wanted and it wasn't what was expected. On a night when the NBC cameras were broadcasting the game all over the nation, Jags fans wanted the country to see the team they're so excited about – the offense that has rightfully earned some preseason love from the national media and a defense that is much more talented than last season's bunch. Instead, they got a fumble on their side of the field that led to a Cincinnati touchdown. They got a penalty that gave the Bengals a first down at their own one and led to a 14-0 lead – and they got a penalty that negated a touchdown when linebacker Hayes Pullard III neglected to check in as an eligible receiver. The Jaguars didn't have to show the nation they were an elite team; only that they were improved. On Sunday night, it wasn't exactly evident.
Photos from the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars in week three of the preseason.
2.I don't think Luke Joeckel looks like he fits at left guard. He played pretty well by all accounts when he was at left tackle before Kelvin Beachum returned this week. He didn't play well Sunday night and struggled – albeit against Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, who are two of the best interior defensive linemen in the game. The footwork told the story to me: he didn't have the quick, sudden feet that a guard needs to move in tight spaces and lost his balance or was forced to reach too often. I get that it was his first-ever start at guard and the caliber of competition was extreme, but from my sideline view it was pretty obvious he was out of position. The question now: is he one of your best five offensive linemen when he's playing guard and not tackle? I'm not sure they have enough information to make that judgement right now and he's not likely to play until Opening Day.
3.Myles Jack stood out – a lot. He's going to force the Jaguars to find a way to get his superior athleticism on the field as soon as they can. His speed is epic and his instincts are primal. He's looking for something to blow up or someone to put on the ground on every play. We've seen flashes from Dante Fowler Jr. and Jalen Ramsey – and on Sunday, we saw the same thing from Jack. Not to put lipstick on a pig after a bad performance, but the talent level on the Jaguars' roster is better than it has been in a decade. Guys like these, plus Blake Bortles, T.J. Yeldon, Blake Bortles, Blake Bortles and … well, you get the point. It's easier to get back to work when you have this kind of talent to build around.