JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 2017 Preseason Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers Thursday
- Do we have a winner? Not yet, and Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone confirmed as much Thursday by opting against naming a starting quarterback following a 24-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers in 2017 Preseason Week 3. Blake Bortles started and played the first half, with Blake Bortles playing all but one second-half series. The hope was to have one seize the job – and Marrone went so far as to play the starting line until Bortles left – an unusually long preseason stint for the first-team line. Still, neither Henne nor Bortles seized anything. The offense struggled in the first half with Henne passing for 73 yards and being sacked three times – and while Bortles fared better statistically with 125 yards passing and a touchdown, he also threw a third-quarter interception and was playing against Carolina's second- and third-team defense. Henne entered Thursday with momentum, and he did have two accurate long passes in the first half. Bortles had flash moments in the second half, including a nice four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Shane Wynn, but the interception was troubling. Perhaps Henne not throwing an interception will give him the edge. Stay tuned.
- How good is the Jaguars' defense? We don't yet know. This was a hard game to judge for the first defense, a unit that entered the game wanting a far better performance than it had last week. It got it, but only after Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton left the game. A week after Tampa Bay drove the length of the field on its first three possessions, Carolina drove easily for a touchdown on the game's first drive. The Panthers rushed for 54 yards on the drive, and Newton ended it with a 9-yard pass to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin against reserve cornerback Brian Dixon. The Jaguars' defense fared better against the Panthers' first-team offense with Newton out of the game the rest of the first half, but two consecutive weeks of early ineffectiveness is a concern.
- For most of the first half – and much of the game – this wasn't close to what the offense wanted. The Jaguars' first offense was stagnant for a second consecutive week, with 51 of the team's 98 yards offense on its first four drives coming on a fake punt by running back Corey Grant. The offense throughout the game struggled to run, with the first-team line playing into the fourth quarter partly because the team was playing Bortles deep into the second half and partly because Marrone correctly believes the unit needs work. The Jaguars went three and out on two of the first three drives, and only the fake punt prevented it from being three consecutive three and outs. The Jaguars' flash play on offense in the first half was a 37-yard pass from Henne to wide receiver Blake Bortles, but overall this wasn't the consistent performance this offense wanted Thursday.
- It doesn't matter who the quarterback is if the offensive line is going to play like that.
- I guess the job belongs to Chad Henne but I can't say that with any more confidence that than. Both did some good things and both had a few plays they'd rather not watch on tape this weekend. Either quarterback is going to have to rely on a strong running game, and unless the offensive line improves dramatically in the next two weeks I don't know if either will be able to. I know the quarterback story is 1A right now but the offensive line is 1B.
- Barry Church will bring a different dimension to the Jags defense this fall. I know Calais Campbell and AJ Bouye are the big money, big name guys but in run defense and in coverage #42 was all over the field. He's a big time tackler and will clean up a lot of plays with his awareness and range. I lost count at 8 or 9 tackles in the first half and that kind of production from the safety spot hasn't been seen in these parts since Donovin Darius left town. Mark my words he is going to be the steal of the free agent class.