JACKSONVILLE – The end of the preseason is upon us. At last.
But before we get to the real stuff – as in, the Jaguars' 2017 regular-season opener against the Houston Texans on September 10 – there remains one more preseason game.
That's against the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Thursday, and there are few challenges in the world of NFL analyzing quite like analyzing Preseason Week 4.
If the front-line players or starters play, they likely will do so sparingly. If game-planning is to happen, it likely will happen in the same way – sparingly.
The primary objective is to assess the end of the roster, and that will be the Jaguars' main objective Thursday.
So how to analyze the fourth preseason game? The best we can.
With that in mind, here are 10 things to watch when the Jaguars visit the Falcons Thursday:
1.Pre-game inactives:This list likely will be long, with many big names. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone this week didn't reveal his plan for starters or playing time Thursday, but if Jaguars starters play, they won't play for long.
2.Brandon Allen.The Jaguars' third-team quarterback, Allen started and played the entire game as a rookie last season. While Marrone hasn't indicated playing time for starter Blake Bortles or backup Chad Henne Thursday, look for Allen to play all or the vast majority of the plays. He has been impressive in much of his preseason action. Enough to make the roster for a second consecutive season? Or even surpass Henne into the backup role? Those will be stories to watch this weekend.
3.Left guard.Patrick Omameh started the first two preseason games at left guard, and Luke Bowanko started the third. It's not unreasonable to think Marrone might play the pair for a series or two in an effort to get another look at the competition. The starter here is another story to watch this weekend.
4.Offensive line.It would be unusual in the current NFL climate for the Jaguars' entire starting offensive line to play extensively in the preseason finale. So, it probably won't happen. Still, the Jaguars' offensive line played all but one series in Preseason Week 3 – and it played more than usual in Preseason Week 2. Considering the unit's struggles the last two weeks, a series or two Thursday wouldn't be out of the question.
5.Second- and third-quarter playing time.This is always worth watching in Preseason Week 4. Playing into the second and third quarter doesn't necessarily mean a player isn't going to make the roster, but it sure means he's among the players fighting for jobs.
6.Reserve cornerback.The Jaguars appear strong at starting corner and nickel with Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Aaron Colvin. Beyond that, Tyler Patmon and Brian Dixon have gotten a lot of first-team reps. It seems likely that duo will play extensively early Thursday, with the question being whether or not they have played their way onto the roster.
7.Jason Myers.Myers struggled to start the preseason, missing three field goals in the first two games and missing an extra point in a Preseason Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay after a short snap. That prompted the Jaguars to bring in several kickers for tryouts. He stabilized against Carolina last week, and the Jaguars love his leg strength on kickoffs, but Myers needs to finish the preseason strong.* *
8.Will Westbrook play? Or Yeldon?Rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook missed practice Monday to get treatment on an injury in Philadelphia, and didn't look as good as Marrone hoped in practice the next day. Marrone said third-year veteran running back T.J. Yeldon has been getting close to practicing in recent days. Both could be game-time decisions Thursday.
9.Cut-down day.NFL teams must trim their 90-man offseason rosters to 53 Saturday. The Jaguars have questions all around the roster. Will they keep three quarterbacks or two? Will Marquez Williams or Tommy Bohanon be the fullback, or could a player such as tight end Alex Ellis play the role? Will they keep nine or 10 offensive linemen? Have players such as Patmon, veteran defensive tackle Stefan Charles and rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole earned roster spots? Those are just a few storylines to watch Saturday.
10.Post cut-down day.The roster will get down to 53 on Saturday, but it seems unlikely the roster will be complete that day. Fullback, tight end, offensive line, interior defensive line, cornerback, linebacker …* *this feels like a year when the Jaguars could look for waiver-wire depth in a lot of positions around the roster after the initial cuts.