JACKSONVILLE – Preseason Week 3 is a bit bigger this time around.
Doesn't it feel that way for the Jaguars this season – like Thursday's preseason game has some bigness to it that the preseason doesn't always carry?
Quarterback uncertainty has that effect on things.
So does a tough game in front of the home crowd a week before.
Those things are real things for the Jaguars, and they contribute to a sense of urgency around Thursday's Week 3 Preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at EverBank Field. Yes, the third game of the preseason often feels sort of big. That's because of the dress-rehearsal approach many teams take to the game.
But Thursday's game somehow feels a little bigger than your normal dress rehearsal.
And while it's still "just a preseason game," there are a bunch of areas where this team has some doing to get done Thursday. Here are 10 things the Jaguars must get done in what feels like a bigger preseason game than normal:
1)Find a quarterback.No team wants quarterback unrest in Preseason Week 3. Still, that's the Jaguars' situation. Chad Henne and Blake Bortles both likely will get reps with the first team Thursday; while Head Coach Doug Marrone hasn't named a starter as of Wednesday afternoon, signs point to Henne. The guess here is Henne starts the regular season, too. The reason: Bortles held the job entering training camp and lost his hold on it; when quarterback momentum goes one way in the preseason, it's tough to change direction. Still, momentum doesn't mean a decision has been made. That needs to happen as soon as possible after Thursday.
2)Have QB1 play well.The guess here is Marrone will have a good idea after Thursday who will start at quarterback Week 1. But more than knowing the identity of the starter, he needs to feel good about the choice. Whether it's Henne or Bortles, the Jaguars need QB1 to play well Thursday. Marrone needs it. The players need it. Heck, the entire franchise needs it.
3)Kick with consistency.Kicker Jason Myers isn't under as much scrutiny as Henne/Bortles this week, but that's only because of the high-profile nature of the quarterback position. Myers has field goals of 53, 50 and 40 yards this preseason. He remains the lone kicker on the roster, but the Jaguars worked out multiple kickers this week. The Jaguars love Myers' leg strength, but he must be consistent on placements. It's critical.
4.Get Ramsey reps. Second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey will play for the first time this preseason, having sat out the first two games after mid-June core surgery. Ramsey just started practicing full this week, so a full run with the starters isn't likely. Still, this likely will be his lone game action of the preseason. The Jaguars' best defensive back needs reps.
5.Play fast.The Jaguars looked listless in a 12-8 Preseason Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, particularly in the first half. Players wouldn't say it, but it was logical that they had some dead legs following a taxing, first couple of weeks of training camp. Practices didn't appear to be quite as strenuous this week. Could that mean more energy and intensity?
6.Run block.The Jaguars expect to be a running team this season. They were anything but that against Tampa Bay last week as running backs rushed for just 30 yards on 17 carries. That's nothing close to the way this team wants and expects to run.
7.Stop the run.Somewhat overshadowed by the offensive line play – and the quarterback play, and the kicker play – last week was the defense struggled in a big way in the first half against Tampa Bay. Part of that was Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston picking on backup corners, but Tampa Bay running backs had easy gains too often. That's not how this team expects to defend the run.
8.Stay healthy.The Jaguars thus far this preseason are relatively healthy. While running back Leonard Fournette, wide receiver Marqise Lee, running back T.J. Yeldon, tight end Mychal Rivera and cornerback A.J. Bouye were ruled out by Marrone earlier this week, none appear to be long-term injuries. This likely is the last preseason game for front-line players. Getting through it healthy is a must.
9.Win – or at least play better than Week 2.Not a lot went right for the Jaguars in Preseason Week 2. Perhaps much of that was the aftereffect of overall fatigue from training camp. Even with that, the loss to the Buccaneers left a bad taste. No better time in the preseason than Week 3 to erase bad taste. A better performance is needed Thursday in a big way.
10.Find the quarterback. Again with "find a quarterback." Yes, it's that important. Time is running short. A decision must be made. The guess here is Marrone won't wait long at all to make it.