JACKSONVILLE – Expect more of the same.
That was the message from Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone this week – that his approach to playing time in Thursday’s preseason home opener likely will be similar to the one he took in a preseason-opening loss to Baltimore last week.
A lot of starters and front-line players won’t be playing.
The Jaguars held 30 players out of the preseason opener, including quarterback Nick Foles, running back Leonard Fournette, defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, linebacker Myles Jack and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
The idea is to reduce injury risk and help coaches determine the bottom of the roster. It would be a surprise if many – or any – of the players listed above plays against the Philadelphia Eagles at TIAA Bank Field Thursday at 7 p.m.
So, what to watch Thursday? Here’s a look at 10 things:
1)Who’s in, who’s out. While many front-line players won’t play for the Jaguars Thursday, that doesn’t mean no big names or important players are playing. Players such as rookie defensive end Josh Allen, second-year defensive tackle Taven Bryan, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi played against the Ravens and they could play Thursday. Marrone isn’t expected to reveal who’s playing until shortly before kickoff, but there will be storylines even without the stars.
2)Jarrod Wilson. Marrone this week said players who might be candidates to be held out of Preseason Week 2 will have the option of playing if the player so chooses. He cited Wilson as such a player. If he plays, it will be the fourth-year veteran’s first snaps in the starting safety position he is expected to hold this season next to second-year veteran Ronnie Harrison.
3)Gardner Minshew. The Jaguars’ rookie quarterback struggled at times in Baltimore. He also responded well at times to adversity. He continued responding with a couple of quality practices this past week. The Jaguars want Minshew to be the backup to Foles, and he remains the best option. A better outing against the Eagles would go a long way to solidifying confidence in this area.
4)Tanner Lee/Alex McGough. Lee, the Jaguars’ third-team quarterback and a ’18 sixth-round draft selection, struggled mightily in the second half against Baltimore – getting sacked twice and throwing an interception that was returned for a 19-yard touchdown. McGough, who signed as a free-agent in January after spending ’18 on Seattle’s practice squad, completed three of eight passes for 19 yards. McGough showed more than Lee, and both players would appear to be trying to earn a spot on the practice squad.
5)The right-guard competition. Marrone this past weekend mentioned three players – longtime starting right guard A.J. Cann, second-year veteran Will Richardson and second-year veteran Brandon Thomas – as possibilities to start here. Look for all three to play Thursday if healthy.
6)Bryan/Dawuane Smoot. Bryan was the Jaguars’ first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft; Smoot – a defensive end – was their third-round ’17 selection. Neither has had a huge impact, but Marrone lauded both players this past week for their performance against Baltimore and for their recent practice performance. If these players continue to ascend and contribute, an already-very good defensive line will get even better.
7)Keelan Cole/Terrelle Pryor Jr. These two receivers could be fighting for one roster spot. Don’t overlook fourth-year veteran Tre McBride or rookie Tyre Brady. There’s a long way to go in this one, though the thought here remains it will be tough to keep Cole off the roster.
8)The penalty issue. The Jaguars committed 10 penalties for 109 yards against the Ravens. Marrone talked strongly about the issue following the game, vowing that this season’s Jaguars will not be a “dumb” team when it comes to penalties. A lot of the players committing those penalties last week won’t be on the regular-season roster, but Marrone clearly wants to set the tone in this area.
9)Depth. Marrone’s money quote following the Baltimore game makes this an obvious area to a watch against Philadelphia: “We have to see what the depth is. Right now, it’s not good. We have to develop those guys.” Whatever the final score, a close eye will be – and should be – kept on how the players who are likely to make roster fare against the Eagles.
10)The injury issue. The Jaguars have been fortunate this preseason in the sense that serious, season-ending injuries have been kept to a minimum. But the shorter-term injuries have made it difficult to evaluate several positions, particularly tight end and offensive line. Key in this preseason game – as with any preseason game – is avoiding further injuries.