MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – We got our first glimpse. At last.
That it was only a glimpse is important to remember as we analyze, criticize and scrutinize what we saw from the Jaguars’ starters in a 22-7 preseason loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium Thursday night.
This wasn’t a season’s worth of work.
This wasn’t a game’s worth of work.
It wasn’t even a half of work, but it was the much-anticipated first work of the 2019 preseason for the Jaguars’ starters. It was also the only preseason work for most Jaguars front-line players. That made it notable, and it made what new quarterback Nick Foles thought about it notable, too.
“Obviously, there was some good and some bad,” Foles said. “The big thing is it’s just good being out there.”
Foles was a key storyline on a night of multiple Jaguars storylines, so before we get to the mega-performance of rookie Josh Allen – and a similar performance overall from the starting defense – we’ll discuss Foles and the first-team offense.
And while Head Coach Doug Marrone wasn’t thrilled with some aspects of Thursday’s game – and while he remains concerned about depth – he had no problems with Foles’ first appearance in a Jaguars uniform.
“I was happy,” Marrone said. “I’m fine with it.”
Foles, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from Philadelphia this past offseason, provided more insight into why he believes strongly in the offense as the season approaches.
Foles completed six of 10 passes for 48 yards and a touchdown with an interception in a little more than a quarter. He and the first-team offense looked really good on one drive – a 75-yarder that ended with Foles’ 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dede Westbrook. The first-team unit looked on its other series like what it was – a unit playing its first game of action of any kind together, and a unit likely to have hiccups early in the season and improve as the season continues.
Foles absolutely said he’s fine with where the group stands as the regular season approaches – and his reason goes beyond Thursday’s game.
“Football’s a crazy game,” Foles said. “it’s really about relationships. I’m a broken record, but I’ve come off the bench at the end of a season without playing any ball and I’ve had to play ball at the highest level. The reason I was able to do that is the people who were around me. I trusted, I loved them and I cared for them. Those are the things I believe in when I play the game: trust, love and caring for the guys around me. All of those things can overcome anything. We’re going to have Xs and Os and we’re going to have plays, but execution comes when there’s an energy, when you trust the guy next to you.
“It’s not, ‘Oh, wow this play’s great.’ Anyone will tell you it’s because you actually care and there’s a special energy when you run the play. Tonight is a positive thing for us. People might look at it like, ‘Oh, ya’ll lost the game …’ No. I was on the sideline. I was in the huddle. This thing is building. We’re going to continue to believe in one another and getting to know one another, that’s where special things happen.
“We just have to stay positive, keep our heads up. And keep working. We’re going to be all right.”
Foles’ debut was the highlight for the Jaguars’ offense, but it wasn’t all that mattered. Running back Leonard Fournette also made his 2019 debut, rushing for 27 yards on 17 carries and catching two passes for 19 yards. There was good news on this front; Fournette looked fast and physical, and ran hard.
None of which was the Jaguars’ main story Thursday.
No, the main story on this night was Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. A defensive end has to play very well to be a team’s biggest story on the night their highly-paid free agent quarterback makes his debut.
Allen didn’t just play well. He played phenomenally.
He had at least four quarterback pressures. He had two tackles for losses. He had Jaguars Twitter and the national media following the game in something of a tizzy – but more importantly, he showed precisely why many considered him one of the two or three best players in the ’19 draft.
If Allen is as good as he looked Thursday – and nothing we have seen in training camp suggests he is not – then he will be special. And what already is a good defense will be so much the better.
Yes, we only got a glimpse of the Jaguars Thursday, and what we saw will be overanalyzed, scrutinized and criticized this week. The good news for the Jaguars is the quarterback likes where the offense is now – and where it’s headed.
The even better news is there’s a star forming on the other side of the ball that may burn brightly far sooner than anyone could have expected.