View from the O-Zone: Day for the defense

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – They played "nice" all week.

Then the game came …

And while Preseason Week 2 looked very much like a preseason game, one aspect had to give this team a good feeling.

That was the story for the Jaguars' Week in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, a week that featured two joint practices against one of the NFL's best teams and a week that ended with a preseason game Saturday afternoon against that same team – the defending NFC North Champion Minnesota Vikings.

We'll quickly mention the Jaguars winning Saturday, 14-10, at state-of-the-art U.S. Bank Stadium, but we mostly will emphasize that what the Jaguars saw at times Saturday – particularly from the first defense – bodes very well for the regular season.

The Jaguars' first-team defense was dominant Saturday, plain and simple.

"They're loaded with weapons," Jaguars safety Barry Church said of the Vikings. "That showcases what we can do defensively. That was just the first half, so that was a little glimpse. We're going to try to build on that performance."

What we glimpsed: 67 first-half yards for the Vikings, including 17 passing. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed three of eight passes for 12 yards.

"It was a good day for the defense, but plenty of stuff to work on," linebacker Myles Jack said.

It's perhaps not right to say the Jaguars' defensive players played Saturday with a chip on their shoulders. But to say that the Vikings' defense' No. 1 NFL ranking last season was on the collective minds of a Jaguars defense that ranked second …

Yeah, it would be right to say that.

"Obviously they apparently ended up the No. 1 defense, so during the week in practice we tried to make a mark and make them remember," Jack said. "There was definitely a competitive edge."

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone talked afterward about appreciating practicing twice against the Vikings this week. It was a heartfelt message from a coach who values the work his team gets against teams as good and well-coached as the Vikings.

Marrone also sent a message he undoubtedly will repeat this week after a game that featured an early interception by quarterback Blake Bortles, 13 Jaguars penalties for 140 yards and some rough patches for a beat-up offensive line.

"Obviously, we got the win, but I don't want them leaving this locker room thinking, 'Hey, listen, we're really close,''' Marrone said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us."

Marrone didn't emphasize this, but it's important to remember that the second preseason game – like the first – is still more practice than game. The team remains in training camp mode, with little-to-no-game-planning compared to next week's third preseason game against Atlanta.

Because of the lack of game-planning, drawing preseason conclusions is tricky. But here's what we saw from the Jaguars Saturday:

We saw Bortles throw a bad interception early and respond with an impressive 70-yard drive for a touchdown that he set up with a 14-yard scramble. It wasn't perfection, and the interception by safety Harrison Smith looked like "Bad Blake," but the overall performance after that seemed OK.

We saw the defense dominate, and the thought here is it was a good thing Cousins' numbers didn't belong to Bortles. Imagine the angst of Jaguars fans in that scenario.

We also saw the Jaguars' defense do what it did without three starters – free safety Tashaun Gipson, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus – and without rush end Dante Fowler. The Jaguars' less-then-full strength looked like extra strength early Saturday.

We saw Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (a sack) look again like a player primed for what would be a breakout year if he hadn't already made the Pro Bowl. Whatever you call the year Ngakoue seems, he looks like a man ready to play.

What we saw wasn't all good. We saw a beat-up offensive line look like it at times, and we saw so many flags from the Jaguars that Marrone will have some easy talking points this week.

Overall, what we saw Saturday was the culmination of a week in which Marrone wanted good work against a good team. That was the first mission, which was accomplished before Saturday. You couldn't watch the week's professional, incident-less practices without feeling like that was happening. And these teams truly did play nice all week, proving that it is possible for two NFL teams to practice against one another sans skirmish or scrap.

You also couldn't watch those practices without feeling like you were watching two teams with potential for big, big things this season. Then the game came …

And the Jaguars played pretty well, particularly on defense.

Well enough, in fact, that whatever else happened on Saturday this team had to leave for home Saturday feeling very good about what's to come.

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