ATLANTA – It's time to move on. And yeah, we get it:
Moving on almost certainly was the View from the O-Zone theme following the Jaguars' 2016 preseason finale, and following their 2015 preseason finale, and following their 2014 preseason finale …
And so on and so on.
Moving forward and looking ahead is the nature of every NFL preseason finale, and it was the overriding nature of the Jaguars' 13-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Thursday's '17 version.
Yes, things happened on the field that mattered.
Yes, careers were on the line.
Yes, a few dreams came true and a lot ended – and to those playing at the magnificent, new Mercedes-Benz Stadium Thursday those dreams mattered a great deal.
But Thursday mostly was about moving on – to the regular season. That's why the night was about the players not playing, including quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Chad Henne. In all, 34 players sat out for the Jaguars as the team rested front-line players in advance of the 2017 regular-season opener.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone was asked if he was comfortable with the roster with the regular season at hand.
"Most of the time when I get asked that question, 'How comfortable are you …' I'm just wired maybe differently; I don't think I'm ever comfortable," Marrone said. "One thing about this league is I don't know that you ever feel comfortable from the standpoint that I feel comfortable.
"Comfortable to me is not a lot going on, sitting on my couch, petting my dogs, watching TV. It's a boring life, but it's comfortable for me."
So, then, Marrone isn't comfortable.
And the head coach also said Thursday he didn't yet know how the game's primarily storyline played out. The Jaguars entered the game looking for answers at the guard position, particularly at left guard. Earl Watford started there, and every guard on the roster played in some capacity. A.J. Cann, Luke Bowanko, Patrick Omameh, Watford. A starting tandem almost certainly will emerge from that group, but entering Thursday none had distinguished himself. As for Thursday, Marrone said he'll need to review video from the game before saying much about the position.
Which brings us to the question:
How ready are the Jaguars as the real stuff gets ready to really happen?
That's a fair question, and it's fair if your answer isn't drenched in optimism. It has been a worrisome preseason on a few fronts. The most obvious front is quarterback, where Marrone opened the competition for a week before naming Bortles the starter. Bortles opened training camp as the starter, and when the starting quarterback closes camp on less stable ground than when it opened …
Well, there's nothing ideal about that.
The same is true of needing starting competitions to play out in Preseason Week 4; because that was the case at left guard – and perhaps right guard – there are legitimate concerns there, too. Some way, somehow this offensive line needs to find answers – and needs to establish itself as a run-blocking unit – in the coming 10 days. This team's philosophy is going to be to run. That's not going change.
Performance must improve for that philosophy to have the desired effects.
Images from the Jaguars fourth preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
But you know what? Those things being true in Preseason Week 4 doesn't mean they must remain true. And those things being true doesn't mean the season is over.
And the Jaguars' 2017 season is not over. In fact, it is just beginning.
This remains a team with talent at some key positions – wide receiver, secondary, defensive line and linebacker most notably. We have yet to see this team with cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Aaron Colvin all playing together. They are expected to be the strength of the defense, so it's fair to hope their return will matter.
Also, this team's offense likely will go as rookie running back Leonard Fournette goes – and we saw him for just nine yards on 31 carries. The first-team offense struggled without him, but it's also fair to hope his return will matter. A lot.
Within that last paragraph is perhaps the best news for the Jaguars as Preseason Week 4 fades into Regular Season Week 1 – that this is a comparatively healthy team. The team has placed just one player on injured reserve: long snapper Carson Tinker. Elsewhere this is a healthy roster, and the sense here is Ramsey, Colvin, Campbell, Fournette and wide receiver Marqise Lee – all critical players who missed significant preseason time – will play Week 1.
Will their presence change the dynamic? We'll see, and with Preseason Week 4 now having faded and the real stuff now at hand, it needs to change. The real stuff is at hand.
It's time to move on.