JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what stood out from the Jaguars' 23-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns Saturday in the 2021 preseason opener at TIAA Bank Field …
1.Lawrence looks like a No. 1 overall selection … What has been true throughout 2021 Training Camp remained true Saturday night: Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence very much looks the part of the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. He started and played two series Saturday, completing six of nine passes for 71 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked twice and said afterward he held the ball too long at times. He also had at least two passes with eye-catching velocity and touch – including a 35-yarder to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. on the final play of the first quarter. It was a "Wow" moment for a player who promises to produce many more such moments. Center Brandon Linder summed up how Jaguars players feel about Lawrence with the money quote of the night: "The kid understands it. He sees it. He's only going to get better."
2. … and he has improving to do. The offense on Saturday allowed three sacks, with Lawrence getting sacked once on each of his two first-quarter series. "At least one of those sacks was on me for sure, just holding the ball too long," Lawrence said. "That's something I'll work on and just maneuvering in the pocket is something I've always got to work on."
3.The first-half offense wasn't good enough. The Jaguars produced 85 yards total offense in the first half. Head Coach Urban Meyer was asked afterward how he felt in his first game coaching since 2018. "It felt great – until I looked up and saw 85 yards at halftime," he said.
4.Meyer wants faster tempo offensively. Meyer in particular thought the offensive tempo was too slow in the first half Saturday. "I don't like slow offenses," he said. "I thought the third quarter was better with just tempo, getting up the line of scrimmage, snap the ball. I don't want to be one of those slow, wallowing offenses, and we'll go and get that fixed." Meyer specified he didn't "at all" think Lawrence caused the tempo issue. "No, it was on us," he said. "We've just got to get it and go, go, go, and emphasize that." Said Linder, "You just rep that in practice. That's just something you've got to do in practice, and that's something that we'll emphasize this week.
5.The run defense looks improved early. This unit needed to improve from last season – and the Jaguars added defensive tackle Malcom Brown, defensive ends Jihad Ward and Rob Robertson-Harris and nose tackle Jay Tufele toward that end. A unit that ranked 31st in the NFL last season held Cleveland to 41 yards rushing on 26 carries Saturday. "I thought our defense hung in there," Meyer said. "We gave up a lot of yards passing but did good against the run." Said defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen: "Our goal every time we take the field is to stop the run. If we can't rush the passer, we can't get pressure. We can't do what we need to do unless we stop the run."
6.The Jaguars like their depth at inside linebacker. Meyer when discussing the late-week trade of inside linebacker Joe Schobert to Pittsburgh cited young players such as Shaq Quarterman, Quincy Williams, Dakota Allen and Chapelle Russell's ability in the middle of the defense and on special teams as reasons for the move. "We felt good about the depth we have right now at the linebacker position," Meyer said.
7.Meyer is still getting used to the NFL. One of the more intriguing storylines of the Jaguars' offseason and preseason has been Meyer's candidness about learning the NFL. One of the most successful all-time college coaches, Meyer talked in the offseason of learning about the realities of free agency – and he spoke recently about depending on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and passing-game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in handling quarterbacks and two-minute drills. He said Saturday he's getting accustomed to the idea of not playing veteran players extensively during the preseason. "The newness to me is the length of the season," he said. "I keep hearing that over and over again, and I'm learning. I would have kept them in the whole game, but that probably is not very intelligent."
8.Phillip Agnew is really valuable. If Agnew's importance wasn't clear before, Meyer made it clear Saturday. Agnew, a fifth-year veteran, signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason. He had two receptions for 10 yards Saturday before leaving the game – a decision Meyer said he made. "I pulled him," Meyer said. "I thought he had a couple nice plays, but I pulled him out because he's our returner. We invested quite a bit into that, so he's going to be with kid gloves until we get to Game 1. He's so valuable."
9.CJ Henderson is improving. One of the most encouraging developments of the past week for the Jaguars has been the return of CJ Henderson. The No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft missed the first eight days of '21 camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list – and after missing practice last Sunday for personal reasons, he practiced three consecutive days last week. He followed that with an impressive performance Saturday, defensing two passes – including a deep pass to wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. "For him just to go out there and make plays like that, I feel like we have a heck of a talented corner," defensive end Josh Allen said. Said Meyer, "I just like the fact he's getting back into game shape. COVID knocked the teeth out of him, and then he came back and started practicing good. So, we've just got to get him revved up to game speed and game shape."
10.The Jaguars really like DaVon Hamilton. Second-year defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton has been one of the standout players of Jaguars '21 camp, a point reiterated by Allen Saturday: "DaVon [Hamilton] has the capabilities of being the best nose tackle in the whole NFL. We tell him that. Everybody tells him that. Everybody truly believes that he can be the best nose tackle, and I think he is. As long as he believes that, as long as he goes out there and does his job, he's going to be the best."