JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 2019 preseason, which ended with a 31-12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Thursday …
1.Doug Marrone was all about health … If there was overriding theme to the Jaguars' 2019 preseason, this was it. The Jaguars' third-year head coach departed from his norm, playing starters and front-level players just one quarter in the team's four preseason games. The idea was to avoid the rash of injuries that wrecked the 2018 season.
2…. and the Jaguars indeed are healthy. While the Jaguars had multiple injuries to players throughout the preseason, they lost no starters for the season – and players such as linebacker Quincy Williams and tight end Geoff Swaim returned to practice this past week. "The one thing I am happy about is we're going into the first game and we're healthy," Marrone said. "That was the goal and that's where we are. Now, we have to be ready to play."
3.Even Marrone doesn't know if his approach will work. While Marrone reduced preseason game action, he increased repetitions for starters and front-line players in practice. Marrone said while he remains comfortable with the plan, the test will be how the Jaguars fare in the regular season. "It's still going to be how we go out onto the field and how we play," he said. "If we play well, then everything worked great. If we didn't play well, then we're going to have to fight through it because we know that adversity will be out there in those challenges. I'm excited to look and watch this team now."
4.The defense looks regular-season ready. This is based partly on history and partly on the starting defense's performance in a Preseason Week 3 loss to Miami. The first-team defense allowed 10 total yards and a first down to the Dolphins on four series. A defense that has ranked in the Top 6 in the NFL in yards allowed the last three seasons looked strong again.
5.Josh Allen has star quality. The No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, Allen had a spectacular game against Miami with four pressures and two tackle for losses. But that wasn't his only strong game. All indications are that the rookie edge defender is more than capable to living up to his reputation as one of the top two or three players in the draft.
6.The Jaguars' offensive line is healthy. This wasn't a given early in the preseason, but the Jaguars apparently will have a healthy offensive line entering the regular season. Projected starters: left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard Will Richardson Jr./A.J. Cann and right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Robinson spent the early part of training camp on the physically unable to perform list after missing the last 14 games of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but he played against Miami in Week 3 and is expected to start Week 1.
7.The defense could employ 3-4 looks this season. The Jaguars remain a 4-3 defense, but they showed a 3-4 formation early against Miami with Calais Campbell at end and Allen and Yannick Ngakoue standing up on the edge. Don't look for this to be the base formation, but it's a way to get three potentially devastating pass rushers on the field at the same time.
8.The Jaguars have some depth along the two lines. The Jaguars will cut NFL-caliber players on the defensive line. They also have at least five players – Norwell, Linder, Cann, Richardson and Tyler Shatley – who are reliable on the interior of the line. More questionable areas of depth include quarterback, running back, tight end and linebacker.
9.The Jaguars like Gardner Minshew … The Jaguars spoke highly of Minshew throughout the preseason and training camp, and they played him far more during the preseason than any other quarterback. They clearly think he has potential.
10. … but they're not sure how much. Minshew didn't lead a touchdown drive despite playing extensively in four preseason games. Marrone said multiple times this week he likes a lot about Minshew but would like to see more production in game situations. Will Minshew be the backup throughout the regular season? Stay tuned.
11.Leonard Fournette looks healthy, in shape and ready. The third-year running back has done everything right in camp and has been injury-free throughout the offseason. He needs a productive season and he looks ready for just that.
12.The Jaguars still have faith in Taven Bryan. No Jaguars player has been more of a hot-button issue this offseason than the second-year defensive tackle. He struggled in Preseason Week 3 with two roughing-the-passer penalties but had a sack and a hurry in the preseason finale. "I was happy," Marrone said. "It's a step in a right direction that he needed and one we wanted him to take."
13.The time for four preseason games may be past. The league has been in its current format in which most teams play four preseason games for more than 40 years. But teams are rapidly moving in the direction Marrone took this season, playing fewer starters in Weeks 1 and 2 and playing essentially no starters in Week 4. That has caused the anti-preseason voices to grow louder. Look for the league to move to two preseason games sooner rather than later. An idea reportedly has been proposed to reduce the preseason to two games and add a playoff team – and playoff game – in each conference. That could have merit.
14.The regular season is here. At last.