JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the past week around the Jaguars – and from Saturday's 27-21 Preseason Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1.Blake Bortles is maturing …This first entry isn't meant to call Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles elite. It's still too early for that. But it's not too early to say the third-year veteran is starting to look like … a third-year veteran. He has completed 15 of 19 preseason passes for 190 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a preseason passer rating of 147.7. Things will get trickier once teams start game-planning in the regular season, but the improvement you're seeing from Bortles isn't fake. He's better.
2. … and the first-team offense is maturing, too.The first-team offense has scored touchdowns on three of five preseason possessions and it could have scored a fourth had tight end Julius Thomas caught a catchable touchdown pass in the preseason opener. Defenses aren't game-planning yet, but all of the things you wanted to see from this offense in preseason, you're seeing.
3.Allen Robinson is good.The guy has an elite-receiver look. Here's guessing he looks a lot more like it by season's end. The difference in Robinson now from this time last season is significant – and he was pretty good this time last season.
4.Chris Ivory runs hard. This isn't a surprise to anyone who saw him lead the AFC in rushing last season, but Ivory has looked every bit as powerful and effective in two preseason games as he did with the New York Jets last season.
Photos from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars in week two of the preseason.
5.The Jaguars' running backs look good.The Jaguars' two-headed backfield of Ivory and T.J. Yeldon has now played well in back-to-back games. Maybe it's just preseason, but the Jaguars' running game hasn't looked this effective since 2011 when Maurice Jones-Drew won the NFL rushing title.
6.The offensive line looks better …Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley talked extensively the day after the loss to the Bucs of the improvement of this group. The first-team line has run-blocked well in two preseason games and kept Bortles pretty clean.
7. … and so does Luke Joeckel.Joeckel, the oft-criticized fourth-year left tackle, has put together back-to-back good preseason performances. Does that mean he wins the left-tackle job? That remains to be seen, but Joeckel looks like he'll help the left side of the line somewhere.
8.Kelvin Beachum is getting closer.Bradley said Sunday Beachum has a chance to play against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. He has missed the first two preseason games while returning from the torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in Week 6 last season with Pittsburgh. We'll know a lot more about who starts at left tackle once Beachum plays a game.
9.Dante Fowler Jr. has work to do. OK, maybe people went a little overboard about Fowler early. In that same vein, people are moving a little too quickly to write Fowler off. He hasn't looked as dominant in the last 10 days at the beginning of training camp, but that was going to be impossible. Fowler needs to master pass-rushing moves. He needs to learn opponents' tendencies. He needs to become a pro. Sounds like a lot of young pass rushers. Actually, it sounds like a lot of young players.
10.Jalen Ramsey looks good (really good).The No. 5 overall selection made his NFL debut Sunday and looked like a Top 5 player. He has impressed coaches with his ability to pick up the defense. He has the look of a player who will be on the field every play – and who will be making an impact very, very quickly.
11.The Jaguars feel good about their defense.The first-team unit played better on Saturday – with the aggressiveness Bradley and coordinator Todd Wash want. The unit isn't there yet, but overall there was a lot better feeling after Preseason Week 2 than Preseason Week 1.
12.Sen'Derrick Marks may be back.This is one reason No. 10 is true. The veteran defensive tackle had a dominant stretch in the second quarter against Tampa Bay. If that's a sign of things to come – and that he is fully recovered from torn ACL and triceps injuries the past two seasons – this defensive line is a step closer to being able to play in waves.
13.Penalties remain an issue.Twenty-five penalties in two games is way, way too many. Bradley said the area can be cleaned up, and he's right. But it needs to happen.
14.The Jaguars aren't as deep as would be ideal.This is a deeper team than in recent seasons, particularly on defense. There are positions that could withstand an injury or two and not drop off. Still, the depth could improve, though that could be said of many NFL teams – particularly ones as young as the Jaguars.
15.This has been a good preseason so far.The first-team offense looks good, and the offensive line looks improved. The first-team defense could rush the passer better, but overall has allowed just one touchdown on four drives. So far, not bad. Not bad at all.