JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the week leading to and including the Jaguars' 13-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 preseason finale Thursday …
1.Blake Bortles is the Jaguars' starting quarterback.This was the major news of the past week – and indeed the entire Jaguars' preseason. A little more than a week after opening the quarterback position between Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone closed it this past week by naming Bortles the starting quarterback for Week 1 against the Texans. Bortles, who struggled enough in training camp that Marrone felt the need to open it up, gives the Jaguars more escape-ability and playmaking ability than Henne. This wasn't a blowout in Bortles' favor. He'll have to keep earning the position.
2.Bortles looked better this past week.Marrone made a point to note this Monday, and Marrone hasn't been given to sugarcoating player performance in preseason. Nothing matters on this front until the regular season, but Bortles looking better this past week after being named the starter is better than the alternative.
3.Brandon Allen …It's frankly a little tricky to know what we learned about Allen Thursday. That's because he looked like what he is – a young quarterback who does good things and worrying things. Allen, a second-year veteran currently third on the depth chart, completed 22 of 31 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown while playing the entire game, but he also threw three interceptions. One was a tipped ball, and Allen said afterward the other two – an end-zone fade pass to wide receiver Dede Westbrook and a sideline pass that was thrown too late – were bad decisions. Allen understandably said the interceptions will haunt him, but what shouldn't haunt him is his overall play. He had more good moments than bad Thursday. Quite a few more, actually.
4.The offensive line remains a concern.This has little to do with what happened during Thursday's game and very much to do with who played in that game. Here's who played: every guard on the roster, including projected starting right guard A.J. Cann. Instead of having the guard positions decided, the Jaguars spent Preseason Week 4 taking a look at Cann at right guard, and Earl Watford at left guard, and Luke Bowanko at right guard. This came after Patrick Omameh started at left guard for the first two preseason games with Bowanko starting Preseason Week 3 there. Who will start at the positions? It's anyone's guess at left guard, and right guard is more of a concern than a few weeks ago.
5.Earl Watford has a chance in this thing.Watford missed the first three preseason games and most of the August practices. But he started Thursday night's game. Considering the team's situation at left guard, could Watford come from nowhere to start Week 1? Don't rule it out.
6.Corey Grant is probably on the roster …Healthy players not playing in Preseason Week 4 are strong candidates to make the roster. There were 34 such players for the Jaguars Thursday, and most were unsurprising. Grant being among those players probably shouldn't surprise anyone, either. His speed and recent knack for big plays make him very, very hard to release.
7. … and so is Keelan Cole.Cole went from an undrafted rookie wide receiver from Kentucky Wesleyan to a virtual roster certainty in four months. He did it by showing a knack for getting open deep in training camp, and because he proved reliable in camp and early in preseason. He had a couple of memorable drops in the last two weeks. But getting open in the NFL isn't a given. Cole did it consistently in preseason and earned his way onto the roster.
8.Dede Westbrook has ability. We knew this when the Jaguars selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and we knew it when he had 100 yards receiving in the fourth quarter of a Preseason Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We know it even more clearly after he caught six passes for 115 yards Thursday. Westbrook had issues staying on the field in preseason/training camp, and Head Coach Doug Marrone has discussed his need to improve getting off press coverage. But Westbrook's playmaking ability gives him a chance to be a factor as a rookie.
9.Jason Myers …As is the case with Allen, it's hard to know what we learned about Myers in the preseason. He struggled at the start of the preseason, missing from 50 and 53 yards in the opener at New England and missing from 40 yards the following week before missing an extra points that came after a short snap. But Myers made his last three field goals of the preseason and was good from 56 yards Thursday. Myers appears to have stabilized, but he obviously needs early consistency.