JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 14-10 Preseason Week 2 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Saturday …
1.The Jaguars' defense is good.We knew this already, but the way it swarmed in practice in Minnesota – and the way it held the Vikings to 67 first-half yards Saturday – reiterated the point. The Jaguars' defense had an elite feel at times with a few hiccups thrown in last season. It has the feel of a unit that could eliminate the hiccups this season.
2.The defense is good.It's a simple point worth repeating: the defense looked like it did Saturday without defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. And without free safety Tashaun Gipson. And without cornerback Jalen Ramsey. And without defensive end Dante Fowler. This is a loaded unit. If it stays healthy, it has a chance to be more dominant than last season.
3.Blake Bortles and the Jaguars' offense aren't perfect – but one play doesn't make them bad.Here's the point: Bortles' first-quarter interception Saturday didn't make him a bad player. It wasn't reason for panic. It doesn't mean the Jaguars should have gone a different direction this offseason. It wasn't a good play by Bortles, but it was also good play by safety Harrison Smith, who happens to play for a good defense. A question for those who believe Bortles is a problem: Is Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins a problem after throwing for 12 yards against an equally good Jaguars defense Saturday? It's. The. Preseason.
4.Bortles and this offense respond.It shouldn't be forgotten that the Jaguars' first-team offense had a 12-play, 70-yard touchdown drive Saturday. That group didn't look great for the entire half, but it left the game with the lead.
5.The Jaguars may be as talented as any team in team in the NFL.OK, this is another one we already knew, but this week's joint practices gave us a chance to see it up close. The Vikings are one of the NFL's most-talented rosters, and the Jaguars' roster is just as talented.
6.T.J. Yeldon could have a big role in the offense.The reserve running back got a long look Saturday – not only in passing situations as a third-down back but in the second half in base formations. He rushed for 39 yards on 10 carries and caught five passes for 73 yards. His effectiveness on screen passes was the main reason the Jaguars' offense looked efficient on occasion Saturday. "He's been awesome," Bortles said. "We know he's a guy who can do some stuff out of the backfield. He's really good on third-down protections. The more we give him the ball in base, you're able to watch him run and see the things he can do."
7.You can't avoid these new rules forever.The Jaguars made it through the preseason opener against New Orleans without being penalized under the NFL's new emphasis on not lowering your head to initiate contact with your helmet. They weren't as fortunate Saturday, with cornerback A.J. Bouye and tight end Niles Paul getting penalized 15 yards under the rule. Safety Jarrod Wilson was penalized late in the game for a hit on a defenseless receiver. While the Wilson hit seemed separate from the new rules, Bouye's hit was the sort that promises to make the new rule controversial. That's because it would have been difficult for Bouye to approach the play differently. "I tried to go to the side, but maybe it was because my head wasn't up," Bouye said. "I should have done that more, try to get my head up. His momentum brought him forward, so it was tough. I learned from it. I'll work on it. What the ref told me was it was because I was lower. I guess because I was lower and he was higher, but usually with defensive backs that's what you do with bigger running backs – you try to take them down low."
8.The rule still needs work.It is often the case that the NFL examines how new rules are being called and adjusts as time goes on. This rule still needs adjusting.
9.Penalties need to get cleaned up.The Jaguars were penalized 13 times for 140 yards Saturday. Head Coach Doug Marrone put it simply: "I think we all know if we do that, the odds are we're not going to win."
10.Doug Marrone loves joint practices.The Jaguars have practiced against a preseason opponent three times in his two seasons as head coach. He particularly likes practicing against good, well-coached teams. The Vikings fit that description, and it was evident Marrone felt good about the week's work.
11.Cam Robinson needs to play better than Saturday …The second-year left tackle struggled against Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter. That's understandable because Hunter is one of the NFL's better young pass rushers. But the Jaguars need their left side of the line to be a strength. Robinson must be strong for that to happen.
12. … and the offensive line needs to get healthy.When center Brandon Linder left early with a knee injury, it meant the Jaguars' offensive line was down to two healthy starters: Robinson and right guard A.J. Cann. Reserve Chris Reed started at left guard for injured All-Pro Andrew Norwell with Josh Wells starting at right tackle for Jermey Parnell and Tyler Shatley playing in place of Linder.
13.The Jaguars need Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the field.The Jaguars held the veteran tight end out of the lineup Saturday for precautionary reasons. This team needs the size and athleticism he brings to the position. There's no real replacement for his versatility on the roster.
14.Yannick Ngakoue looks like a force.Not that he wasn't already, but the third-year defensive end looks ready to further establish himself as one of the best pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL. This is a player whose time appears to have come.