\JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 25-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2018 preseason finale at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Thursday …
1.Preseason is over at last … Nothing mattered Thursday quite as much.
2. … and the Jaguars are relatively healthy. The Jaguars made it through preseason with just one major injury: the season-ending knee injury to wide receiver Marqise Lee. And while losing Lee hurts, particularly on third downs, it's a loss the offense should be able to withstand. Aside from that, the lone high-profile injury issue as the Jaguars move into Week 1 is center Brandon Linder. He missed the last two preseason games with a knee injury, but the guess here is he will play against the New York Giants in the regular-season opener September 9. If he does, this is a healthy team entering the regular season.
3.Cody Kessler is a capable backup. OK, Kessler actually showed this well before Thursday night, but the third-year veteran played more than well enough in four preseason games to secure his role as the backup to quarterback Blake Bortles.
4.Tanner Lee has hope. Make no mistake: Lee struggled mightily against the New Orleans in Preseason Week 1 – and looked overwhelmed. But make no mistake about this, either: the 2018 seventh-round selection looked much better Thursday. He threw accurately more often than not, and he showed much better pocket presence than earlier this month. "He showed good poise and made some good decisions, so I was happy to see that," Head Coach Doug Marrone said of Lee. He finished Thursday completing 11 of 22 passes for 164 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. Enough to stick on the practice squad? Stay tuned.
5.Jalen Ramsey is still candid – and fun. If you're reading this, you're probably aware that Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was the subject of another story in a nationally-prominent magazine – this one in ESPN The Magazine. You probably also know that he discussed some other NFL players, and he didn't praise them all. What you should know – and what his critics must remember – is the NFL is entertaining and fun. Ramsey is both. And that's OK.
6.Jaydon Mickens is on the roster … The third-year veteran was among the Jaguars players ruled out before Thursday's game. That's a strong, strong, strong (did we say "strong?") indication he will be on the roster, most likely as the team's punt returner and fifth receiver.
7. … and so are Niles Paul and Lerentee McCray. Special teams matter for this team, which was apparent again Thursday when Paul and McCray were among the players ruled out for the Tampa Bay game. Paul is a reserve tight end and McCray is a reserve defensive end, but special teams are the reason their roster spots are secure entering the weekend. Count safety Cody Davis in this group, too. He played Thursday, but he almost certainly will make this team as a backup safety and special teams ace.
8.Special teams matter to the Jaguars. The Jaguars signed Davis and Paul primarily to play special teams. They re-signed McCray to do the same. The belief in the offseason was special teams could be an area of significant improvement. Indications are that improvement could happen.
9.The Jaguars are deep. This has been an impressive Jaguars preseason on several fronts. The first-team defense was particularly impressive – as was the running game. But impressive, too, have been the performances of some of the Jaguars' reserves. Marrone said after Thursday's game he expects multiple players released by this team in the coming days to sign with other NFL teams. It would be surprising at this point if that didn't happen.
10.Logan Cooke can hit. The rookie punter has been impressive throughout the preseason, and he handled kickoffs well Thursday. But the Jaguars' highlight play Thursday was Cooke's mammoth hit on Buccaneers wide receiver Bobo Wilson after a 36-yard return late in the third quarter. Cooke was penalized for lowering his helmet to initiate contact. "Man, I just threw everything I had," he said. "We don't get enough opportunities, so we can't control it."
11.Preseason is over at last. Did we mention this?