JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 26-21 Preseason Week 3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field Sunday …
1.The Jaguars aren't going 16-0.OK, we don't know this for absolute sure, but here's the point: the Jaguars entering the 2016 season aren't an elite team. They are an up-and-coming, improving team with talent – and that's different than being a premier, Top 5 team. The Bengals have as much talent as any team in the NFL. Some of that talent exposed an issue or two for the Jaguars on Sunday. That means the Jaguars have a few holes. It doesn't mean the Jaguars are terrible.
2.Left guard is an issue …Luke Joeckel struggled on a few plays Sunday. That doesn't mean he was awful the entire game, because he wasn't. He also was in a tough spot making his first career start at left guard against Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, one of the NFL's best defensive linemen. It appears very likely Kelvin Beachum is going to be the left tackle, and it appears that Joeckel is the top choice at left guard. Is that still the case after Sunday? Stay tuned.
3. …and that issue isn't decided yet.The Jaguars' plan throughout the offseason and training camp has been to have some combination of Joeckel and Beachum playing left guard and left tackle. Joeckel remains an option at left guard, but Chris Reed and Mackenzy Bernadeau have played well in preseason. The guess here is that Joeckel starts the regular season at left guard, but it has to be at least a discussion.
4.Kelvin Beachum looks like he's fine.The Jaguars didn't have an abundance of good news against Cincinnati, but a major positive was the play of Beachum. The team knew he was a capable left tackle when he signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The question was health after he spent the offseason rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained last season with Pittsburgh. Beachum's start against Cincinnati was his first of the preseason; he looked solid and healthy enough to inspire confidence moving forward.
Photos from the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars in week three of the preseason.
5.The starting offensive line is close to set.Yes, there's the Left Guard Question, but overall the Jaguars should and do feel good about four of the five positions on the line: left tackle, center, right guard and right tackle. That's a big change from the past.
6.Penalties remain an issue.Thirty-six in three games? Yes, it's preseason – and that means untried players in new places, which can lead to mistakes. And yes, a lot of the Jaguars' penalties in the preseason have been in areas where the league is stressing "points of emphasis." Still, 12 penalties a game is too many. And it's too many by a lot. On Sunday, a penalty on fullback/linebacker Hayes Pullard III cost the Jaguars a touchdown. This team isn't good enough to give away touchdowns. The penalties must be fixed.
7.Sen'Derrick Marks looks ready.Remember early in training camp? When the concern over Marks was serious enough that there was speculation he might not make the roster? Things change fast in the NFL. Marks had a sack Sunday and is looking more and more like the 2014 Marks that registered a team-high 8.5 sacks. That's good. The Jaguars need Marks' reliability and disruptiveness.
8.Roy Miller matters.Speaking of things the Jaguars need, don't overlook Miller. The Jaguars' run defense is significantly better with him than without him. He keeps blockers off the linebackers, and that helps everything. Without him, the Jaguars' run defense has struggled – and it struggled again Sunday. The Jaguars need him in the lineup. A lot.
9.The Jaguars must run.Remember the good feeling of the first-team offense in the first two weeks of the preseason? Well, the Jaguars struggled to run early against the Bengals – and that good feeling went away in a hurry. Chris Ivory rushed four times for four yards against Cincinnati. When the line isn't run-blocking well enough for those numbers to be better than that, this team will be in trouble.
10.The fans are ready.Did you feel the pre-game atmosphere at EverBank Field Sunday? That was good stuff, impressive stuff. The fans are ready. You can't have many more first-half performances like Sunday's and expect them to stay ready … but there were ready.
11.The Jaguars won't beat good teams when they make mistakes this season.The Jaguars have improved enough to play even with a lot of NFL teams. Their talent isn't yet experienced enough to play poorly against good teams and have a chance. The Bengals set the tone Sunday by scoring three plays after a fumble by Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon ended the first Jacksonville possession. Turnovers in point-blank range against good teams will get the Jaguars beat this season.
12.Work remains.We knew this entering preseason and we still knew it after good performances in Preseason Week 1 and 2. The Jaguars are better. The roster is more talented. But they're not an elite team yet. There are young players on this team who must grow and there are new players on this team that must continue learning how to work together. Sunday's disappointing first half doesn't have to define the season. But it does need to serve as a starting point for some specific, immediate improvement.