JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 29-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the preseason opener Thursday – and from a week of practices against the Ravens…
1.The focus on health and availability is real. A major theme of Jaguars 2019 Training Camp has been Head Coach Doug Marrone’s focus on having the team healthy and as fresh as possible entering the regular season. That was never more evident than Thursday when the Jaguars held 30 players – including most of the team’s core players – out of the preseason opener. “Obviously, I’ve had a change of philosophy in how I approach preseason,” Marrone said afterward.
2.Depth is an issue. If there was a money quote from Marrone Thursday after the loss, it came when discussing depth: “We have to see what the depth is. Right now, it’s not good. We have to develop those guys.”
3.Gardner Minshew has work to do … The Jaguars clearly want Minshew to be the backup quarterback. But the arm-strength questions that dropped Minshew to Round 6 of the draft looked like a concern Thursday. Remember: Minshew was playing in his first NFL game and working with backups against the Ravens starters. Yes, he completed 7 of 14 passes for 46 yards in a half, but he was in a difficult situation.
4. … but he remains the Jaguars’ best backup quarterback.While Minshew must improve, he remains the clear best option available behind starter Nick Foles. Second-year veteran Tanner Lee completed none of his three attempts, ending his first series of the game with an interception that Ravens cornerback Cyrus Jones returned 19 yards for a touchdown. Jaguars fourth-team quarterback Alex McGough completed three of eight passes for 19 yards. Marrone cited depth as a concern following the game. One of the most obvious depth concerns is quarterback.
5.A couple of players stood out offensively … Marrone took time Thursday night to mention two offensive players who played well against the Ravens: running back Alfred Blue and wide receiver Tre McBride. Blue rushed five times for 20 yards and McBride caught a team-high three passes for 42 yards.
6…. and a few stood out defensively. Marrone lauded more defensive players than offensive players Thursday, singling out defensive end Dawuane Smoot, rookie linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen, cornerback Tre Herndon, linebacker D.J. Alexander and safety C.J. Reavis.
7.Ryquell Armstead has some pop. Marrone didn’t single out the rookie fifth-round running back, but that may have been because Armstead tried to cut back on one short-yardage run and cost himself a chance for a first down. But Armstead for the most part showed good signs Thursday, rushing for 22 yards on eight carries.
8.Marrone is optimistic about wide receiver Marqise Lee and left tackle Cam Robinson. He certainly sounded that way Thursday evening. Lee and Robinson have been on the physically unable to perform list throughout training camp, with Lee missing last season with a knee injury that included a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Robinson missing the final 14 games with a torn ACL. Marrone has said throughout the last week he expected to have an update regarding the players this week. He said Thursday he expects that to come soon after the team’s off day Friday. Marrone added that he feels good about the expected update. Stay tuned.
9.Leonard Fournette is looking good. This begins the section of this What We Learned that’s based on the two dual practices Monday and Tuesday. You couldn’t watch the sessions without realizing a few things, and one is that Fournette looks very confident – not only a runner and not only in the red-zone, but as a receiver out of the backfield as well.
10.Nick Foles’ impact remains real. This is the biggest reason not to panic over Thursday’s loss. Much of this season will depend on Foles, the new starting quarterback who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March. He didn’t play Thursday, but he was accurate and consistent in joint practices Monday and Tuesday. As long as that’s true, this team should be improved.
11.The receivers’ improvement remains real, too. Maybe it’s the “Foles Effect.” Or maybe it’s just that wide receivers Dede Westbrook and DJ Chark Jr. are improved – and that wide receiver Chris Conley has notable chemistry with Foles, his friend and former teammate. Whatever the reason, it’s impossible not to see that this wide receiver corps looks vastly improved from last season.
12.Preseason results mean nothing – or at least very little. OK, we learned this long ago – because this is an age-old NFL truism. But it’s critical to remember in the wake of Thursday’s 24-point loss. Winning and losing in preseason means next-to-nothing. It means even less when you don’t play your starters.