The preseason is a time for dreams to fly high. You could go 4-0 and then follow it up with a whopping 0-16. You could go 1-3 and squeak into the playoffs. Whatever the story, there is always a chance for something special to slowly creep up the heart and take hold just before the regular season.
This preseason the Jags are 2-1. With some strong performances against the Giants and Saints the Jaguar faithful went into week three against the Ravens riding high. But that’s when the benefit of watching second and third stringers play the ending of the game ended.
Teams like to use the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Starters tend to stay in the game into or through the third quarter. No longer could the fans just count on the starters playing safely and then watching hopefuls play it out on the gridiron. If the Ravens game was a dress rehearsal for the Jags, then they’re in for a rough season.
Let’s clarify what I mean by the benefit of watching the second and third team battle it out.
That tense first quarter/half when the starters are playing the score doesn’t matter. They are showing a new offense, a new look, a new defense, what have you. But if they are ahead or show some flashes, it’s something special. You can rely on those flashes to get you through the week. When the second stringers take over you no longer have to worry about the score because these players are simply trying to show the coaches they can distance themselves from the competition.
But if the team wins, you feel invincible. The starters set the team up for success, the new look worked, the players have made strides in the offseason. If the team loses, it’s because the depth just wasn’t as good as the other team’s or the coaches wanted to see particular players perform.
The third preseason game and the regular season removes the benefit of the second and third stringers. Instead you get to see the success or struggles of the first team. The team is exposed for all to see. That one look tried earlier in the preseason no longer matters because it doesn’t help in the all important first three quarters. Being stomped by a passing attack doesn’t show bad depth, but bad scheming, bad movement, poor anticipation. Those first three quarters actually do dictate the game – and the Jags got beat.
As far as dress rehearsals go, the Jags versus the Ravens was horrendous. If this was my wedding’s dress rehearsal, I’d call it off.
The Jags looked slow, they looked confused at times, they looked unprepared. They simply couldn’t keep pace with the movement that the Ravens brought to the game. No longer can we think about a late Jordan Palmer pass lifting the third string receivers over the third string defense. No longer can we take pleasure in seeing Keith Toston bowl over defenders as he crushes through men like they are nothing more than ants.
We can no longer think about these things because, like it or not, the preseason is essentially over. Outside of late tinkering in the next game, what we’ve got is what we’ve got. And what we’ve got simply wasn’t good enough on Thursday night. The Jags were exposed in their dress rehearsal.
To be honest, even with the small bright spots, I didn’t like what I saw.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims