The fourth preseason game is usually the most painful to watch and Thursday night was no different for the most part. There was some departure from the norm however, as the first quarter provided a few interesting moments courtesy of head coach Mike Mularkey. There were really three key moments to analyze in the first quarter that led to what was one of the more unusual final preseason games I’d ever seen.
The First Offensive Play
The goal coming into the final preseason game is generally the same for every team – get the starters in for a series and let them make a nice play or two to get a good feeling heading into the season, while avoiding any injuries. With that in mind, the game couldn’t have started out in a more disastrous fashion for the Jaguars. After what can only be described as a comical attempt at a toss play led to a fumble recovered by Atlanta, the Falcons scored a touchdown to make it 7-0 16 seconds into the game. It wasn’t evident yet, but Mularkey clearly decided to dig his heels in and get something positive out of the first team before putting the reserves in.
A Long Pass Play for Laurent Robinson
After gaining a first down on the next possession, Mularkey dialed up a terrific play to get Laurent Robinson open deep. He was about as open as a receiver streaking down the field can get, but the ball just glanced past his outstretched fingers. At first it looked like Blaine overthrew Robinson, but reviewing the play again seems to indicate that Robinson slowed down a bit to locate the ball. Regardless, the play showed that Blaine and Laurent still have to develop some chemistry to hook up on those plays.
It’s pretty clear that if Blaine completed that pass, the first team offense’s night would have been over. Consequently, the Jags were forced to punt and Mularkey felt the need to push the first teamers out there again to try and salvage some positivity.
Mularkey is still looking for that big play from Robinson.
4th Down at the 1 Yard Line
Regardless of the outcome, this was going to be the last play for the first team offense. Mularkey could have gone with a safe play and just pounded it in with Jennings, but instead he drew up a quick slant for Laurent Robinson. It fell incomplete, leaving the Jags with somewhat of a disheartening end to the preseason.
It’s pretty clear that the staff really wanted to use this game to get the Gabbert-Robinson connection going before the regular season. The productivity that is supposedly showing up in practice hasn’t translated to gameday yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. Anyone who reads John Oehser’s QA session on jaguars.com has heard this multiple times – there are going to be some growing pains with this offense. This is basically an entirely new offensive coaching staff with two new starting receivers, a new starting running back, and essentially two new starting offensive lineman. The offense is going to have its moments and become more consistent as the season goes on.
Another item of note: I think most Jaguar fans agree with me in asking what on earth was Jennings still doing in the game? Every time Jennings slammed into a pile I held my breath. There couldn’t be a more significant injury given the current state of the team. 11 carries in the final preseason game was somewhat of a headscratcher. Nonetheless, the preseason is over. Everyone can be happy about that.