The Jacksonville Jaguars host the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday at TIAA Bank Field in the third preseason game for both NFL teams.
The third game of the preseason is considered the dress rehearsal for NFL teams heading into the regular season. Head coach Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars see it as an opportunity to continue to work on getting better for a run toward the playoffs.
The Atlanta Falcons, a playoff contender themselves, should provide a stiff test for the team’s offense and a chance for the defense to prove it can contain a high-powered passing game.
When Marrone met with the media on Thursday, he stressed the team is still looking to get better. He has seen improvement in the quarterback play of Blake Bortles and hopes that will continue with at least a half of football on Saturday night.
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"“For a quarterback, obviously, last year was the first year in this system that we’re running. To be able to see better decision making or better command is really expected. That’s where we are,” Marrone said.“Like I said before from the beginning, we saw some growth last year and we’re looking for growth again this year out of Blake. He’s working hard to attain that. At the end of the day, really what matters is what you do on the field, what you do when you are out there on game day.”"
Bortles hopes to improve on a shaky performance against the Minnesota Vikings last week.
The quarterback position is not the only thing the coaching staff will watch closely. The Falcons have a solid roster of young players who could be matchup problems on both sides of the ball. Here are four things to look for from Jacksonville and Atlanta on Saturday night from TIAA Bank Field.
Blake Bortles on the Field
Blake Bortles looked good in one series against the New Orleans Saints in the first week of the preseason. Last week, fans saw another side of the Jaguars quarterback.
While his play wasn’t atrocious, it was hot and cold. He needs to have a sound first half to squash more media drama over whether or not he can lead this team to the Super Bowl. Bortles must be more accurate and his receivers much catch the football.
Playing against another stout defense in the Falcons will be a good test for No. 5.
He has battled injuries in camp, but this is a game Donte Moncrief must step up. There are more than nine million reasons why this is a huge game for the former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver.
Looking at the depth chart, Moncrief is third, but he could easily be fourth or fifth. He needs to find consistency in his route running and must make a big play or two.
I expect Moncrief to get plenty of reps tonight and he may play well into the third and fourth quarter.
The rookie from Florida will play in his first preseason game. The buzz about him in camp has me thinking this could be a big night for the first-round draft pick.
Taven Bryan will play at both big end and inside at tackle. His flexibility is one of the reasons the Jaguars drafted him. His size and speed have been impressive and his strength will continue to get better.
An abdominal injury curtailed his progress the past two weeks, but in his first action of the preseason, fans will see how good he can be.
The Offensive Line
If the offensive line plays as well as it has looked in camp, there is a reason to believe it can be one of the best units in the league. Also, better pass protection will allow Bortles more time in the pocket.
Norwell on the field instantly gives this unit a shot in the arm. I am also anxious to see if A.J. Cann continues his improved play.