The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game for both teams, 25-10. Here is what we learned over the past four weeks.
Maybe the greatest thing that happened on Thursday night was the clock at Raymond James Stadium struck 0:00 at the end of the fourth quarter. The preseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars was finally over. Now, the next 48 hours become the best and worst time in the lives of an NFL hopeful.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone was uneasy talking about the tough decisions he and the coaching staff have to make. Marrone himself was cut on several occasions, which allows him to understand the agony some of these players will feel.
As I have said before, it is one of the necessities of this business.
After a 3-1 record and plenty to talk about, the Jaguars appear poised to once again make a run toward the AFC South title and the playoffs. Here are three things we learned about the preseason.
This Defense is REALLY Good
This bears repeating again. The Jaguars proved in the preseason they have one of the best defenses in the NFL, if not THE BEST.
The defensive line appears to be quicker. Yannick Ngakoue is already making a statement with the pressure he applied on both Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan. Calais Campbell continues to be one of the best at his position.
Malik Jackson could be the most underrated player on this team and could have the best season of his career. There is quality depth as well, which makes Marrone’s decision this weekend even tougher. Dante Fowler and Taven Bryan played well in the final game on Thursday.
There is no doubt some really solid players will be playing somewhere else on Sundays.
If the Jaguars still have schemes they have not used yet but have implemented them in their blitz packages, this could be one of the best defensive units in NFL history.
The Loss of Marqise Lee is Going to Hurt
The Jaguars should feel fortunate they came out of the preseason relatively unscathed, but the injury that is most damaging could be a game changer.
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Marqise Lee suffered a knee injury in the win over Atlanta. The veteran of the wide receiver unit will be missed on the field for his leadership and his speed on the outside. The Jaguars must make adjustments to accommodate his loss.
Keelan Cole becomes the team’s No. 1 threat on the outside. Just last season, he dazzled in training camp to earn a job. Now, he is being asked to lead a group of youngsters. He will have help with Donte Moncrief, who has the most experience of any pass catcher on the roster.
The injury to Lee means that more than likely both Jaydon Mickens and Rashad Greene make the roster. DJ Chark, the tall, lanky rookie, will be asked to become the red zone threat the team misses with Allen Robinson in Chicago.
This is the second year in a row the Jaguars lost their top wide receiver to injury. They should be fine in terms of players, but Lee’s loss is a huge blow to continuity.
The Running Game is Special
The team that led the league in rushing last season could be even better in 2018.
Fournette will get the majority of the carries this year and could challenge for the NFL rushing title. Yeldon and Grant are both in the final season of their rookie deals and could be playing elsewhere in 2019 if they are not re-signed.
The offensive line should be better, which means more space to run. Each player’s ability to catch the football out of the backfield makes it a bit easier for quarterback Blake Bortles. This unit could run for over 2,000 yards this season.