Each week throughout the preseason, I will take a look at the performance of each draft pick from the 2014 draft and give my opinions on how they performed, among other things.
QB Blake Bortles
Snaps: 29/69 (42%)
Overall Summary of Play: Bortles had a near flawless performance in Week 1 of the preseason against the Buccaneers, so it was reasonable to expect his play to perhaps fall off a bit in comparison. But as it turns out, that didn't happen. Quite the opposite actually, as you can argue Bortles looked even better against the Bears than against the Buccaneers. Why? Because Bortles was asked to do even more within the offense, make more difficult throws, and even perform in a "no-huddle-hurry-up" offense at the end of the first half.
Bortles' improvements since his last season at UCF are massive, and this was on full display on Thursday night. He showed good footwork from both in and outside the pocket, the ability to scan the field and find the right target, and some arm strength I wasn't sure he was capable of. This was the game that should prove to the coaching staff that Bortles is ready to fight for the starting job, simply because no matter how you spin it, you can't ignore or downplay a performance like the one Bortles had.
Best Play: Bortles' best play of the night was not only his best play of his short stint in a Jaguars uniform. It's the best throw I've ever seen him make in any game. Period.
On play action, Bortles rolls to his left to get him moving outside the pocket -- a major strength of his, dating back to UCF. Without an All-22 angle it is difficult to confirm, but it looks like Bortles looks off his first read underneath near the left sideline. He quickly moves to his second read without missing a beat, and with pressure coming down on him, is able to deliver a strike between three defenders in a passing window that many simply will not, and cannot, test. It was ruled incomplete, but it was the type of throw that will always be in the back of your mind.
WR Marqise Lee
Snaps: 27/69 (39%)
Overall Summary of Play: Jedd Fisch seemed to open up the passing game a lot more for the first-team compared to Week 1 against the Buccaneers. Lee was a beneficiary, seeing four targets, which is four more than the week before. Lee was not asked to run any over-complicated routes. Most of his routes were within 5-10 yards and were meant for him to gain some yards after the catch on his own, something he still has to work to improve on. The good news here is that the Jaguars made a point to force him the ball, and he did nothing to prove to them that they shouldn't continue doing so.
Best Play: Lee didn't make any spectacular play vs the Bears, but his touchdown should be noted because of how well it was executed.
You can see him come off the line of scrimmage kind of nonchalantly, like he is attempting to run block. This is done to fool the slot corner he is lined up against and gives Lee a better chance to get outside of him and get separation. Lee does just that, timing his burst well enough to create a passing window for Henne, and is able to keep his balance through the tackle for the touchdown.
WR Allen Robinson
Overall Summary of Play: N/A
Best Play: N/A.
Grade: I miss him.
OG Brandon Linder
Snaps: 34/69 (49%)
Overall Summary of Play: Linder was given the chance to get a heavy amount of snaps at both right guard and center, to give the Jaguars to see what was the best interior offensive line combination they could possibly have for Week 1. If the Bears game showed anything, it is that no matter who the two starters are or where they play. Linder has to be one of them. For the second week in a row, he was the Jaguars' best interior lineman not named Zane Beadles. He showed positional versatility as his play didn't drop off any when he moved to center. Frankly, it will be pretty disappointing if Linder doesn't line up with the starters against the Lions.
Best Play: Linder's best play was a hard decision. He doesn't make highlight blocks, he just gets the job done, which is what you want. But if I had to highlight one play, it'd be a combo block he had with Cameron Bradfield. He fires of off the line with quickness and leverage, and is able to plant the defensive tackle in the ground pretty quickly.
CB Aaron Colvin
Overall Summary of Play: N/A
Best Play: N/A
LB Telvin Smith
Snaps: 26/60 (43%)
Overall Summary of Play: Against Tampa Bay, Telvin was one of the best players on the field for the Jaguars. Against the Bears, he was a liability on more than a few occasions. I do not expect this to be the norm, I think it is just him getting used to the speed of the game and what it now requires from him compared to college. He did okay in coverage, but against the run he was too slow to react and perform his assignment. He's going to play a lot this year so lumps are expected, but this is a game he'd rather forget.
Best Play: There wasn't a best play from this game for Telvin. In coverage he did his job, but nothing that was worthy to be highlighted.
LEO Chris Smith
Snaps: 31/60 (52%)
Overall Summary of Play: Chris Smith is another rookie defender whose play took a step back to a degree compared to Week 1. He wasn't able to get the same amount of pressure against the Bears backups as he did against the Buccaneers, and his issues were much more notable this game -- such as lack of hand use, and an inability to beat blocks. Luckily, he is not a player that the Jaguars absolutely need to perform well this season. One note from this game though is that Smith lined up at defensive tackle in certain packages, which fits his skill set if he learns how to use his hands more.
Here Smith is technically "beat" on the rush, but he shows good effort and motor when the quarterback escapes the pocket, coming from the other side of the formation to register a hit.
OL Luke Bowanko
Snaps: 31/69 (45%)
Overall Summary of Play: Bowanko was a pleasant surprise for the second week in the row. I didn't expect him to play as well as he has this postseason, but before he got injured, he played like he was capable of stealing a starting gig -- which isn't saying much because of the lack of talent in front of him. Like Linder, Bowanko played both guard and center, and his play was steady at both spots. He has the athleticism the Jaguars seem to value on the offensive line, and his toughness and awareness have shown up in both games.
Best Play: Like last week, Bowanko's best play came when he was able to sue his athleticism to make a block at the 2nd level. He falls off the block at the end of the play, but he takes a good angle and shows good quickness as he cuts off the weakside linebacker, who was taking a good initial angle to the ball carrier. Bowanko was able to seal him off and help Denard Robinson get more yards to the outside
RB Storm Johnson
Snaps: 16/69 (23%)
Overall Summary of Play:
For the second week in a row, there wasn't much opportunity for Storm show he didn't get to really show much. His vision is tough to gauge on a lot of these runs because there simply isn't much running room. I'm in favor of him replacing Todman as the No. 2 running back because I think he is more talented, but he hasn't really shown that yet through two games.
There were no notable plays of Johnson to highlight. He did have a +10 yard carry, but it was during a sideline interview and only the end of the play was caught by the broadcast.
1) Blake Bortles Blake Bortles Blake Bortles Blake Bortles Blake Bortles
2) Brandon Linder: Linder is the Jaguars best interior offensive lineman outside of Beadles. I don't need any more convincing, and hopefully the Jaguars staff doesn't need much more either. He has to start if they want to put the best linemen possible on the field.
1) Storm Johnson: Johnson hasn't done anything wrong, but he hasn't done much to prove he deserves more snaps either. I am a big believer in his talent, but he needs to end the preseason on a high note if he wants regular season playing time, because as of now it is a crowded backfield.
3 Biggest Takeaways
1) Bortles has a golden chance to walk out of the Detroit game as the starter, and he has earned it. I thought he'd improve in offseason, but not by this much.
2) It's a shame Luke Bowanko went down with injury, because it is a real chance that a Linder/Bowanko combo would be best for the C/RG situation.
3) Jedd Fisch is going to do everything in his power to get Marqise Lee the ball, especially if Bortles starts. With the receivers finally getting healthy, Lee's true role should become more and more clear.