The Jacksonville Jaguars first preseason game has had a few days to settle into our minds now, so a lot of the analysis and reaction is a lot less emotional and reactionary. I've had the chance to watch the game a few times in full, and the first half a handful of times and just wanted to share some of my impressions.
Blake Bortles looks much improved. Not just because he had a nice stat line, but just visually he looked better. He seemed more comfortable running the offense and staying in the pocket, as well as sure of where to go with the football. He pushed the ball downfield a few times, and though he suffered some big drops on potential big gains, overall he looked night and day from last season. Yeah, Bortles was good in the preseason last year, but that just looked different.
The offensive line, overall. Bortles wasn't under much pressure and when he was he was afforded a pocket to step into. The running game was also able to get yards and keep the chains moving. Denard Robinson looked as explosive as ever and Toby Gerhart looked like the player you thought you were getting last season prior to the ankle injury.
Though I did say the offensive line overall was good, Luke Joeckel still had a couple of cringe-worthy plays. I will say however, and it's probably not going to be a popular opinion, but I thought Joeckel was fine for most of his time in the game. He got beat badly by James Harrison off the edge and whiffed on an open field block on a screen, but outside of those two he was just fine and not a liability. This, though, is a big problem with Joeckel. When he gets beat, it looks really, really, really bad. Laughably bad. Those are hard to overcome when they happen early, with how fans remember offensive lineman (and corners, it's kind of the same), especially when you're just "solid" and not good.
Hand injuries. What gives? I really wanted to see Jonathan Cyprien get things figured out this preseason, and with him missing a gap giving up a big run, it looks like he still needs it. He's going to miss the rest of the preseason with a broken hand, but in the long run it shouldn't matter. Same with Julius Thomas. When he took that shot to the knees, I thought it was a leg injury. Thankfully, it's just a small bone on the back of his hand and he should be back Week 1. There's no real reason for him to play the rest of the preseason anyway.
The Jaguars pass rush. Where'd it go?
For all the talk of the Jaguars being fine without Chris Clemons, who will return to practice this week, the pass rush from the front four was nonexistent. I know it was all backups, but the likes of Andre Branch were completely invisible for much of the game against a mediocre offensive line. Chris Smith had a handful of hurries and Cap Capi had some nice effort plays, but there wasn't much push from the edge. Michael Bennett made some plays, but was clearly blown later in the game.
The pass rush will be better when the likes of Clemons and Odrick are back in, but that's going to be a big thing to watch going forward.