There is Jacksonville Jaguars football tonight, as Jacksonville takes on the New England Patriots! As boring as preseason games are, it is still live action, hard-hitting entertainment.
The first game of the preseason isn’t going to tell us a whole lot about the starters, as many will likely play two or three series and then call it a night. There are a lot of players to follow with the Jaguars in 2017 — Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson, Myles Jack — but tonight is more about the reserves who are trying to make an impression and land on the final 53-man roster.
What I am most interested in is how the secondary fares tonight, particularly at the cornerback position. Of course the defensive backs on this team are exciting. The starting cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye has been called the best in the league going into 2017, and Aaron Colvin is a solid (and underrated) nickel cornerback.
But that is not why a lot of eyes will be on the defensive backfield tonight.
Ramsey and Colvin have spent all of training camp on the PUP list. Bouye, one of the Jaguars new additions and more expensive assets, may not even play a series tonight. Thus, opening the door for more opportunities
There are several guys who are likely going to see extended playing time tonight. Doran Grant, Josh Johnson, Tyler Patmon, Jalen Myrick and Brian Dixon are all in line for a lot of on-field action. Others like Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Ezra Robinson and Charles Gaines will hope to get their chances to shine as well — even if they have to make an impact on special teams.
Grant, Patmon and Johnson have all had some impressive moments in camp, but need to solidify themselves as a go-to back up option. Myrick, the rookie, has struggled a bit to catch on to the NFL speed. He’ll really need to show something tonight.
Grant, who has really stood out at times filling in for his injured teammates, actually intercepted Tom Brady in 11-on-11 drills at joint practices this week. Patmon wasn’t even on an NFL roster last season, but he’s held his own so far. Johnson had a strong preseason in 2016 and was able to lock up a roster spot. The fourth cornerback spot is his to lose right now.
The good news for these depth players is that Brady and his biggest weapons — Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman — are all sitting this one out. Even if they all only played a couple of series, that would not have been a fair fight. Running back Mike Gillislee will also not be playing.
Jean-Baptiste is a newer member of the Jags, and he also made a nice play this week practicing against the Patriots. He picked off New England’s third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and the Jaguars sideline reportedly erupted in excitement.
In terms of the safeties, both Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson are supposedly fully healthy after missing time before training camp. But again, whatever playing time those two get tonight will be limited.
That could give Jarrod Wilson, Peyton Thomas, Tracy Howard and Jarrod Harper an opportunity to showcase their ability. Howard is listed as free safety on the team’s unofficial depth chart, but as a cornerback on the roster. Perhaps his versatility will help him make the squad.
I think the secondary depth is one of the less-talked about concerns on this team, but it should be a noted narrative. Ready or not, Jaguars secondary depth — you will be tested tonight. Don’t let us down.
Which defensive back will have the best game tonight?
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