The Jacksonville Jaguars return to EverBank Field on Thursday afternoon to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 of the NFL preseason. The Jaguars spent the week holding joint practices with the Bucs, the second week in a row the team has had a joint practice, which should mean they’re a little further along than most teams just straight heading into their second preseason game.
As we all know the results in the preseason don’t really matter and you can only take so much from the individual performances, but here are five things to pay attention to when the game kicks off at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Obviously, right? We essentially saw absolutely nothing from Bortles in the first preseason game, as he attempted just five total passes, completing three dump offs and that was that. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone stated the plan was for Bortles to just play a quarter, but hopefully on Thursday against the Bucs he attempts more than five passes.
As for what to look for with Bortles, he needs to have a good showing. He needs to have a good showing just to alleviate some of the pressure bubbling up. He doesn’t need to go 11/12 for 200 yards and two touchdowns, but he can’t go out there can complete nothing but short passes and/or have a turnover. Ideally, you want Bortles to go out there and lead at least one long touchdown drive that shows a mix of running the ball and an explosive passing play or two. For his sake, he can’t afford to have an early turnover.
Can Keelan Cole keep it going?
The other camp star other than Tyler Patmon has been wide receiver Keelan Cole, who signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie and was someone who stood out during OTAs and unpadded practices. Cole was able to keep it going when the pads went on and carried it into the first preseason game. It wasn’t just the 90-yard+ touchdown reception that was impressive for Cole either, as he showed to be a good blocker on some run plays and was nearly stride for stride down the field with Corey Grant on his long touchdown run, blocking down the field. With the injury to Marqise Lee and likely being out Week 1 of the regular season, Cole can cement his spot on the roster with a strong showing on special teams. He’s already running with the first team in practice.
Can Dante Fowler follow up last week?
For the most part, Dante Fowler had a decent game against the Patriots. While it was against backups, it’s something he can build on Thursday night. Fowler was disruptive in the run game, which is something he’s been consistent at, but he can build on a few solid rushes and not getting totally ghosted in practice this week by Demar Dotson like he was last offseason. Fowler will likely be going up against second team again for the most part, but those are battles he should win.
Poz and Jack flip positions
I’m not sure how much of a difference we’ll be able to see in the first half of a preseason game, but the flip of Paul Posluszny back to MIKE and Myles Jack back to SAM will be one to watch. What happens on third downs? When Poz is pulled off the field for second team, will Jack go back to MIKE to stay at SAM?
Is this the Week 1 offensive line?
The Jaguars starting offensive line last week appears to be what the team is going with Week 1, especially if they roll out there tonight with the first team. Obviously Jermey Parnell will be the starting right tackle, but the left tackle and left guard positions appear to finally be settled with rookie Cam Robinson and veteran Patrick Omameh. Each had a nice showing in their time last week against the Patriots, but Robinson should have a much tougher test this week against actual starting NFL lineman.
The Jaguars special teams last week was noticeably better than last year, already. The team was able to have a few nice returns on kicks and covered well. Jason Myers did miss a pair of long field goals and reportedly has had some misses in training camp, so how many shots to make a kick will he get on Thursday evening?