The lights were on, the crowd was ready, and the starters who dressed put on a much anticipated yet brief show, as the Jacksonville Jaguars opened their 2018 preseason at TIAA Bank Field against the visiting NFC South champion New Orleans Saints.
Though several anticipated starters sat out the first week of preseason play, including Calais Campbell, Taven Bryan, Jeremy Parnell, and late-scratch Andrew Norwell, the Jaguars first-team offense and defense each performed up to the high expectations that have preceded them this off-season.
Quarterback Blake Bortles looked as good as he’s ever been in an opener, going 6 for 9 with 53 yards, and capping the offensive starters’ lone drive with a two yard touchdown run. Leonard Fournette showed speed and power getting five carries for twenty-four yards on the drive, and the receivers showed promise, with Marqise Lee & Donte Moncrief being targeted early by Bortles.
On defense, despite poor opening field position due to special teams allowing a long Saints return close to midfield, the starters held fast against a Tom Savage-led Saints offense, with Drew Brees sitting this one out. A Jalen Ramsey penalty and a couple of Alvin Kamara runs put the Saints in field goal range, but plays by AJ Bouye and Myle Jack respectively, held them to a Will Fultz field goal.
The starters for both squads sat the remainder of the game, but the Jaguars offense led by Cody Kessler made several impressive drives thanks to contributions from running back Corey Grant and wide receivers DJ Chark and Shane Wynn. Wynn in particular continued to make plays as he has in practices dating back to last summer. Kessler, efficient in his first night backing up Bortles, finished an impressive 14 of 17 for 139 yards and a touchdown in the 3rd quarter to back up tight end Scott Orndoff.
At one point the Jaguars led 20-10 in the 3rd quarter following the Orndoff score, but a combination of rookie quarterback Tanner Lee looking all of a rookie 6th round pick coupled with shoddy tackling on the part of the Jags 3rd and 4th-team back ups, allowed the Saints to comeback and pull ahead for the 24-20 final.
All in all, the fans were treated to a good opening showing,when the players likely to be on the field September 7th against the Giants were on the field.
The Jaguars now get ready to head north to Minnesota, where they will be spending a majority of next week in joint practices with the Vikings, before next Saturday’s second preseason game at 1 PM EDT.