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10 Days to Kickoff: 5 Preseason Questions

It’s hard to believe we are only 10 days away from live action football, y’all. Even though it’s a preseason game, there will be full pads and an opposing NFL club at TIAA on August 14th.

A few weeks ago I did a full 30 Days, 30 Questions post about everything this season. But some were very broad questions that may not be answered until December or beyond.

This is more specific to what I will be watching in these 3 preseason games.

1. How does Trevor look?

I know, we should ask about the team first. But when you go through what we have gone through at the QB position, and then land the #1 overall pick in the miraculous fashion that we did (thanks, Jets), and select a QB #1 overall who is just 21 years old and could theoretically be the face of your franchise for the next 15+ years…

Yes, I want to see how Trevor looks. Specifically, I’ll be watching for 3 things:

Poise

How a QB looks says a lot about their prospects, from comfort in the pocket to leadership in the huddle to how they interact with teammates and coaches. Does Trevor look the part in these 3 games?

Decision-Making

Forcing a throw and throwing a pick is a bad decision. Rolling out and throwing it away can be a good one sometimes. Taking an unnecessary hit or sack - especially in preseason - is a bad decision. Sliding or getting rid of the football quickly is a good one. Reading the defense and making the RIGHT play is as important as anything else a quarterback can do.

Accuracy

We know he has the arm talent, but there are differences between college and pro that he’ll have to adjust to just like any QB before him. The hash marks are different. The speed of everyone on the field is different. The windows for throws are tighter. He will often have less free time in the pocket than he did at Clemson. And the 10 guys with him on offense won’t usually be significantly better than their opponents. Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross against Virginia is not the same as DJ Chark and Marvin Jones against the Browns / Saints / Cowboys. There is less room to throw, a smaller window to throw to, and less time to do it in with a smaller margin of error.

2. How does this Joe Cullen defense look?

Good quarterbacks with good defenses have the best chances of winning the close games, and ultimately the big games. Tom Brady and some of his defenses in New England (and Tampa Bay) come to mind. As do Russell Wilson and his best seasons in Seattle. Pat Mahomes also has a good defense in KC.

If we are trying to start our own dynasty in the Meyer-Lawrence era, one of the first priorities is to build a Top 10 defense that can complement him as he grows. Jags opponents ran the ball 517 times against us (most in NFL) for 2,452 yards and 23 TD’s. We also gave up 140 first downs on the ground.

Things weren’t much better in the air: opponents completed 69.4% of their passes (2nd-most) for 8.1 yards per attempt (also 2nd-most). The total defense finished 30th or 31st in points allowed, yards allowed, yards per play, and first downs allowed. The pass rush generated just 18 sacks (2nd-fewest in NFL).

The move to an Attacking 3-4 base defense that will be multiple in its alignments, personnel groupings, and aggressive with its creative blitz packages is a welcome one. There might be some growing pains early, but I’m excited nonetheless.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a few 2020 defensive stats:

  • Fumbles Forced and Recovered (BAL: 12, JAX: 5)
  • Scoring Drive Allowed % (BAL: 30.0%, JAX: 47.8%)
  • Blitz % (BAL: 1st at 44.1%, JAX: 16th at 31%)
  • Sacks (BAL: 39, JAX: 18)
  • Rush YPGA (BAL: 108.8, JAX: 153.3)
So I’m excited to see how they line up, how they use Josh Allen and K’Lavonn Chaisson as outside backers, how often they bring extra pressure and from where, how well they defend the run, and how much the secondary has improved with all the new faces (Griffin, Jenkins, Ford, Campbell, Cisco).

3. Is the Special Teams "elite"?

This is only half-kidding. There are bigger questions looming, but I am interested to see how our Specialists and the kicking game units perform in these games. Specifically:

  • Josh Lambo and his bouncing back from injury
  • Jamal Agnew (presumably the Kick Return specialist)
  • Punt Returner (long list of potential guys to watch here)
  • All Coverage/Return Units (several free agents, draft picks, and UDFA signings will be competing here)
Special Teams has always been a point of emphasis for Meyer, and it will likely remain so since so many NFL games are decided by one possession. You don’t care about Special Teams until you lose a close one because of it. On paper, we should have one of the better overall Special Teams in the league.

4. How do the new guys look?

We have a whopping number of new faces on the roster:

FA Signings (17)

  • CB Shaq Griffin
  • S Rayshawn Jenkins
  • DL Roy Robertson-Harris
  • KR Jamal Agnew
  • WR Marvin Jones
  • TE Chris Manhertz
  • QB CJ Beathard
  • RB Carlos Hyde
  • S Rudy Ford
  • DE Jihad Ward
  • LB Damien Wilson
  • WR Phillip Dorsett
  • TE Tim Tebow
  • WR Laquon Treadwell
  • WR Pharoh Cooper
  • LB Chapelle Russell
  • WR Tevin Jones
  • WR Jeff Cotton
DRAFT PICKS (9)
  • QB Trevor Lawrence
  • RB Travis Etienne
  • CB Tyson Campbell
  • OT Walker Little
  • FS Andre Cisco
  • DL Jay Tufele
  • DE/OLB Jordan Smith
  • TE Luke Farrell
  • WR Jalen Camp
UDFA SIGNINGS (6)
  • CB DJ Daniel (Georgia)
  • WR Josh Imatorbhebhe (Illinois)
  • WR Tim Jones (Southern Miss)
  • LB Dylan Moses (Alabama)
  • DT Kenny Randall (Charleston)
  • CB Corey Straughter (LA-Monroe)
32 new players on the 90-man roster is more than a third of the team, and this ratio will only go up on the final roster when as many as 25 or more on this list make the final cut.

Here is the one guy from each group I’ll personally be watching most closely:

Free Agent - Shaq Griffin (CB)
To me he represents the first big move in the Meyer-Baalke regime, and the biggest impact in the Jaguars free agent class. He is our starting CB1. A Florida native with an infectious personality, he is already becoming a fan favorite with his attitude and way he treats fans. But we need him to be the leader of the entire secondary.


Draftee - Travis Etienne (RB)
No brainer here. We picked him 25, and he is who Urban Meyer and Darrell Bevell envision as a spark plug for the whole offense to create chunk plays. I think he’ll be a stud, but curious to see how he is used in the preseason. How many reps he’s getting now may not match up with how many he’s getting by season’s end.

UDFA - Dylan Moses (LB)
I was surprised this kid didn’t get drafted, but glad we landed him. He’s a former 5-star recruit with high-end athleticism and a good career at Alabama in Nick Saban’s defense. A history of knee injuries slid him out of the Draft, but he might push for a roster spot or at minimum be 1 of 4 players that gets "protected" on the Practice Squad. He may not be a full-time starter in year one, but if he stays healthy then by the end of year 2 he should be a regular contributor - especially when we rotate into a 4-3 front.

5. What about our recent high draft picks?

Taven Bryan, DJ Chark, Josh Allen, Jawaan Taylor, CJ Henderson, K’Lavonn Chaisson, and Laviska Shenault were all drafted in the first 2 rounds in 2018-2020. Some have shown much more than others, but one way this rebuild will take longer than we want is for those guys to either regress or (in some cases) continue to disappoint.

In particular on defense, we need Henderson (9th) and Chaisson (20th) to step up defensively.

What do y’all think? What are you going to be focusing on this preseason? Kickoff is in 10 days. See you at The Bank. Go Jags.

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