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The Jacksonville Jaguars will be playing all of their starters for at least a couple of series when it kicks off its preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns tomorrow night. That includes starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who will see his first in-game action since the team’s Week 18 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last season.
For Lawrence, and the team’s offense, it will be the first time they’ve ever played together collectively as a unit. The team set out during the offseason to acquire free agents such as receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, along with right guard Brandon Scherff.
Though, the chemistry on the field has been building since training camp began in late July, having the players play together in a real game setting is important, according to head coach Doug Pederson.
“Get their feet wet in this football game, a couple series. Nothing too crazy, nothing too long, just want to get them a feel of the game, get them working in game situations,” Pederson said. “For (Lawrence), it’s important, but also for the offense. He’s got new faces, new people he’s working with, a new center, so just seeing all of it put together. You just want to have some crisp plays, good execution, try to score a few points and get them out.”
Along with free-agent acquisitions, the Jaguars selected center Luke Fortner in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The rookie has received all of the team reps up to this point in camp with the starters. Building the continuity on the field with his starting quarterback will be important, especially going up against a new team even though it’s “just” the preseason.
Last week, the Jaguars played virtually no starters on offense, giving reps to Fortner and backup right tackle Walker Little, who is currently competing with incumbent starter Jawaan Taylor during camp. The team played the majority of its starters on defense, though, giving them a chance to gel as a unit.
Now, they’ll be out there again, but with the entire team – aside from a couple of players dealing with injuries.
Another player that is ready to be deployed in live action on Friday is running back Travis Etienne, who hasn’t played in a game since suffering a Lisfranc injury in last year’s Week 2 preseason matchup against the New Orleans Saints. It’ll give Etienne a chance to get his feet wet, get used to contact again against other teams.
“We’ve seen a lot here in practice, now get under the lights, the roar of the crowd, and that stuff, it’s a different feel. That’s why you do it, right? You practice for all those scenarios, and he’s one of the guys we want to see.”
The players that are not expected to play on Friday include running back James Robinson, who is still recovering from a torn Achilles suffered late last season, receiver Jamal Agnew, who has begun participating in full during camp as of late, wide receiver Laviska Shenault (undisclosed injury) and rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd (hamstring).
“I’m hoping to get through this week and hoping to get him on the grass next week, but he’s doing well,” Pederson said when asked about a timeline for Lloyd. “You’re seeing him in individual drills now, which is a good sign that he’ll be back out there into full contact stuff maybe next week.”
Getting the team together and ready for in-game action as the regular season quickly approaches is important, and Jacksonville will get their first opportunity to do just that on Friday when the Browns come in town.