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Preseason Week 3: Jaguars players to watch

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Jacksonville Jaguars are facing the Atlanta Falcons this Saturday in the third week of the 2021 NFL preseason. While most of Jacksonville’s starters likely won’t be playing, there’s still plenty of intriguing players to watch this weekend.

LB Devin Lloyd

It stinks that Lloyd has missed the past several weeks with a hamstring injury, as practice reps are important for all players but especially incoming rookies. Thankfully Lloyd appears to be healthy and on track to play this week against Atlanta.

(For further updates check out recent Big Cat Country graduate Demetrius Harvey’s article for jax dot com.)

There are two areas specifically that I’ll be looking for when watching Lloyd, with the first being pass rush opportunities. He showed real skill getting after the quarterback in college and will undoubtedly be a key player in defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell’s various fronts. If Lloyd ends up having half the season of 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons (who played like not just one of the best linebackers in football but a truly elite pass rusher) it would be a big win for Jacksonville’s youth movement on defense. If he provides quality edge rushing snaps early on, not just from mugged looks over interior linemen, that would also be a big win for DC Mike Caldwell’s ability to align Travon Walker, Arden Key, and other Jags pass rushers at various positions inside.

The second area is pass coverage, specifically against play action. Atlanta’s quarterback rotation (Marcus Mariota and Felipi- er, Desmond Ridder) have been wheeling and dealing in Arthur Smith’s play-action heavy scheme this preseason. Saturday will be a good test of Lloyd’s instincts and range in pass coverage.

C Luke Fortner

I haven’t made a point to watch Fortner play this preseason yet, but I’ve heard that while he struggles in one-on-one practice drills, he’s been thoroughly impressive in game action.

Fortner is obviously Jacksonville’s long-term solution at center, but as a third-round pick and unspectacular athlete, I thought we may not see exciting play from the Kentucky graduate right away. However, he did well enough earlier this offseason to win the starting center job early over dependable veteran Tyler Shatley, and I would rather watch Fortner than focus on the gnarly position battles at left guard and right tackle or whatever bad backup that’s in at quarterback.

Specifically, I’ll be watching for how well Fortner anchors/holds his ground against powerful pass rushes, plus his mobility and balance when climbing to the second level on zone rushes.

Cole Van Lanen, who Jacksonville acquired from the Green Bay Packers early this week, is a backup offensive lineman I’ll be keeping my eye on.

K James McCourt

The Jaguars released Ryan Santaso and claimed former Illinois kicker James McCourt this week. Let’s see how well he does in a game environment.