Football is BACK.
Head coach Doug Pederson confirmed earlier this week that the starters will get a runout, adding a little more intrigue to the contest. Whilst Dallas may not reciprocate to the same extent, there will be plenty on the line for players on both sides that have something to prove.
With that in mind, here are three intriguing matchups to keep an eye on:
Jaguars tackles vs Cowboys pass rush
Trevor Lawrence’s protection has, in one way or another, dictated significant decision-making this offseason. Anton Harrison is in line to get his first taste of professional football after being named the starting right tackle on the Jaguars’ first depth chart of training camp. Pederson even suggested that the rookie may see a little more action than the rest of the starters, alluding to the importance of him getting up to speed quickly.
With Cam Robinson serving a four-game suspension to start the season, Walker Little will deputize on the blind side - although Robinson will likely get some reps. Little and Harrison will be tested by one of the deepest edge rushing groups in the NFL; even if Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence sit this preseason game out, the pair will still face stiff competition in the form of Sam Williams and Dorrance Armstrong. They’ll also likely see reps against former Jaguar Dante Fowler and rookie Junior Fehoko, who had something of a cult following throughout draft season.
Training camp has been geared toward getting this offensive line prepared for the season ahead. And there is no better litmus test than the robust opponents they’ll square up against at AT&T Stadium.
Jaguars cornerbacks vs Cowboys receivers
Different coaching staff’s approach to preseason makes it difficult to determine which personnel will face off against each other in these contests. But what we do know is that these games aren’t only there for the starters to find a rhythm - they’re an opportunity for those further down the depth chart to secure a roster spot.
Looking past the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys have a raft of young pass-catchers who have been turning heads in camp. OC Brian Schottenheimer cannot stop raving about second-year receiver Jalen Tolbert. And Simi Fehoko has also looked sharp after finishing last season on injured reserve. Both receivers bring different attributes to the battle; Tolbert has the speed to challenge coverage vertically, whilst Fehoko has the size to dominate the catch point outside the numbers.
Tyson Campbell almost definitely will sit this one out after suffering a concussion last Saturday. We will learn more about the pecking order of the outside corners when we see whether Montaric Brown or Tevaughn Campbell suits up opposite Darious Williams to start this game. But the more compelling story is watching how the younger group of backups perform against this deep receiving corps; Gregory Junior and rookies Christian Braswell, Divaad Wilson and Kaleb Hayes are vying for a spot on this team - alongside Erick Hallett, who was listed as an outside corner on the depth chart on Tuesday despite playing safety at Pitt.
If any of these can separate themselves with a strong performance, it stands them in good stead throughout the rest of training camp.
Jaguars special teams vs Jaguars special teams?
Consider this one an internal matchup. Coordinator Heath Farwell has been praising the commitment and work ethic of the Jaguars roster towards special teams, singling out a few names who have been in his office looking to learn. It is no secret that the third phase of football is the key to a roster spot for anyone not sitting atop the depth chart. And so shining on these units can determine whether a guy is still cutting a paycheck in September.
Many spots are locked in. There are going to be no surprises at kicker or punter, and Jamal Agnew is returning that football at every opportunity. But whether it be Parker Washington looking to backup Agnew, or Antonio Johnson and Latavious Brini learning the ropes as a gunner or vise, there are roles to be won.
A big play on special teams can reverse the field and change the momentum of games. Standing out on this unit, and having Farwell vouch for you when it comes to those roster meetings later this month will be crucial. The Jaguars have fostered a strong team-oriented culture, but make no mistake - these guys are competing against themselves as much as they are the Cowboys on Saturday.