Throughout the 2023 season, Big Cat Country will recognize the most impactful Jacksonville Jaguars from week to week. Win or lose, certain players are going to leave their mark on the field, and we are going to highlight who stood out to us.
The preseason gives Jaguars fans the opportunity to become acquainted with some unfamiliar names. In its win over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, Jacksonville was tuning up and scouting itself. Starting players saw a few drives before giving way to players battling to secure their spots on the Jaguars’ 53-man roster.
Despite different units getting in the game, it was still a full-team effort to secure a 28-23 victory. Here are this week’s game ball recipients:
QB Nathan Rourke
Okay, who’s surprised?
Rourke had the internet buzzing Saturday night with his mind-blowing touchdown play in the fourth quarter. The Canadian Football League alum broke four sack attempts and slung a 21-yard pass to running back Qadree Ollison for a score with Cowboys defensive end Ben Banogu wrapped around his waist. It’s one of those plays you simply have to see to believe.
The craziest play you’ll see today:— SleeperNFL (@SleeperNFL) August 13, 2023
Jaguars QB Nathan Rourke breaks multiple tackles and somehow throws a TD pic.twitter.com/GCWZBH6aqw
His highlight is undoubtedly incredible, but Rourke gets a game ball for much more. He conducted the offense for the entirety of the second half and did so with poise.
Rourke led multiple lengthy drives, and he nearly played a clean game until coughing up a fumble with less than four minutes left in the game. The former Ohio Bobcat finished the game with 153 passing yards on nine completions and 20 rushing yards on six carries.
Rourke reclaimed the Jaguars’ lead with a 4-yard rushing touchdown on his second drive of the game. Then, he capped off his third possession under center by making magic happen. Rourke’s 103.3 quarterback rating was the best of the five signal-callers to see playing time Saturday.
CB Gregory Junior
The Jaguars forced three turnovers Saturday and two of them involved Junior, whose impact was felt early and in two phases.
In the first quarter, Cowboys wide receiver KaVontae Turpin fielded a punt return along the home sideline. After an eight-yard return, Jaguars wide receiver Tim Jones and long snapper Ross Matiscik combined for the tackle on Turpin and knocked the ball loose. Junior was quick to the scene and secured the turnover for Jacksonville, setting the table for the first-string offense’s touchdown.
A couple of possessions later, Junior forced a fumble of his own while preventing a Dallas touchdown in the process. Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush dumped a check down to running back Rico Dowdle at the 25-yard line. Dowdle bounced outside to evade Jaguars linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Chad Muma, scampering into the second level. Just shy of the goal line, Junior fought off his blocker to engage Dowdle and rip out the ball.
Gregory Junior is showing out today pic.twitter.com/Wz3jkOmjk7— Fitz (@LaurieFitzptrck) August 12, 2023
Junior, a sixth-round draft pick in 2022, never got a real chance to make an impact last season. As of late, however, there has been more buzz surrounding him and a potentially significant role in the secondary. Keen eyes noticed his name right behind cornerback Tre Herndon on the team’s first depth chart since the start of training camp.
With his performance Saturday and two more preseason games on tap, Junior certainly has promise and is trending toward not only making the roster, but having a notable role. His chance to overtake the starting nickel corner position from Herndon will be an important storyline to watch over the next few weeks.