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Doug Pederson presser: Jaguars ‘a little thin on the offensive line’

Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson speaks to the press following the 25-7 win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Another preseason game, another win. But did it come at a cost?

Jacksonville left Ford Field victorious on Saturday, recording a 25-7 win against the Detroit Lions. A little worrying, however, was just how many Jaguars hobbled off - particularly on the offensive line.

Speaking at his Monday press conference, head coach Doug Pederson ran through the wounded list:

“Yes, Josh Wells injured himself in Detroit. He’s going to miss a little bit of time here towards the end of camp. Anton Harrison dinged up his shoulder again. We just kept him out of the game for mainly precautionary, he could’ve played, but I just wanted to not risk further injury there. He’ll be good to go this week. Darryl Williams had a shoulder in the game but stayed in and remained in. He played through it, he’ll be fine and he’ll be up for Miami this week. Chandler Brewer is in the [concussion] protocol, he actually got dinged there in the third quarter so he’ll be in the protocol this week, so we’ll see where he’s at in a couple of days.”

“[Tyler] Shatley is in his last week of that [blood thinners], so he’s still on that. No contact for him, so he’ll be going through all the individual stuff. Blake Hance [OL Blake Hance] is okay, he’ll be fine, just kind of monitoring some of his reps during the week but should be good for this game. There’s one more, [Cooper] Hodges. He had a patella injury in the game and he’s going to miss a little time, not sure how much time, but he’ll miss the rest of training camp and won’t play in this last preseason game.”

A position group that was already suffering from some injury prior to the game has now been pushed to its limits - but Pederson isn’t looking for reinforcements just yet:

“Well, one of the things that I don’t think we realize is that we get Ben Bartch back this week. He started his time last week, we’re going to increase his reps this week and he’ll have a chance to play in the Miami game and give us some quality reps there. Looking at the depth, we’re a little thin at the offensive line, it’s something we’re going to monitor this week but right now, we’re comfortable where we are and some of the guys that we’re going to get back in the next few days. It doesn’t look like we’re going to add anybody at this time.”

As has been one of the themes of preseason, the offensive line came in for some scrutiny on Saturday. The injury to Cooper Hodges will be particularly unwelcome considering how quickly the 6th round rookie has acclimated to life in the NFL. Against the Lions, Walker Little started at left guard and excelled - but is likely to start the season at left tackle whilst Cam Robinson serves a four-game suspension. Pederson had his say on how Little and Robinson fared in Detroit:

“I thought Walker [Little] did a nice job at left guard. He looked comfortable in there, he’s a big body, he moved well. We wanted to see him, so we set up a couple of runs where he could pull just a little bit. We wanted to see that and loved his physicality in there. Cam [Robinson], probably not his best game. I thought he was on the ground a little bit too much and beat a little bit. For somebody his caliber, he should play better. He knows that and he understands that. The guys come in today get a chance to watch the tape with the coaches and make those corrections. It was good to see both of those guys together though, and see the communication and dialogue that those two had during the game. Hopefully that sets us up for things to come here in the near future.”

Developments on defense

It wasn’t just the offensive line that left Detroit with war wounds. Defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, another name turning heads in training camp, sat out of the contest on Saturday. Seen on crutches on the sideline, the Jaguars announced that Hamilton had a back injury, and his timetable to return is uncertain. Asked if he had returned to the facility with the team, Pederson revealed little with his update:

“Not at this time, he’s still being monitored by the medical professionals in town and just making sure that he’s 100%. I got a text message, just to update you on that, I got a text message this morning that he’s doing much better and feeling better so he’s definitely on the road to recovery.”

Pushed for an expected return date for Hamilton, Pederson remained vague. But he did acknowledge some names that could step up at the position in his absence:

“Obviously, Jeremiah Ledbetter and Adam Gotsis are two guys that we have as role players and as backup guys. I think Tyler Lacy is another one that has really emerged. He played well in the game, he continues to get better right there. We got a couple of guys that are on the roster that can give us some really good time in DaVon’s absence, however long that’s going to be. But those guys played well, played consistent down the line. Raymond [Vohasek] did some nice things there late in the game, but I think Ledbetter and Gotsis, the combination of those two and possibly Tyler Lacy is a good combination to fill in.”

Jeremiah Ledbetter made the most of his opportunity, recording three tackles and a sack against the Lions. He was given a chart-topping 95.2 grade from PFF for his performance as the Detroit offensive line struggled to contain him. If Hamilton is likely to miss months rather than weeks as expected, his understudy’s performance gives confidence the Jaguars will survive in his absence.

Another name on defense that has shined this preseason is nickel corner Gregory Junior. After impressing against the Cowboys the previous week, Junior made the most of his reps on Saturday too - intercepting Nate Sudfeld just before halftime. Doug Pederson was pleased with what he saw from the second-year defensive back:

“He’s really embraced his opportunity. He knew coming in here he was in a little bit of a battle at the nickel spot, and he’s done a nice job. He did a nice job the other day in the game as well so, he just continues to improve. He’s got another big week coming up against Miami and I like where he’s at right now. He and Tre Herndon have a nice thing going. Really, I like the fact that he’s really embraced his opportunity. That’s what young guys need to do and they need to see that. I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A good week of work

Joint practices are in vogue in the NFL right now, with many coaches thinking the competition helps their roster be ready for Week 1. The Jaguars spent the week in Detroit training alongside and against the Lions, and despite some minor skirmishes, the week went without a hitch. Asked about the temptation for his guys to get too physical in these kind of environments, Pederson conceded that it was a possibility - but was pleased with how he and his counterpart handled the situation:

“Yeah, it’s always a concern that players will be too physical. It’s one of the things that I can’t control the other team, obviously, but whoever the team is, Dan Campbell and I had great conversations leading up to our joint practices. You have a lot of respect for Coach Campbell, and that’s why you do it. You do it with teams that you know are going to do things the right way.”

“Listen, everybody is going to chip just a little bit, it’s football. It’s competition, it’s hot, you got pads on. I enjoy it, I enjoy for us to get out of the heat for a little while and get into the cool weather up north. It just depends, too, on who you do it with and how you just message your football team. It’s all about communication and the understanding that we’re going there to just get better as a football team. We’re not trying to get into a fight or anything like that. We’re just trying to get better and improve as a group.”

As useful as the week of practice with Detroit was, Pederson was only happy to embrace the opportunity as there was a game against them to end the trip. Unlike other teams, he wasn’t keen to entertain joint sessions without a live scrimmage at the end of it:

“I wouldn’t do it, I would only do it if we were playing that team that week. It makes sense, especially if you’re traveling to stay in that city like we did in Detroit, Atlanta in the year before, and play that team. It makes sense to do it with somebody on your preseason schedule.”

So far so good. If anyone is actually interested in the results of these exhibition tilts, the Jaguars are now 2-0. But with the focus now on the final preseason game against the Dolphins, Pederson was keen to remember what these warmups were there for - to be ready for Week 1. That means giving the starters live reps, regardless of how the injuries are piling up:

“I’m still in the same mindset. I can’t really worry too much about who gets hurt and this and that. If I do, then people get hurt. I just think you practice and play just like you’re getting ready for a regular season game and our starters need some time together on the field. They’ll get that opportunity this week, and I’ll monitor it. I’ll be on top of that too, so if I need to pull them out, I’ll pull them out. Right now, it’s still full steam ahead.”

“You can’t substitute game reps and the feeling of a little bit of pressure and heat from execution. In practice, it’s okay to make a mistake because we can correct it on film. In the game, it gets magnified. We just need those guys to play together, if they can play two quarters, I’d love to get a two-minute drive if we could. Those are all things that are hard to simulate in practice.”