The Jacksonville Jaguars came out on the wrong side of a preseason battle for the second week in a row, but this week felt quite a bit different than last week.
The Jaguars lost 24-13 to the Cleveland Browns at TIAA Bank Field on Friday night, though it wasn't a total beatdown like the week before. Instead, the Jaguars' starters got off to a 13-0 lead before being pulled after three drives, setting a tone for the next week of camp.
"I wanted to see execution. I wanted to see physicality up front with the offensive line, move the line of scrimmage, things like that, and end up either with kicks or touchdowns, and we did that," Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said after the game. "Those are all positives that we can build off of."
So, what did we see from the preseason bout? We break it down below.
Trevor Lawrence had ups and downs, but the vision of his fit in Pederson's offense is clear
Friday night was a mostly solid night for Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, though it was far from a firestorm of bombs and completions that he showed in last year's preseason vs. the Cowboys. Lawrence didn't have any egregious misses or decisions, though there were a few less than accurate passes during his first two drives as he settled into the game.
"I missed Zay over the middle. That was probably the first one that sailed. Missed him over the middle, just probably a foot too high. We talked about it. I thought he did a great job adjusting his route, all that, so that was good to see, just missed him," Lawrence said after the game. "And then a couple things down in the red zone. We had Evan I think down there on the 1. I threw to Laquon down low on the goal line and probably could have hit him in the back of the end zone. So a couple little things I missed, but just clean those up."
Lawrence ended the night 6-of-12 for 95 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with a passer rating of 104.5. All six of his completions went for a first-down, with the Jaguars averaging 5.7 yards per play while the first-team offense was on the field. More importantly, he finished strong, completing two third-downs to Treadwell and Travis Etienne before a nine-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram. Add in a 32-yard bomb to Zay Jones on the first play of the game and Lawrence showed more good than bad.
On top of everything, Lawrence's fit in Pederson's offense became crystal clear. Lawrence is at his best when he can use his athleticism and physical tools to his advantage and the Jaguars made sure to get him out of the pocket on three of his biggest throws: his 32-yard pass to Jones, the touchdown to Ingram and a 15-yard gain to Jones on play-action. Lawrence settled in by his third drive, but even before then, it was clear how at home he was in Pederson's offense.
"I think that's one of the things I think I did well is getting moved outside of the pocket, making plays, extending plays, but also designed nakeds, boots, whatever you want to call them, I think that's something that I do well and that all of us do well, the receivers up front, tight ends, all those guys," Lawrence said. "I think it's something that we're going to keep building off of."
Travon Walker continues to look like he belongs
No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker only played eight snaps, but the Georgia rookie again looked like he simply belongs on the field. Walker had a good performance against the Raiders and offensive tackle Brandon Parker last Thursday and he again had a good showing on Friday night, making impact plays as both a pass-rusher and run-defender.
Against the run, Walker continued to set a hard edge and provide a tough matchup as a backside defender. His speed and power make him a dangerous defender when offenses run away from him, and this showed up on the second drive when him and Rayshawn Jenkins combined for a hit to force a fumble.
As a pass-rusher, Walker's explosiveness continues to stand out in a big way. He is still clearly getting used to rushing off the edge, but he did a good job of firing out of his stance on Friday and forced a holding call after one rep where he was set to blow by the offensive tackle off the snap.
"Yeah, I think he's doing well. It's hard -- I'm going to obviously watch the film and see it, but I think overall he did some really good things out there," Pederson said. "He's disruptive, and kind of picked up where he left off last week, and it's good to see him and Josh Allen both out there at the same time."
Serious depth issues keep arising on both sides of the ball
51-11. That is the preseason score when the Jaguars' reserves have been on the field this month. While the Jaguars should be thrilled about their 13-0 start from their first-team offense and defense on Friday, they should be concerned by their second-team unit giving up a second-quarter touchdown after a 41-yard run and by a pick-six to end the half.
It wasn't just the second quarter, either. The Jaguars turned the ball over two more times in the second-half, with Jake Luton throwing an end-zone pick and Luke Farrell fumbling in space after a run-and-catch. It was an ugly showing from the backups on defense, too, with Josh Dobbs completing 10-of-13 passes.
The Jaguars' depth has looked downright bad the last two weeks. This can be said for most teams, but the Jaguars especially do not have the looks of a team that can afford to lose any key starters or impact players during the season, on either side of the ball.
"Yeah, we've got to tackle better, and some of these guys are fighting for roster spots. We know that," Pederson said.
"We don't want them to put any added pressure on themselves, but at the same time when the plays come to them, we ask them to make the play, and tonight there was just a few of those that didn't make the play. We just need to keep working at it. We've got a couple good practices coming up this week and we'll emphasize that and make sure when we get to the next game that we're better, we're better in those areas."
Running game gets off to a so-so start
The Jaguars likely didn't get the start from the running game they wanted to see. Travis Etienne had a few nice carries, including a 12-yard gain behind Brandon Scherff where he broke a linebacker's tackle and exploded past the first-down marker. When the running game and Etienne were clicking, it looked like the perfect marriage of scheme and player.
The issue was it didn't click all game. Etienne had several runs where he lost yards, including one six-yard loss, and finished the game with just 23 yards on nine carries. Considering 12 of those yards came on one run, it was tough sledding for the running game at times, especially in the red-zone. This should be an area of the team that improves as Etienne gets more reps and as James Robinson returns, but it will be an area of focus moving forward.
"It's kind of interesting because I thought he did some things really well. He stayed disciplined in his path, in his track, and I thought maybe sometimes he got a little antsy and tried to make some moves that probably weren't there," Pederson said.
"But that just comes with time, as you know, and he hasn't had the time. These are valuable reps for him. He's going to get better. He'll watch the film either tomorrow or the next day and make the corrections. But I thought overall for the first time back out, it was good to see him and put him in those situations."
Deshaun Watson deservedly gets a unique welcome to TIAA Bank Field
You won't often see players booed at preseason games, especially when they are visiting players. But Deshaun Watson isn't most players, and the Jaguars' crowd let him know that. The stadium was late-filling due to traffic, but fans still let a sea of boos cover the field each time Watson stepped onto it, while also exploding like they just won a playoff game every time Watson threw a poor pass -- which happened a few times.
The Browns cowardly didn't let Watson talk after the game, but the Jaguars' fans showed just what kind of welcome he can expect to get from NFL stadiums after 24 civil cases were filed against him for sexual misconduct and predatory behavior. The Jaguars' defense seemed to thrive off the energy, too, flying to the ball and making things hard on Watson. The defense drawing Watson as the starting quarterback was a good measuring stick for them, and they treated Watson the same way the loud Jaguars crowd did -- like he didn't belong.