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Steelers 16, Jaguars 15: 5 Observations on Trevor Lawrence, Arden Key and More

The Jaguars lost another preseason game on Saturday night, dropping them to 0-3 during the trial run period.

The Jacksonville Jaguars fell short of a preseason victory yet again Saturday night, losing 16-15 to the Pittsburgh Steelers as the starters played the first half, and even beyond that.

"There's still a lot of – I think there's a lot of good, positive takeaways from tonight with the starters and I feel good there. The young guys are going to learn. There were some good things that they did," Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said after the loss, which dropped the Jaguars to 0-3 for the preseason.

"But obviously sort of the obvious things are [that] we can't turn the ball over in the red zone. We got points there again potentially. We've got to tackle better and things of that nature in the second half. But I think if you look at where we are at starters, I think we're right on track to where we need to be and where we want to be, and that gives us a lot of hope as we head into the regular season."

But what did we see during the Steelers game and what does it mean for the Jaguars moving forward? We break it down below. 

Trevor Lawrence has another slow start before getting on a roll 

For the second week in a row, the Jaguars saw two different sides to starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence. There was the inaccurate side of Lawrence to start the game, missing two third-down throws to Christian Kirk early in the game. But there was also the cerebral and downright special side of Lawrence, throwing heaters and making throws no Jaguars quarterback has been able to complete since, well, ever. 

Lawrence looked like a different quarterback after the second drive; the same case as last week. He was more accurate to all levels of the field from the third drive on, was better against pressure, and ultimately looked more like the No. 1 pick he was made last year. It is clear Lawrence is a better player than his slow starts suggest, but the starts have begun to creep up more often.

"In Trevor's case, we've just got to get him to calm down early in the football game and settle in. There were some throws that were missed that I know he would want back, and we've seen him make those throws in practice, so we know he's capable of doing it," Pederson said. 

"It's just a matter of just kind of taking a deep breath as he starts the game and settle in. But those are all things that we continue to work on. We've got a couple weeks left here in camp, and we'll try to get better."

Ryan Santoso does himself no favors

Ryan Santoso didn't exactly have the easiest task on Saturday night, kicking four field goals with three of them being longer than 50 yards. But for a veteran who has had an up-and-down camp and needed a strong game to fend off an outside competitor, Saturday was a night to forget. The Jaguars should have already been looking for more options at kicker before Saturday, but Santoso's night only reinforced that.

Santoso had a fine night in terms of kick offs and extra points, but he was just 2-of-4 on field goals, missing a 51-yard field goal on the first drive of the game and a 57-yard field goal that could have won the Jaguars the game. Neither kick was particularly close, which isn't ideal for a kicker whose ability to hit from long range is supposed to be his strength.

"Yeah, obviously not good enough. We had a chance to win the game, had a chance to start the game 3-0, and it's disappointing," Pederson said. "But I know he'll battle back this week and try to correct it."

Starting defense was lights out until their worst drive of the preseason

The Jaguars' defense was terrific on the first four drives of the game, allowing 53 net yards and two first downs -- an average of 2.94 yards per play. This featured three punts and two three-and-outs as the Jaguars' defensive line shut down the Steelers' running game and more or less had Mitchell Trubisky running for its life. 

For the second week in a row, the defense looked like the strength of the team ... until it didn't. The Jaguars' starting defense was missing a few pieces such as cornerback Shaquill Griffin, linebacker Devin Lloyd and defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi, but they still had the bulk of their unit in the game to prevent rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett from marching down the field on a two-minute drive. 

Despite this, Pickett picked the Jaguars apart. He completed five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown to end the first-half, looking flawless against the Jaguars' blitz and frequently finding the gaps in their coverage. The defense was perfect until the final drive, but they couldn't stop the bleeding against the rookie quarterback.

"Other than the two-minute drive at the end of the half, I thought they played well," Pederson said. "I don't have the stat book in front of me, but I think someone told me it was maybe 1.2 yards per attempt in the running game. I really felt like they got after them early and often. Two-minute drive, though, is something that we've got to get better at."

Arden Key, Dawuane Smoot are set to play important roles in Mike Caldwell's scheme

It is getting harder and harder to think of Arden Key and Dawuane Smoot as just role players in the Jaguars' defense. They may not be starters in the Jaguars' 3-4 base defense, but Key and Smoot are two of the straws that stirs the drink for defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell's unit, once again flashing versatility on third-down that makes it hard to keep them off the field. 

Key had a terrific sack of Mitch Trubisky in the first-half, become the first Jaguars defender to close on the Steelers' starter and finish the play after the Jaguars had several near-sacks in the first-half. He should be on the field on every obvious passing down at this rate; his ability to run stunts and be a true interior rusher are extremely valuable. 

As for Smoot, he had a terrific performance. He had several pressures in the first-half against the Steelers' starting offensive line before recording a sack and a forced fumble in the second-half. Key and Smoot are two critical pieces to the Jaguars' pass-rush formula, something that has become more and more apparent each week.

"Really good things, honestly. Two players that are I think dynamic pass rushers" Pederson said after the game. "Smoot is a little different. He's more of a bull type guy. He's physical and strong. Arden is quick and slithery and can bend. I think both of them have unique skills that obviously we can exploit defensively for us, and I think they're both having a really good camp right now."

Christian Kirk establishes himself as the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver

Last week, it was Zay Jones who saw the lion's share of targets from Trevor Lawrence.  This was in part due to Jones's budding chemistry with Lawrence, but it was also clearly in part due to Kirk's absence last week due to an ankle injury. Kirk proved that this week, seeing eight targets on Lawrence's 21 pass attempts, a staggering 38% of Lawrence's targets. 

Kirk turned those targets into five catches for 54 yards and a huge 22-yard gain on third-down, but it could have been an even bigger night. Lawrence missed Kirk on two third-downs on the first two drives of the game, which would have put Kirk closer to seven catches for 80 yards in one half of football. He commanded targets and was frequently beating the Steelers' defensive backs, getting open with ease at every level of the field. Jones may have had the more impressive camp, but Kirk is still the Jaguars' No. 1 wideout.

"Yeah, it's different. It's similar -- it's different for him, one, because it is full live all the time. That's not how it is in practice. But then also for me, throwing to him, the time clock speeds up a little bit, especially when you're playing against a guy like T.J. Watt who is a great pass rusher," Lawrence said after the game. 

"The reps with Christian, it's our first game playing together. That's going to get better and better. I thought he did some nice things. I missed him on one or two early that I'd like to have back, but we'll connect on those."