Skip to main content

Jaguars 31, Dolphins 18: 5 Observations

What did we see during the Jaguars' preseason finale vs. the Dolphins?

The Jacksonville Jaguars wrapped up the 2023 preseason on Saturday, 31-18 vs. the Miami Dolphins.

What all did we see from the Jaguars in their final exhibition game before Week 1's tilt vs. the Colts? We break it down below. 

Starting offense looks the part

The Jaguars' offense was able to completely tee off against the Dolphins' starting defense on Saturday, turning in the kind of start that should have head coach Doug Pederson confident in the unit entering the end of the preseason. The Jaguars likely would have put together two different 12-plus play touchdown drives if Tank Bigsby hadn't fumbled the ball at the one-yard line. Yes, the turnover was a thorny reminder of where the Jaguars need to improve, but they also looked like they could otherwise do whatever they wanted. 

Take out one mistake by a rookie trying to do too much, and the Jaguars' offense racked up 168 yards and 12 first downs in two drives against a defense that many are projecting to be one of the best in the NFL. Trevor Lawrence finished 8-of-10 for 92 yards and looked completely in command and dialed in, while the offensive line opened up holes and Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones and Christian Kirk all made their fair share of plays. 

The Jaguars looked like a team on Saturday that is on the verge of fielding a special offense. Multiple players at every skill position made plays and the only negative plays to happen were both on rookies (Bigsby's fumble and a holding on Anton Harrison. Both penalties were also self-inflicted, a reminder that the Jaguars are likely the only ones standing in their own way on offense.

Rookies make a big impact on defense

It was tough to not be impressed by some of the flashes by young backups on defense. The Jaguars look like they have all 11 starting spots set up both in base and nickel looks, with Tre Herndon taking every single first-team nickel rep. With this in mind, it will take their rookie class to ensure that they have the depth behind their starters to ensure a smooth season. Luckily, they saw that depth step up on Saturday. 

It first occurred with sixth-round defensive back Erick Hallett, who has played both cornerback and safety in training camp. Hallett was able to pick off an errant pass from Skylar Thompson by flying off his assignment and making the heads up and instinctive play to grab the ball out of the air. On the very next drive, fifth-round outside linebacker Yasir Abdullah flew into the flats in zone coverage, reading Thompson's eyes and closing for an interception. It was a good night to see two young players step up and make the plays that came to them. 

Backup receiver spots look like they belong to Tim Jones and Parker Washington

The Jaguars will likely carry six receivers on Tuesday, which means Saturday was the last chance for a number of players to make an impression. The biggest impression was made by veteran wide receiver Tim Jones, who earned the No. 5 spot a year ago and did himself plenty of favors in his bid for a second season. Jones was alongside Jamal Agnew as the first backup receiver to see time with the starting offense, a sign that he is ahead Jacob Harris and Elijah Cooks. Jones then scored on a 74-yard touchdown in the second-half by burning second-round cornerback Cam Smith on a double move. 

Meanwhile, the other final receiver spot likely belongs to Parker Washington if you are just reading the tea leaves. Washington entered the game with Jones when the second-team offense was on the field. Washington has also been the only player to serve as the backup returner. The Jaguars saw Elijah Cooks and Seth Williams make some impressive plays, too, but it looks like the receiver room will likely consist of Washington and Jones in the final two spots. 

D'Ernest Johnson continues to impress as the No. 3 RB

It has been quite the preseason for veteran running back D'Ernest Johnson. The free-agent pickup earned the first crack at reps with the second-team offense vs. the Detroit Lions last week and stepped back into the No. 3 running back role on Saturday, with JaMycal Hasty clearly behind him in the pecking order. It is hard to argue against it, either, considering the way he is running.

While Johnson's six carries for 26 yards and a touchdown aren't eye-popping, it was clear watching him that he has a blend of explosiveness and vision that the Jaguars can utilize in their backfield. He is arguably the most patient running back on the entire roster and that has paid off in a big way as he continues to impress. 

Ben Bartch makes his return with a solid start at LG

Ben Bartch made his first start since Week 5 last year on Saturday, earning the nod at left guard after returning to practice on a full-time basis this week. It was a long-time coming for the former fourth-round pick, with Bartch winning the starting job last year and always expected to be one of the top contenders for the role this year. Considering the circumstances, Bartch had the type of day that should help him win a job. 

Bartch had several standout run blocks on the Jaguars' opening drive and, perhaps most importantly, was able to get reps in with Cam Robinson on the left side since Walker Little didn't play. If Bartch plays well over the first month of the season, there could be plenty of reason to believe that he could hold onto the starting left guard job when Robinson returns.