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Browns 24, Jaguars 13: Starters Shine in Preseason Home Opener

The Jaguars' starters dominated Cleveland on Friday night. The backups? Not so much.

The Jacksonville Jaguars had a very clear goal for Friday night's preseason clash against the Cleveland Browns: Let the starting offense and defense take the field together just long enough to make a statement, but not long enough to risk injuries. 

Jacksonville played its starting unit for three drives apiece during the ____ loss. When the starting offense and defense left the field, the Jaguars were leading 13-0 and were in clear control of the contest. Trevor Lawrence's final attempt was a nine-yard touchdown to Evan Engram to cap off a 11-play, 63-yard scoring drive.

Lawrence got off to a hot start, hitting wide receiver Zay Jones for a 32-yard gain on a play-action shot, a play which was followed by an 11-yard gain from Lawrence on a keeper.

Lawrence missed his next two throws before a 12-yard run from Travis Etienne and a 10-yard catch from Chris Manhertz brought the Jaguars into the red-zone. An incompletion to Laquon Treadwell with several defenders around the ball and a drop from Etienne in the flats followed, leading to the Jaguars failing to come away with a touchdown. Etienne likely wouldn't have scored, but it was a catchable ball.

After an Elliott Fry 23-yard field goal gave the Jaguars their first points of the night and a Shaquill Griffin fumble recovery at the Browns' 21-yard line, the Jaguars got a prime opportunity to score points. The red-zone offense again sputtered, leading to a Ryan Santoso 38-yard field goal. 

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. 

As efficient as the offense was in turning drives into points, the Jaguars' starting defense was even better. The Jaguars sat half of the defense a week previously but played each of their starters sans Darious Williams (shoulder) and Devin Lloyd (hamstring). 

This week, the defense took their three drives and ran with them, dominating the Browns' offense and allowing just seven yards and zero first downs in eight plays. Deshaun Watson completed one seven-yard pass during a 1-of-5 night, while Rayshawn Jenkins and Travon Walker forced the fumble that Griffin recovered. 

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It was a good showing from the Jaguars' defense, a defense that featured faces such as Josh Allen, Foysade Oluokun, Shaquill Griffin, and Foley Fatukasi for the first time this preseason. 

For the second week in a row, however, the Jaguars' reserves didn't fare as well. While the Jaguars' starters dominated a mostly reserve Browns team, the Jaguars backups were outscored 24-0. Counting last week's 27-11 loss, the backups have been outscored 51-11 over the last two weeks. 

C.J. Beathard got three series with the backup offense, completing 4-of-7 passes for 34 yards (4.9 yards per attempt) and a pick-six that occurred when Browns cornerback Martin Emerson stole the ball out of Jeff Cotton Jr's hands and scored shortly before halftime. 

While the backup offense gave up points, the backup defense didn't fair much better, allowing the Browns to run off a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive that saw rookie running back Jerome Ford walk into the end zone from four yards out. 

The Jaguars' run defense struggled a week ago and did so again on Friday with Ford rushing for a score and a 41-yard run down the right sideline. This was an area of emphasis for the Jaguars before the game and likely will be again afterward. 

"You’re not game planning right now, so you’re not game planning run schemes and run fits and formations and all that kind of stuff, so you’re just lining up and playing, but at the same time, in the next couple weeks, that’s something we’re going to have to figure out," Doug Pederson said on Wednesday. 

"We’ve got to get better at stopping the run obviously. The Raiders rushed for almost 160 yards on us. That kind of stuff can’t happen, but we’ve got to flip it. We’ve got to be the team that runs rushes for 160, but again, that comes with time and development, new techniques, playing together for the first time. It just takes a little bit of time.”

The Jaguars had more young players struggle with turnovers as the game progressed, with second-year tight end Luke Farrell losing a fumble in the third quarter and third-year quarterback Jake Luton throwing an interception in the end zone in the game's final quarter. 

The Jaguars' next play on Aug. 20, hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field for the second week of the preseason.