The Jaguars suffered their third loss of the preseason Saturday night, being beaten 16-15 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. But despite the scoreline, there were plenty of positives on show for Doug Pederson and his staff. Here are five takeaways from last night’s action at TIAA Bank Field:
Trevor Lawrence Looks Ready To Rumble
We saw an unleashed Trevor Lawrence on Saturday night. The second year quarterback suffered a tough rookie year in the NFL last season. A dysfunctional franchise, subpar talent and lack of leadership impeded his introduction to the league. Not that you’d ever hear Lawrence complain, but he was set up to fail in 2021.
Doug Pederson has well and truly taken the handbrake off. Evidently the new head coach wants his franchise QB to be aggressive. And Lawrence complied, going after his starting trio of receivers over and over again. The ball was coming out hot, with Lawrence firing passes into tight windows. Not every throw was a completion, but there is no doubt the new regime wants to get the most out of Lawrence. Check out this dart to Marvin Jones, dropping the ball over a leaping Cam Sutton:
I missed this live. Fantastic from Trevor Lawrence, lol. pic.twitter.com/NR7Z4C9v4w
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) August 21, 2022
The first team played the first two quarters, with Lawrence completing 14 of 21 passes for 133 yards. This passing game is growing in confidence – which leads us nicely into takeaway number two…
Christian Kirk Is Going To Be A Prominent Part Of This Offense
The Jaguars raised eyebrows this offseason when they spent big on bringing Christian Kirk to Duval County. The 4 year deal – which could be worth up to $84m, with $37m guaranteed – reset the wide receiver market. Considering his rather average production in Arizona, it was perceived to be an overpayment.
The Steelers game marked Kirk’s first preseason action after working through some minor injuries this offseason. And it’s fair to say he got a heavy workload:
Trevor Lawrence is determined to make Christian Kirk earn every cent of that $84m deal. Targeted him eight times this first half.
Kirk has five catches for 54 yards. One an impressive diving catch on a comeback route. Not a bad first outing.#DUUUVAL #PITvsJAX #Jaguars
— Simon Carroll (@NFLDraftSi) August 21, 2022
As alluded to earlier, Lawrence was looking to build obvious chemistry with Kirk, as well as fellow presumed starters Marvin Jones and Zay Jones. All three of those receivers specialize in getting separation. If Kirk can improve his numbers in his new surroundings, the Jaguars passing game should take a step up.
Front Seven Dominate Steelers O-Line
The Jaguars defensive front put on a show on Saturday night. Fresh off impressing against The Browns, the front seven tortured Mitchell Trubisky’s protection from the first minute. Despite recording just one sack, the likes of Arden Key, Travon Walker and Adam Gotsis lived in the backfield. Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t generate anything after a speculative missed field goal attempt on the first drive. They had one first down on the next three drives as The Jaguars defense dominated.
Kenny Pickett did manage to find the endzone just before the break, giving Pittsburgh a fortunate lead at halftime. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash will have concerns behind the starters, with suspect tackling on show in the second half. But as far as the first team goes, there is a lot to be excited about heading into week 1 against Washington.
Redzone Struggles Continue
Despite the obvious growth on both the offense and defense, ultimately points win games. And as happened all too often last season, many of the Jaguars’ drives stalled when they hit the redzone. Trevor Lawrence was sent out for a third series against the Browns last week in order to hit the endzone and get some confidence. Which he duly did – finding Evan Engram before handing over duties to CJ Beathard.
Lawrence had four full drives last night, leading the Jags to three field goal attempts and one turnover on downs. But considering the dominance Jacksonville enjoyed, they should have had a lot more than six points on the board at the half. Beathard eventually found the endzone himself in the fourth quarter with a four yard scamper. Regardless, a touchdown from the first team offense would have been the cherry on top of a stellar performance.
With the starters likely rested in the fourth preseason game, we will next see them in action in the regular season. With James Robinson likely back, the Jags will be hoping they have more success punching it in when it counts.
With Elliot Fry cut with an injury designation earlier this week, just Ryan Santoso remained on the roster. Santoso has hardly lit up the preseason with his leg, struggling with accuracy. He successfully saw off rookie Andrew Mevis in camp, before benefitting from Fry’s departure. But suggesting the mustachioed Santoso has ‘won’ the kicking competition would be disingenuous.
Santoso had a mixed evening on Saturday, going 2 for 4 on his field goals and adding an extra point. He did connect on an impressive 53 yarder late in the first quarter, buoying his confidence. Sadly, he couldn’t repeat the trick to win the game from 57 yards with 83 seconds remaining. Santoso might be the man for now, but don’t be surprised if The Jags look for other roster castoffs to improve the position. The kicking competition isn’t over just yet.
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