JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Starting fast on offense has been one of the Jacksonville Jaguars' biggest goals of training camp, so they have to be pleased after what the offense did early in the team's 17-13 loss to the New York Jets on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
The Jaguars put up 141 yards and 10 points on their first two drives. There were only two negative plays: tight end Julius Thomas dropped a potential touchdown pass on the goal line and center Tyler Shatley got beat for a sack on the next play. Otherwise, the offense had little trouble with the Jets' first-team defense and faced only one third down in 17 snaps.
"We want to come out and be sharp with our operation in and out of the huddle, no mental errors, lining up correctly, shifts and motions, and all that," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "And obviously take care of the ball. I thought for the most part it was good."
QB depth chart: Bortles had a very good night, completing 6 of 7 passes for 105 yards. His only incompletion was a dropped pass by Thomas and his only sack came on the play after that drop. He didn't force any passes and used the backs effectively in the passing game. It was just the kind of start he wanted. Chad Henne had a good day too, completing 8 of 9 passes for 94 yards while playing behind the first-team offensive line. He also was sacked once. Brandon Allen went 10-for-19 for 138 yards and drove the team into position for a late touchdown, but his throw to wide receiver Shane Wynn was short, and it was deflected and intercepted with eight seconds left.
Maybe that dude could start: Luke Joeckel is going to start somewhere on the left side of the offensive line, but most think it's going to be at left guard when Kelvin Beachum finally gets back on the field. However, he could end up back at left tackle if Beachum's surgically repaired knee becomes an issue -- or he beats out Beachum -- and that might not be a bad thing. He had a solid game at left tackle against the Jets and has seemed to respond to being pushed by Beachum pretty well. He even has been chippy in practice, getting into a couple of shoving matches/scuffles.
Who got hurt? Cornerback Aaron Colvin suffered a right ankle sprain in the third quarter and did not return. Safety James Sample suffered a right arm stinger in the third quarter and did not return. Wide receiver Tony Washington, who had a 36-yard catch-and-run, was evaluated for a concussion at halftime but cleared to return to the game.
A surprise player who impressed: It's not necessarily a surprise because he is a former second-round pick and is one of the most talented skill players the Jaguars have, but wide receiver Marqise Lee looked pretty good. He caught four passes for 49 yards, including a back-shoulder catch along the sideline in which he outjumped cornerback Juston Burris. Lee missed some practice time because of a mild hamstring strain but looked quick and explosive Thursday night. If he can remain healthy, he’ll have a significant role in the offense.
When it was starters vs starters, the Jaguars looked: like a team that could score a lot of points. Wide receiver Allen Robinson (three receptions for 80 yards) made two athletic catches, including one in the middle of the field for a 45-yard gain. The run game, a weakness the past three seasons, was very productive when the first-team offense was on the field. Running backs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon each rushed for 26 yards, and Ivory scored on a 1-yard run (a problem area for the team last season). The offensive line, even without starters Brandon Linder and Beachum, consistently opened holes. It was a bit of a surprise considering the stoutness of the Jets' defensive front with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams.
One reason to be concerned: The kickoff coverage units really struggled, giving up returns of 84 and 51 yards in the first half. That's a 67.5-yard average. The Jaguars are working on having Jason Myers hang the ball in the air and land it around the goal line to entice returners to bring the ball out, with the thought that they can get coverage down the field quick enough to pin the returner inside the 20. That doesn't work, however, when guys don't get off blocks. Special teams are generally somewhat sloppy in the preseason anyway as teams mix and match players, but the first unit should be better than what showed up Thursday.
Fowler's debut: Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. had been fantastic in camp and in the team's scrimmage but was relatively quiet against the Jets. He made a nice play by evading a low block and making a tackle for a short gain but wasn't able to do much as a pass-rusher against Ryan Clady. That's not surprising considering Clady has made four Pro Bowls and is a two-time first-team All-Pro. It was a good learning experience for Fowler, who was playing in his first game since the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3, 2015. He missed last season because of a torn left ACL. Rookie Yannick Ngakoue had the only sack by the first-team defense.
Coverage busts: The Jaguars have struggled defending the middle of the field, especially against tight ends, and there were several coverage busts that allowed the Jets to make big gains. Ryan Fitzpatrick hit wide receiver Quincy Enunwa on back-to-back throws for gains of 47 and 43 yards behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties on the Jets' first touchdown drive. It's hard to know which players were at fault without knowing the coverage responsibilities, but coach Gus Bradley said the busts were the result of players guessing. Starting free safety Tashaun Gipson didn't play, which might have been a factor. Regardless of who was at fault, that it happened on back-to-back plays is concerning.