JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars wanted fast starts on offense and they’ve gotten them.
Through the first two preseason games, anyway.
To make it a trend, though, they have to do it over and over again, beginning with Sunday’s home game against Cincinnati. Being crisp, making minimal mistakes, moving the ball, converting third downs, and scoring points (preferably touchdowns) early in games is something the Jaguars want to make a part of their identity.
"What we’ve been preaching it since we got [in camp] is consistency," receiver Allen Hurns said. "Yeah, we’ve been starting fast, but we’ve got to come out each week and show we can do that."
Slow starts were a huge problem in 2015. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars averaged just 2.19 points and converted only 34.7 percent of their third downs in the first quarter. Those stats ranked 31st and 25th in the NFL, respectively. Quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 891 yards in the first quarter last season, but was sacked eight times, threw only two touchdown passes and had a passer rating of 85.1.
It’s only the preseason, but the Jaguars have been much better in 2016. The first-team offense has scored 24 points and converted 3-of-5 third downs on their first five possessions in the two preseason games. They’ve gained 280 yards and have had four drives last longer than three minutes -- including two that lasted longer than six.
The Jaguars’ fifth possession came in the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even if you take that out of the mix, the Jaguars have still gained 200 yards and scored 17 points in the first quarter of the two preseason games. The Jaguars scored 35 points in the first quarter in the entire 2015 season.
Bortles has completed 14-of-18 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. He has been sacked once and hasn’t thrown an interception. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon have combined to rush for 92 yards on only 18 carries (5.1 per carry) and receiver Allen Robinson has caught seven passes for 114 yards.
That's pretty solid work for an offense that found itself trailing after the first quarter in 10 games last season.
"We talked about starting fast and I know that is kind of getting repetitive, but it is something we want to be able to do throughout the season," Bortles said. "Last week, kind of having some little errors on the first drive, I think trying to eliminate that stuff and we will be better in that area."
That drive began at their own 11-yard line after an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty against the coaching staff for coming too far onto the field. Left guard Mackenzy Bernadeau committed a false start on the first play and the Jaguars eventually punted.
That -- plus the sack given up by left guard Chris Reed on the Jaguars’ first drive of the preseason against the Jets -- are the only issues the first-team offense has had in 39 snaps.
"It’s going to be exciting because we’ve been starting fast, but now it’s going to be how long can we sustain that and can we continue to be consistent no matter if it’s the first drive or fourth drive?" Hurns said. "To see something you’ve been working on for a long time finally come [together] and to see you really improving on that, it means a lot because we’ve been putting the work in trying to get that fixed for a long time."