JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A recap of the Jacksonville Jaguars' preseason ...
Anyone who watched rookie quarterback Blake Bortles throw during organized team activities and minicamp had to start wondering whether the Jaguars’ either flat missed on the pick or thought it would take more than a year before Bortles would be ready to take the field. Those thoughts are gone after seeing him play in the preseason. Bortles was fantastic -- 32-of-51, 521 yards, 2 TDs, 110.0 rating -- and outplayed every other rookie quarterback and a good deal of veterans, too.
Injuries certainly played a part, but the Jaguars couldn’t get the running game going. They ran for 313 yards (78.3 per game) and only two players averaged more than 3.2 yards per carry: Denard Robinson (4.5 yards per carry on 21 carries) and quarterback Ricky Stanzi (21 yards on two carries). Toby Gerhart, who missed the first preseason game with a hip flexor injury and didn’t play in the fourth, averaged 3.2 yards on 16 carries. Jordan Todman, Gerhart’s top backup, caught 12 passes for 107 yards, but averaged just 2.2 yards on a team-high 29 carries. The Jaguars were affected by injuries to right tackle Austin Pasztor and left guard Zane Beadles.
The easy answer is Bortles, but let’s go in a different direction. Receiver Allen Hurns was an undrafted free agent who came to Jacksonville in part because of his familiarity with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's offense (the two were together for two years at Miami). He took advantage of extra reps in the spring and in training camp because of injuries and worked his way into the top three spots. He led the team in receptions (14 for 232 yards) and averaged 16.6 yards per catch. Second-round draft pick Allen Robinson missed most of training camp and all of the preseason, so it’s unlikely he’ll be able to contribute much this season, at least early. Hurns' development is a huge boost.
Other players of note:
Tight end Marcedes Lewis averaged 16.7 yards per reception (six catches, 100 yards) and it appears he is going to be a big part of the passing game.
Now that Robinson’s hand has healed, he is proving that he can be a reliable part of the offense. In addition to rushing for a team-high 94 yards and a touchdown, he also caught two passes for 24 yards, and averaged a team-best 25.3 yards on three kickoff returns.
Receivers coach Jerry Sullivan said Mike Brown was the team’s most dependable receiver in camp; the former college quarterback caught nine passes for 140 yards.
Rookie receiver Marqise Lee came on late after a slow start and ended up catching eight passes for 94 yards and two TDs, including a 57-yarder from Bortles.
Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was thrust into the starting spot at the Jaguars’ new Otto linebacker because Dekoda Watson missed all of camp and the first two weeks of the preseason while recovering from a second groin surgery. Reynolds played well (12 tackles) against the run and in coverage, and the Jaguars have no concerns starting him in the regular season while Watson continues to progress.
Other players of note:
Linebacker J.T. Thomas (15 tackles) also was thrown into a different spot and flourished. He’s an outside linebacker, but showed he can play inside as a backup to Paul Posluszny. That made Nate Stupar expendable.
Defensive end Ryan Davis (1.5 sacks) earned a spot in the Jaguars’ lightning package of four Leos on the field at the same time. Because of his size (260 pounds) he’s playing inside in that formation.
Safety Josh Evans missed all of the spring recovering from foot surgery and lost his starting spot to Winston Guy. A lot of people pegged him as the first David Caldwell draft pick to get cut, but Evans answered the challenge and ended up easily making the team. He had 12 tackles and one interception in the preseason.