Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Detroit Lions: Report Card Grades for Each Jaguars Unit
Despite the 13-12 final, the Jaguars first and second teams played well, while the third team saw the game slip away in the fourth quarter.
On offense, Blake Bortles again stole the show for the Jaguars. The rookie quarterback took his first reps with the first-team offense and completed 10 of 16 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't just his stats that were impressive, but his poise in the face of pressure and his willingness to push the ball downfield were also encouraging.
Overall, the Jaguars offense was hot and cold. The rushing attack, led by Toby Gerhart, left much to be desired, averaging only 3.4-yards per carry on 25 attempts. Moreover, with the exception of Bortles, the passing attack looked stagnant and inconsistent.
Defensively, the Jaguars allowed the Lions 368 total yards on offense. The team struggled in run defense, missing tackles and displaying poor gap discipline. In the passing game, the team allowed Lions quarterbacks to complete 72 percent of their attempts.
On a positive note, the defensive line continues to generate a strong pass rush, indicating that the team has the personnel to have a strong rotation in 2014.
In sum, the Jaguars are starting to prove they can be a competitive team. There are clearly some young, talented pieces who are developing. The arrow is definitely trending up with this rebuilding franchise and it's going to be fun to watch this team grow during the regular season.
Now, let's take a look at how each unit graded out in the team's third preseason game.
The story at the quarterback position has been fairly consistent all preseason. Chad Henne continually looks efficient and competent at the position, but he isn’t going to generate much hype.
Meanwhile, Blake Bortles continues to prove that he’s a legitimate franchise-caliber quarterback.
In Friday’s game, Henne was Henne. One minute he looked like a guy who could lead an offense, but the next he looked like a deer in headlights. Henne’s biggest issue continues to be his pocket presence. Until he’s comfortable with the offensive linemen around him, he’ll continue to be inconsistent.
The biggest story was Bortles—again. The first-year signal-caller is really pushing Henne for the starting role. When he comes into the game, the whole dynamic of the offense shifts. Bortles isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield, and the receivers seem to work harder for him.
He appears to really be in control.
The only slight at the position is the depth behind Bortles. For the second week, the third-string quarterback threw an untimely interception that cost the team the game. It’s likely that the Jaguars carry only two quarterbacks, so I’m not sure how much this matters in the grand scheme.
Overall, I’m a bit disappointed with the running back unit. I expected that Toby Gerhart would give the offense a grinding, tough persona. While Gerhart hasn’t been ineffective, the team needs more than his three-yards per carry average going forward.
A big question here is with the depth.
It was widely believed that Jordan Todman would be the secondary back in this team, but after three preseason games I’m not so sure. I thought that Todman was the worst of the four running backs. Storm Johnson looks like the most complete back on the team, and Denard Robinson looks like the most explosive.
I’m not sure that the outlook for Todman is that great. If he doesn’t start contributing in a big way, he could find himself on the outside looking in.
It’s hard to evaluate this group with Allen Robinson out and Cecil Shorts getting limited work. For the most part the first-team offense was unimpressive with Henne at the helm, but it really came alive once Bortles took over.
Leading this group, again, was rookie receiver Allen Hurns. The rookie wideout wasn’t supposed to have this big of an impact, but he’s put up notable performances each week and his game against Detroit was no exception, as he posted a 112-yard, one-touchdown game. Hurns is going to force the Jaguars to integrate him into the weekly game plan.
On the not-so-positive side, Marqise Lee looked timid at times. The Jaguars tried to get him going early, but he looked uncomfortable going after passes in traffic. Another potentially bad sign was Lee getting flagged for using abusive language, which is likely to bring him a fine from the league office.
Overall, there wasn’t a whole lot of production from this unit. Most of the team’s yardage came from Hurns, Lee, tight ends and running backs.
But until the receiver corps gets healthier, it's going to be hard to gauge how effective they really are.
The tight end group has been a pleasant surprise and an easy group to grade.
Marcedes Lewis appears to have regained old form and has been effective as a blocker and a pass-catcher. I thought he did a great job in providing Henne and Bortles a security blanket during the game against Detroit. Lewis finished the game with two receptions for 45 yards.
Marcel Jensen is another player who is impressing. Jensen is like Lewis 2.0; he has a big body but moves really well. Jensen is deceiving as a receiver and is another effective blocker. He finished the game with one reception for 17 yards.
This was a game where the Jaguars were seeking answers on the offensive line. The team started Jacques McClendon at center this game in an effort to find the best player to man the position in the regular season.
For the most part, I thought the offensive line held up well. Rookie Brandon Linder has been really strong in run blocking from the right guard position and does a nice job against interior pass-rushers. It was a tough game for left tackle Luke Joeckel who at times struggled handling Devin Taylor.
The Jaguars should be encouraged by the play of center Luke Bowanko. The rookie from Virginia wasn’t flawless, but he’s showing himself to be a competent run blocker, and he’s been really strong at picking up blitzes.
At the end of the day, the Lions were able to accrue six sacks and limit the Jaguars' running game. So when you look at the unit as whole, there are quite a few concerns. The OL will definitely be something the coaches look to improve quickly.
The Jaguars defensive line is easily the team's strongest position. They’re consistently getting pressure and consistently making plays. The most impressive part of this unit is its depth: From Chris Clemons to Chris Smith, this group is talented from top to bottom.
While the line didn’t register a sack against Detroit, it got consistent pressure. Head coach Gus Bradley was able to implement his three-“Leo” front, which essentially is the deployment of three edge-rushers.
Two players who really stood out tonight were Ryan Davis, who is quietly having an outstanding preseason, and Andre Branch who recorded an interception against Matthew Stafford.
This is an athletic and versatile group. The more creative the coaching staff gets with this unit, the more dangerous it will become.
It’s exciting to see it operate.
The return of Dekoda Watson for this game was some exciting news. While Watson didn’t start, his impact on this team once the regular season gets underway is going to be very large, so it’s good to see him get some game action.
Once Watson got on the field, he made an immediate impact. He was able to stop the Lions from converting a two-point conversion by exploding into the Lions backfield and sacking Dan Orlovsky.
Another exciting player for this unit is rookie Telvin Smith. Smith has shows up big on film in each game. Although he hasn't register much statistically, he’s all over the field and plays with extreme energy.
As a group, I would say this was an average outing. This unit missed a lot of tackles and struggled with gap discipline, which resulted in big gains for Lions running backs. However, this is a resilient bunch that hustles to the ball, which is something you want from your linebacker corps.
When Jacksonville's defensive backs got word that Calvin Johnson would be playing in this game, I'm sure they got a little nervous. Nevertheless, I thought the secondary played well considering the firepower it was up against.
Dwayne Gratz has emerged as the top cornerback for this team and had the task of trying to wrangle Johnson. While Gratz wasn’t able to completely keep Johnson at bay, he did a good job limiting yards after the catch by keeping everything in front of him and closing quickly to make tackles.
The most important thing to take away for the secondary is that it needs to be more aggressive. Jaguar DBs typically play tough, man-to-man coverage, as they will be probably be demolished if they play a softer type of coverage.
Lions quarterbacks were able to complete over 70 percent of the their passes, because the Jaguars were primarily playing off in their coverage at the snap. If this defense wants to pressure quarterbacks and disrupt opposing passing games, it'll need to be more physical at the line of scrimmage.
The Jaguars have some of the most consistent special teams units in the league. Punter Bryan Anger did a fine job flipping the field position in favor Jacksonville, as he placed two punts inside the Detroit's 20-yard line.
As for kicker Josh Scobee, he connected on his lone try for 38 yards.
Overall, this is a very strong unit for the Jaguars, and it'll be depended on a lot during the season.
Gus Bradley has to be one of the best young head coaches in the NFL. He is a passionate, defensive-minded leader who seems to be a great motivator.
That being said, I felt the team had a great strategy coming in to the game tonight. The coaching staff seemed committed to establishing a balance on offense and playing a loose Cover 2 defense that quickly closed in on Lions receivers to limit big gains after the catch.
But I didn't feel the coaching staff did an especially good job of making adjustments. The Lions were killing the Jaguars on the ground, and it didn’t seem that the coaching staff did much to counter was Detroit was doing.
Overall, a solid showing by the coaching staff. I’m sure Bradley and his assistants will look at the film and figure out how to get better for next week.
Overall this was another strong performance by a young Jaguars team. This is a team with little expectations, but if the preseason is any indication they could make some noise when the season comes around. I can’t wait to continue to watch this team grow.
Overall Grade: B