Football has returned to Duval County finally as the Jacksonville Jaguars started their 2021 campaign in a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at TIAA Bank Field. The fans in attendance were treated to the first taste of NFL action for No. 1 selection Trevor Lawrence and the NFL debut of former Utah, Ohio State, and Florida University coach Urban Meyer.
While the debuts of those two were high on the list, a few other Jags players stood out. Unfortunately, some who started off the season on the wrong foot, too. Here are the players whose stock is on the rise and some whose stock is already falling after Week 1’s preseason game.
The former Detroit Lions free-agent joined the Jags this offseason to bolster the receiving core and provide a safety valve to the Jags’ franchise quarterback. On Saturday, Marvin Jones Jr. had a very encouraging preseason debut, finishing second on the team in receiving yards with three receptions for 52 yards. That included a brilliant 35-yard reception from Trevor Lawrence, who had a good pocket during one particular play late in the first quarter.
THINGS ARE HAPPENING.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 14, 2021
The ninth-year player has been awesome during camp, and fans saw that with their own eyes Saturday. He also snagged a key third-down conversion in the first series of the game, proving he could be on track to lead the Jags in receiving in the regular season.
Meyer has stated that the quarterback competition is still open, however, Gardner Minshew’s play might make the decision a little easier.
While Gardner Minshew didn’t have a particularly bad stat line as he did go 4-of-8 passing for 47 yards and an interception, it was an accumulation of figures that was just uninspiring. It also came in a pivotal moment of his career as his starting job and possible Jaguars career could be in jeopardy. He was even outplayed by veteran C.J. Beathard who went 13-of-16 passing for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Minshew has the numbers to earn a starting job in some form of fashion and also showed that he has some marketability due to the “Minshew Mania” craze of last season. However, in a moment where he truly needed to make a statement and define his status as a quality starter, he failed to do so with his performance.
Shaq Griffin was the Jags’ most expensive free-agent signing this offseason, and it’s easy to see why as he made an immediate impact and provided extremely sticky coverage on the Browns’ receivers group. He ultimately finished the game with three solo tackles and had back-to-back positive plays around the 6:15 mark of the first quarter. He stuck to Donavan Peoples-Jones to separate him from a pass on the first play, then brought him down for a 4-yard gain in a 1-on-1 situation the following play.
Griffin is arguably the best cornerback in the secondary for the Jaguars as he provides reliable coverage and solid tackling ability. The Jags will look upon him to provide the same leadership and ability as in Seattle, but for now, it’s a great start so far.
The offensive line was a big problem for the Jags last season and those problems have appeared to flare-up again.
Lawrence got a nice welcome to the NFL as he was sacked twice, including his first play on the field where he also fumbled the ball (something he owned up to). He probably held the ball a tad too long, but guard A.J. Cann also didn’t sustain the best block (got beat on the outside) against former Jag Sheldon Day.
He was also sacked from the right side as defensive end Porter Gustin got past Jawaan Taylor on a play-action situation and brought down Lawrence for a 5-yard loss. Luckily, Lawrence remained poised and hit Jones for the aforementioned 35-yard strike on the next play. In that particular play, the line showed what they can be as Lawrence had a while to throw.
Overall, the Jags offensive line group as a whole gave up four sacks and four quarterback hits on the night with much of the pressure coming from the interior. They will need to clean their mishaps up (as will Lawrence) in the next two preseason games as the Jags are closing in on final cuts. Hopefully, the starting offensive line, in particular, tightens things up because their play will be the most important heading forward.