PerspectivesCole Pepper Jacksonville Today Contributor
Jacksonville Jaguars running back D'Ernest Johnson (25) runs into the end zone to score a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

SPORTS | After unbeaten preseason, are Jaguars ready to contend for a title?

Published on August 27, 2023 at 9:31 pm
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There’s almost nothing more that the Jaguars would have wanted to accomplish with their starters in the preseason finale at home against the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.

It was almost perfect.

The offense put together two long drives. The first ended in a Tank Bigsby fumble at the Miami 1-yard line (the only smear on the scorebook for the offense). The second drive included a spectacular sideline catch by Calvin Ridley that set up a Travis Etienne touchdown run.

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Trevor Lawrence was sharp, completing eight of 10 passes for 92 yards.

In the offense’s only preseason work against opposing starters, the Jags’ offense delivered.

The defense allowed a couple of explosive plays, including a 32-yard pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill and then a 42-yard run by Salvon Ahmed.

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But the Jaguars’ defense held the Dolphins’ starters to just a field goal in a little more than a quarter of play.

Jacksonville appears ready for the regular season, but there are two key areas that continue to be questioned: the offensive line and the pass rush.

With a four-game suspension awaiting Cam Robinson at the start of the season, the Jaguars gave Robinson 51 snaps at left tackle, including working with the second team. No other Jaguar played more than 31 snaps in the game. When the season begins, Walker Little is expected to start at left tackle.

As for the pass rush, the Jaguars didn’t record a sack against the Dolphins’ starters. During the preseason, the only starter to record a sack is DaVon Hamilton. The defensive tackle may not be available to start the season because of a back injury.

Josh Allen and Travon Walker, who are expected to be the top pass rushers on the team combined for one quarterback hit in the preseason, that was by Allen in the preseason opener. Granted, neither played against the Detroit Lions in the second preseason game but the lack of a preseason moment for the pair is a caution flag for the Jaguars’ regular season hopes.

The Jaguars will see a rookie quarterback, former Florida Gator Anthony Richardson start for Indianapolis. Then in week two, it’s Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes coming to Jacksonville for the Jaguars’ home opener. Will the pass rush issues be solved by the time the regular season kicks off? If so, the Jaguars look to be a serious contender. If not, Jacksonville may have to win some shootouts in order to be among the AFC’s elite.

Lead image: Jacksonville Jaguars running back D’Ernest Johnson (25) scores a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville. | AP Photo/Gary McCullough

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Cole Pepper has covered sports in Jacksonville since 1996, most recently for News4Jax. He is currently broadcast director for Sporting Club Jacksonville and has called play-by-play for a number of teams, including the Suns, Tomcats, Jacksonville University, Sharks and The Bolles School football. He also served as the studio host for the Jaguars Radio Network.

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