JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If nothing else, the first half against the Bengals should have served as a giant wake up call for everybody associated with the Jaguars.
“We played pretty bad at every position. When you play bad, you don't score a lot of points," quarterback Blake Bortles said in the second half.
Players, coaches, front office people and even fans who have been full of optimism had that tempered a bit by many of the same mistakes that have plagued the team in the last three years.
A reminder: it is still preseason.
But against a perennial playoff team, the Jaguars turned it over, missed assignments on defense, and had 14 yards of total offense midway through the second quarter.
And oh by the way, they were down 14-0.
When it was first team vs. first team, the Jaguars were no match for the Bengals, getting manhandled at the line of scrimmage and outsmarted in the field. If Gus Bradley was looking at this game as a “fact finding” situation, what he found out is that his team has a lot of work to do.
Early in the week Bradley said having the game on s Sunday night in front of a national TV audience would give him a chance to see how his players reacted to that spotlight. When they kicked it off, the Jaguars, unlike the first two-preseason games, looked tentative and a step slow.
Andy Dalton and the Bengals turned a TJ Yeldon fumble in the first quarter quickly into a touchdown. Three plays, twenty-two yards and it was 7-0. Their next drive, after a Jaguars punt, chewed up 8:57 on the clock and ended in another Cincinnati TD, 14-0 Bengals. The Jaguars looked outmanned up front and were out of place on defense consistently. If Bradley and the coaching staff were asking the players to do something different (i.e. play a base defense) it might be explainable. But teams do prepare and game plan for the third preseason game much like the regular season so it’s hard not to just see the first half as not much better than anything we’ve seen in the past three years.
Simple things kept the Jaguars from having any success.
Hayes Pullard was so excited to be in the game as the fullback, he forgot (or wasn’t coached to) to report to the ref as an eligible receiver his touchdown catch was negated.
That’s just basic football stuff that can’t be ignored.
That was followed by a couple of miscues that led to a field goal from Sam Ficken that bounced off the left upright and in for three points. Ficken and punter Ryan Quigley were in the game for starters Brad Nortman and Jason Myers. Both were auditioning for other teams in the league.
As the defending division champs and a 2015 playoff team, the Bengals are good, not great. But Bortles was right when he said they were the perfect team to go up against in the third preseason game on national television. Tough, big and solid, they exposed the Jaguars starters as “not ready for prime time” yet. It might not mean it’s time to panic but it should get everybody’s attention.
If the Jaguars are still in the building and learning process, hoping to be a competitive team in the division, the Bengals are several years in front of them, already thinking about a deep playoff run.
From the look on Gus’ face on the sideline, he’s not going to have too much good to say about this one when it comes to the starters. His thought that anybody thinking “I got this” is the enemy of all success will be a theme this week.
They’ll cut 15 players on Monday and give the second and third teamers a chance to start and make an impression on Thursday in Atlanta. While the starters won’t play for either side, that game, as is the case with the final preseason game, will feature fierce competition with guys trying to make an impression and stay in the league. After that, they’ll cut again to 53 and look to sign up to as many as 10 players to the practice squad.
Everybody should be happy it’s just preseason. If it is a wake up call, the bell is sounding loud and clear.