MINNEAPOLIS – The Jaguars face the Vikings at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second preseason game for both teams. Here are the four things I'll be watching closely at U.S. Bank Stadium:
Can the first-team offense pick up where they left off?
In their one and only drive against the Saints in the preseason opener, the Jaguars first team offense--minus offensive linemen Andrew Norwell and Jeremy Parnell--marched 79 yards in 15 plays, including three third-down conversions. Blake Bortles ran it in for the opening touchdown. Can they do that again against a Vikings defense that led the league statistically last season? During the two combined practices with the Vikings Wednesday and Thursday, the Jaguars passing game was challenged. However, Leonard Fournette appeared to be very successful, albeit not in live-tackling situations.
Who takes advantages of opportunities?
With Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler suspended, who will make a play? At cornerback, both D.J. Hayden and Tyler Patmon spent time with the first team at cornerback opposite A.J. Bouye. Hayden intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass in the two-minute drill on Thursday. As for the defensive end spot, Lerentee McCray and Carroll Phillips figure to get the bulk of snaps after Yannick Ngakoue is finished. There also may be chances at right tackle and left guard if the Jaguars continue to be cautious with Jeremy Parnell and Andrew Norwell, who have minor injuries. William Poehls and Josh Wells could work at right tackle, while Chris Reed spent more time at left guard when Norwell was on the side.
Will we see Taven Bryan?
The Jaguars first-round pick did not play in the opener, but he did work in the combined practices. Calais Campbell raved about the former Florida Gator's approach and work ethic. Will he get his first shot on the field in a preseason game Saturday? If so, I'll be looking to see if he can hold the point in the running game and collapse the pocket in the passing game. He has been Campbell's primary backup, playing the "big end" position.
Of all of the key stats in a preseason game, injuries are the one that can change the course of a season. The Jaguars believe they are a Super Bowl contender. However, one play can affect the course of a year. Doug Marrone has pushed the team in camp, but so far, they have avoided many major injuries. Will the trend continue?