JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s go time for the Jaguars. Well, for some of them anyway.
Training camp has been off to a blistering — humid, sweaty, sticky — and fast-paced start as Doug Pederson and a new staff try and rebuild the league’s worst team and move past the toxic Urban Meyer era.
The first glimpse of that progress comes Thursday night as Jacksonville kicks off the NFL’s preseason schedule for the first time since the expansion season in 1995 when it faces the Raiders at 8 p.m. in Canton, Ohio in the Hall of Fame game.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of the new-look, full-strength Jaguars offense under Pederson … well, you’ll still be waiting. Pederson said on Tuesday that he’s not expecting the bulk of the starters to see playing time. He left open the possibility of some starters getting reps against the Raiders, but there likely won’t be many on the field in Canton.
Pederson still expects those players to contribute, even if they’re not on the field.
“One hundred percent. It’s part of their job in these games. I don’t care if they play a series, and they come out, they’re still going to be engaged and really help the young players and just be another set of eyes for them,” he said. “I’ve been there, as a young quarterback in this league, and you want a veteran guy that when you come off the field can kind of show you some of the things that are going on. I want our guys to do that, and because they stay engaged as well, mentally.”
So, that’s the disappointing (or blissful) news for Jaguars fans. That eliminates the possibility for a serious injury to players like Trevor Lawrence and Josh Allen, but also pushes that excitement to see the full product out for a few more weeks.
But it is the perfect opportunity to see the young players of training camp and if they can translate that to actual in-game competition.
That’s huge for guys fighting for a roster spot like cornerback Benjie and receiver Lujuan Winningham, both of whom have looked very good in camp. Running back Snoop Conner will likely be in for a heavier workload with both Travis Etienne and James Robinson sitting this one out.
Etienne has looked very good in training camp after missing his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury. Robinson is being brought along slowly after a torn Achilles last season.
The Jaguars need depth and they need playmakers in addition to the guys we know about. This is where Jacksonville can begin to find them.
It’s the perfect time to find another diamond in the rough, ala Robinson in 2020. Are there any J-Rob’s on the Jaguars this season? Thursday night is the time we start to find out if there are.
“And, and quite frankly, this first game, too, I want to see everybody play. I want to see all the guys in uniform, that dress, get snaps because it’s still evaluation time, right? We’re still evaluating our roster,” Pederson said. “And, you know, we got a lot of young guys and a lot of battles that we want to really start seeing in game situations.”
It’s also a chance for third-string quarterback Jake Luton to get some valuable reps and make a case for the backup spot behind Lawrence. With backup CJ Beathard still not at full strength following a groin injury in OTAs, Luton will get the start against the Raiders. Luton was 0-3 as a starter for the Jaguars during his rookie season in 2020.