JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars play their first home game of the preseason on Friday when they host the Cleveland Browns. After losing to the Las Vegas Raiders 27-11 in the Hall of Fame game, the Jaguars will roll out most of their starters on Friday. Here are four big things I’ll be watching for in the game.
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The second-year running back had his season cut short last year in the preseason when he suffered a Lisfranc injury. This year, Etienne has looked quick and explosive in training camp practices and could be a difference maker for the Jaguars this season. After he was held out of the game against the Raiders, Etienne will get his chance against the Browns. Will he show the explosiveness he did in college and in practice? With James Robinson being held out again, expect Etienne to get plenty of time with the starters to prove he’s healthy and ready for the season.
The offense as a whole
Last week, the Jaguars didn’t score a touchdown until the final five minutes of the game. Even in a preseason game, that’s not good. Trevor Lawrence needs to take the team down the field and get into the end zone at least once before he leaves the game. Whether that’s based around the running game or the passing game is immaterial. Just find pay dirt.
Walker Little vs. Jawaan Taylor at right tackle
One of the few starting position battles on the team is at right tackle. It appears that every other position is set. (I could make a case at safety, as well, but let’s keep the focus on the offensive line for now.) Little has gotten plenty of time with the starters the past week since Taylor went down with a hamstring injury. Taylor returned to practice on Monday and continued to split time with Little. This is a competition that is likely to go on for several more weeks. How both do against Myles Garrett (if he plays) and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will be good battles to watch.
Against the Raiders, the Jaguars defense gave up big chunks of yardage on the ground early in the game. In the first quarter alone, the Raiders had running plays of 12, 9 and 14 yards. For the full game, Las Vegas ran for 159 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. That’s not winning football. Once the Jaguars starters are in there on defense, we should have a better gauge of the kind of rush defense they have. Offseason additions of Foley Fatukasi, Travon Walker, Foye Oluokun and Devin Lloyd should all help the run defense. They should get a good test if Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both play.