Final audition: Roster bubble players make their case in Jaguars preseason finale loss

Backups get last chance to impress coaching staff in 28-12 loss to Falcons

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Tim Jones (83) makes the catch against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Darren Hall (34) during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Gerald Herbert, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

That’s a wrap for the Jaguars. Now comes the difficult part.

Jacksonville finished its preseason on Saturday, falling to the Falcons 28-12 in a final audition for roster spots for many players. Next up for coach Doug Pederson and the coaching staff — trimming the roster to the final 53 players by Tuesday afternoon.

The Jaguars finished the preseason winless (0-4), although victories in the exhibition stretch are measured in performance and not in the standings. The finale against the Falcons was all about more film to help the coaching staff split hairs on some tough roster calls.

The team held out 27 players, essentially every starter and then some, but did get a first look at rookie first-round pick Devin Lloyd as it wound down the preseason with roster spots about the only thing on the line.

Lloyd likely would have been held out had he been playing throughout preseason but the 27th overall pick had missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Lloyd got back into action during joint practices with the Falcons and logged his first game reps Saturday. Lloyd played most of the opening half and finished with five tackles. He’s expected to start Week 1 at Washington.

One spot that cleared up against the Falcons … kicker.

After an erratic preseason at the position that saw the team cut two kickers, James McCourt gave Jacksonville a flash of confidence going into final cuts next week.

Claimed off waivers on Tuesday, McCourt hit two field goals (54, 38 yards) in the opening half and put both of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. He had a far better showing than the other kicker who Jacksonville picked up this week, Jake Verity, who missed a 46-yard field goal.

While the kicking decision seemed to resolve itself against the Falcons, some of those roster decisions will be difficult, especially at receiver.

With four positions likely locked in — Jamal Agnew, Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones and Zay Jones — there are questions on how many wideouts the Jaguars can afford to keep. Laviska Shenault and Laquon Treadwell are in the mix, as well as Tim Jones, who had a stellar preseason finale. If the Jaguars keep six receivers, then it’s likely only two from that trio stay. Jones stated his case the most prominently against Atlanta.

Jones had a 49-yard grab from EJ Perry in the first quarter to flip the field. And he followed that up by holding on to a pass over the middle of the field from Perry that got him walloped after the catch by Teez Tabor. Perry hit Jones in stride on a 43-yard gain near the end of the first half. He led all receivers with 103 yards on just three catches.

Treadwell caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Perry at the end of the first half to cut the deficit to 14-12.

Shenault, a second-round pick in 2020, had an 18-yard touchdown catch erased on a holding call on Darryl Williams, a roster bubble player who was also flagged for a second hold in the opening half. As expected with roster bubble players, there were lapses, too. Ryquell Armstead, trying to maintain a spot in the running back mix, failed to pick up a block on a punt and the Falcons blocked Logan Cooke’s attempt and Atlanta recovered at the 1. Qadree Ollison finished off that drive easily with a 1-yard scoring plunge.

Outside of a 15-play, 75-yard drive on its second series of the game, Atlanta struggled against Jacksonville’s defense early. Daniel Thomas intercepted Desmond Ridder on the first throw of the game and Xavier Crawford picked him off to end the first half. Perry was about what you’d expect as a third-stringer. He played the whole game under center and finished 19 of 37 passing for 201 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Now, it’s on to cut day for the Jaguars.

The starting defense is clearly ahead of the offense entering the regular season. That was evident through the two games of work where starters were on display. And that’s before adding Lloyd and cornerback Darious Williams to the starting 11.

The starting offense was effective but struggled putting touchdowns on the board in limited work against the Browns and Steelers. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence played just pieces of two games, going 20 of 33 passing for 228 yards and a touchdown to Evan Engram.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.