Four cents: Gregory Junior, Yasir Abdullah flash potential; Jaguars still sluggish at start

Zay Jones of the Jacksonville Jaguars catches a pass for the 2-point conversion as Juanyeh Thomas #30 of the Dallas Cowboys defends in a preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 12, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) (Richard Rodriguez, 2023 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Preseason is less about winning and losing and more about staying healthy and having a chance to evaluate the team as they get ready for the season. Doug Pederson approached the first preseason game differently than Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys.

Pederson opted to play the starters early in the game while the Cowboys rolled out their backups. Seems like a perfect situation for Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars offense to go out cook up some points and get to the bench. Well … It didn’t happen like. Despite the early struggles, things got back on track and some players stood out and started to separate themselves from the pack. Here are my Four Cents from Saturday’s 28-23 preseason win.

Healthy 👍

You never want to see injuries during the preseason. The Jaguars didn’t escape the game completely unscathed, but they left the game mostly healthy. Seeing Trevor Lawrence and the starters play is fun, but seeing them play in the regular season is ultimately the key. Last season, part of the Jaguars late-season success was because they were one of the healthiest teams in the NFL. That part of the story gets left out a lot. To make the sort of run the Jaguars want to make this year, they need to keep that injury report clean again.

Slow starts 🐢

A big key for the Jaguars as a team this year is to start fast. Last season’s slow starts led to some fast finishes. Late-game heroics are fun stories and make epic moments, but they aren’t a sustainable winning model.

The Jaguars have focused on doing little things like starting practice fast in hopes of carrying it over to the game field. Well, it didn’t work in Dallas, and keep in mind the Jaguars starters were going against the Cowboys backups. An interception from Trevor Lawrence on what looked like a bad throw and then a punt on the next drive wasn’t the best of starts. It took a Cowboys turnover on special teams to spark the Jaguars offense. Then, Lawrence made a pair of “wow” throws. It is preseason, so let’s not get overly concerned. But the early game struggles were very reminiscent of what we have seen in the past. (They’ll be fine).

Gregory Junior ⭐️

Preseason is a chance for young players to show what they can do. Gregory Junior took advantage of his opportunity. In the first quarter, Junior recovered a fumble on special teams and forced a fumble on defense. Junior is a night and day difference from the player he was a year ago. Junior is applying a ton of pressure on Tre Herndon for the starting nickel job. He has had a great camp and it has carried over to the game field. If he can show up next week during joint practices with the Lions, don’t be surprised if he starts popping up on the field with the starters.

Yasir Abdullah 🔥

Pass rush has been the buzzword for the Jaguars defense. Nationally and locally the story has been the Jags need to improve the pass rush. Fans have been begging the team to sign a veteran free agent to help get after the quarterback. The Jaguars may have got the pass rush juice they needed during day 3 of the draft. Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell said he wanted Yasir Abdullah to be their “fastball,” playing up Abdullah’s speed. With a rookie, you never really know until you know. Well, one game may be enough to know with Abdullah. The speed is legit.

He adds a different dynamic from what Travon Walker and Josh Allen bring. Even if his stat line isn’t crazy, at the end of the year his speed can make the quarterback move and help set up other players to get the sack. There isn’t another player on the Jaguars roster with a skillset like his.

About the Author:

Jamal St. Cyr is an award-winning sports anchor who joined the News4Jax sports team in 2019.