Mark Brunell: Are the Jaguars ready for the regular season?

By Mark Brunell - Sports Analyst

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Preseason is over. Finally! 

Everyone would agree that the 2019 “warmup” games were unconventional. Typically, teams use the preseason as a way to get the starters ready for the regular schedule. Not this year.

Doug Marrone decided that he would keep the vast majority of starters on the sideline for fear of injuries. 

Considering how the team was decimated by injuries last year, I understand. I don’t think this team has much depth at most positions, so going into the opener against Kansas City we can be assured that this team will be healthy. 

And that is a good thing. Or is it?

With the starters essentially playing about a quarter and a half in the preseason, it does leave us with a few questions. One, are they ready? Have the defense and the offense had enough game-like experience to play arguably the most dynamic team in the NFL in the opener?

We won’t have the answer to that until Sept. 8.

I think we'd all agree that the defense looks good and is good. The defense is loaded with talent. The defensive line and secondary are as good as it gets in the NFL.

There are still some questions at the linebacker positions, but all indications are that this will be one of the better, if not best, defenses in the NFL. Just look at the performance against Miami in the third preseason game. Dominant!

The other side of the ball is concerning.

I have always felt strongly that an offense needs time in a game to “get ready.” I think back to the late 1990s when we had a good offense. Even with established players like Tony Boselli, Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell and Fred Taylor, we needed time in preseason.

Yes, we knew were good. But we needed, and wanted, quality reps in a game to prepare for the opener.  

This year, we saw the starters for four series. Some good, some not so good. 

The offensive line, playing together for the first time, looked just OK. Leonard Fournette looked solid. Dede Westbrook made some nice catches. Nick Foles had a couple nice throws.

But here’s the deal on offense: It takes all 11 guys for an offense to hit on all cylinders. One guy makes a mistake and it can become a bad play.

I am optimistic about the 2019 version of the Jaguars. I like our quarterback. And if we stay healthy, this could be a 10-win year, if not better. The AFC South is wide open with recent developments with the Colts, Titans and Texans. I just hope that it doesn’t take three or four games for our offense to get in a rhythm. With a dominant defense, maybe that will be OK.

I feel strongly that this team needs a good start. Early wins are critical for every team in the NFL.

Of course, there is a risk to playing your starters in games that don’t matter. There is also a risk in not playing them. My hope is that Marrone made the right call. So are the Jaguars ready for the regular season?

In nine, days we get to find out. Go Jaguars!
 

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