After ending preseason with win, it's decision time for Jaguars

By Mark Brunell, News4Jax Jaguars analyst

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jaguars enjoyed a 13-7 victory in their fourth and final preseason game against the Falcons. Most consider the last preseason game to be unimportant, but for quite a few Jaguars backups, it was anything but. Their jobs were on the line.

For many, it was the last opportunity to prove to coach Doug Maronne, genearl manager Dave Caldwell and executive vice president Tom Coughlin that they deserve to make this football team. Tough decisions will be made in the next 48 hours.

Cut day is always a difficult time. It's a day when everyone is on edge. A day when very few words are spoken. It's quiet. It's somber. In fact, it's the worst day of the season.  And not just for those who do not make the team.

I remember how heart-wrenching it was to see my teammates' dreams get crushed. Sure, many guys land on other rosters, but for some it's the final day of their football career.

These guys give absolutely everything they have over the course of training camp, only to find out they wont be going on into the regular season. I hated it. And yet it reminded me just how thankful and fortunate I was to make a football team. I wish nothing but the best for those who aren’t with the Jaguars as they prepare for the opener.

This Sunday, the team will be set as the Jaguars practice for the first time in preparation for the Houston Texans. There are still so many unknowns concerning this football team. There are questions that still need to be answered.

At the top of my list is the offensive line. Up to the fourth preseason game, the starting five was still up in the air. Not good. The offensive line struggled, especially at the guard position. Too many pressures, too many sacks and not nearly the running game we had hoped to see. And it only gets tougher in the regular season. More important than anything to our success is our ability to establish the run and protect our quarterback. Our offense will go as far as the line takes it.

There are concerns on the defensive line as well. Tampa Bay ran the ball with ease. Carolina ran the ball with ease. In the preseason, there simply wasn't enough pressure on the quarterback. This is an area that was supposed to be much improved. We absolutely must stop the run and get to the passer this year.

And, of course, the quarterback position. It has been an interesting sequence of events leading up to Marrone naming the starter last week. Blake Bortles had a tough preseason to the point where his backup, Chad Henne, had a chance to take his starting job. At one point, I thought it was Chad’s, but Blake enters the regular season with many concerned that he simply has not developed as a better passer and decision maker.

All that being said, the preseason is over. And it matters no more. As frustrating as it has been to watch the Jaguars the last four games, we get a fresh start. The preseason is different than the regular season. And there are times when NFL teams simply find a way to play their best when the games really matter.

I, for one, am willing to give the Jaguars the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this team is better than most people give it credit for. I hope it is. We’ll find out in a little more than a week.

Go Jaguars!

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