Mark Brunell: There's risk in both playing and sitting starters in preseason

By Mark Brunell - Sports Analyst

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Watching preseason games without the starters is painful. 

It’s bad enough to have to endure watching one preseason game a year without them. This year, it looks like we get to enjoy three. We saw a 29-0 clunker against the Ravens last week and a 24-10 loss to the Eagles on Thursday night. 

The regular season can’t get here soon enough. 

I understand that the Jaguars want to keep their guys healthy. I understand that giving the backups more game reps will be good for depth. But you can have both. 

The preseason formula used by most teams in years past works. 

Game 1: A series. 
Game 2: A quarter. 
Game 3: Play into the third quarter. 
Game 4: Nothing. 

Starters get some good work and the backups get the bulk of preseason. 

I’m certainly not advocating for the starters to play a lot. Playing starters comes with a risk. But there is also a risk to not playing them.

Make no mistake, there is no substitution for a game atmosphere. You can’t replicate it on a practice field, especially when there isn’t any tackling. And there is no such thing as “game reps on the practice field,” as I heard one player say on the broadcast. 

That doesn’t even make any sense in my opinion. I do recognize that Doug Marrone has a tough decision to make. I get it. Any injury to a starter can jeopardize the season and this team doesn’t have much depth. If one key player goes down, the chances of winning goes down.

And head coaches who go 5-11 the previous season can’t afford to lose too many games. But here’s the key: Marrone has to be right. 

SLIDESHOW: 2019 Jags preseason opener in photos

If the offensive starters don’t play in preseason and they can’t move the ball in the first few weeks, it could get ugly. Also, if the defensive starters don’t play and can’t stop anybody early on, it gets ugly.

My hope is to see Nick Foles and the fellas play into the third quarter next week. But don’t be surprised if we don’t see him until the opener. One final note. Gardner Minshew looked good Thursday night against the Eagles. He was 19 of 29 passing for 202 yards, much improved from the first preseason game. 

Good enough to be the backup going into the season? I believe so. He’s taken care of the ball (most important). He’s tough. He can move around and make plays. And, he has a great mustache. I really like this kid.

Go Jaguars!

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