The Jaguars' 24-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers offered little clarity in several departments.
The third preseason game was supposed to lead the Jaguars to conclusions at several positions. Instead, it seemingly kept most of the battles open-ended.
The offensive line struggled, the quarterback play was uneven and the pass rush was non-existent. Penalties on the Panthers and the occasional big play helped keep the Jaguars even with Carolina, but the game never felt as close as the scoreboard implied.
Here are 10 observations from Thursday's loss to the Panthers:
1. The quarterback competition, if it's actually a "wide open" competition, has no clear winner right now.
The Jaguars may have two quarterbacks in a competition, but it's fair to wonder if either deserves the starting job. Chad Henne started against the Panthers and had an inconsistent outing.
He completed 8-of-14 passes for 73 yards, leading the offense on two scoring drives. While that may sound like a decent job in the first half of a preseason game, his unit went 1-of-7 on third downs.
Henne wasn't helped by his offensive line, which allowed three sacks. He also had a perfect downfield pass dropped by rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole on a go route that may have gone for a touchdown.
Blake Bortles, serving as the No. 2 quarterback, didn't shake his struggles until the Panthers' second and third-string defensive units entered the game. Bortles was picked off on a dropped pass by wide receiver Allen Hurns. He was also picked off on a potential game-winning two-point conversion.
Bortles finished 12-of-16 for 125 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone seemed disappointed with both performances following the game.
"I thought both quarterbacks were in there and I'm sure both quarterbacks would like to have done a better job," Marrone said. "Offensively, I think everybody needs to do a better job. Like I said to you guys earlier in the week, I'm not going to stand up here comment a lot on the two. I'm going to go back and look at things and see where we're at."
2. The Jaguars' defensive line failed to make a mark against the Panthers.
The Jaguars' starting defense allowed 72 rushing yards and failed to a produce a sack in the first half. Jacksonville's defensive line was largely to blame for those two statistics.
Despite featuring all four starters for the second-straight game, the Jaguars defensive line failed to get off blocks and stop the Panthers' running game in its tracks.
Carolina's offense put on a running game clinic during the opening drive. The group plowed downfield with five-straight runs for 52 yards. Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey made it an easy night for quarterback Cam Newton, who threw just two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown in his only series.
The Jaguars struggled to create pressure against Newton, Derek Anderson and Garrett Gilbert. The group didn't record a sack on the night.
3. The Jaguars offensive line has to find itself and soon.
The left guard spot is still seemingly up for grabs, but this is the second-straight game where the entire line has struggled.
The Jaguars produced 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the night. However, 51 of those yards came on a special teams trick play by running back Corey Grant. Taking away the 51-yard run, Grant had just seven yards on nine carries. Chris Ivory ran 10 times for 36 yards. The quarterbacks accounted for 29 yards on three carries.
The offensive line struggled to open up big holes outside of a couple of instances.
The pass blocking was inconsistent, as the group gave up three sacks. Ivory was responsible for one of the sacks, as he whiffed on a blitz pickup against Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis.
Rookie left tackle Cam Robinson was easily beat by Panthers defensive end Mario Addison for a sack on the opening drive. Later on, undrafted rookie defensive end Bryan Cox beat right tackle Jermey Parnell for a sack.
The line was whistled for five penalties, including three by guard A.J. Cann. That's completely unacceptable.
Entering Week 4 of the preseason, it's hard to feel comfortable about the offensive line, no matter who is at quarterback.
4. Shane Wynn should have a place in the NFL.
The journeyman wide receiver has caught everything that's come his way during training camp and the preseason. He makes plays on offense and special teams and I'm still not sure if he has a place on the Jaguars' roster.
The Jaguars will probably keep six wide receivers and those players seem to be Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and Arrelious Benn.
Wynn has caught six receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. He also returned a kickoff for 48 yards on Thursday. Some team is going to notice this guy and he will be on an NFL roster, despite being 5-foot-6 and 168 pounds.
5. Brandon Allen needs to be considered in the starting quarterback battle, right?
At this point, the Jaguars aren't doing themselves any favors by making this a two-man competition at quarterback. If Allen isn't that good, why would it hurt to include him in the mix? He is only going to prove you right or make himself an option.
Allen has made some plays in the preseason against less-than-stellar talent, so maybe he deserves a shot with the starters against the Atlanta Falcons next week. It probably won't happen, but it would be nice to figure out if he even deserves to be the second guy on the depth chart.
6. Corey Grant is probably what Denard Robinson was supposed to be.
Grant has been a big play threat in two of the three preseason games. He had a 79-yard run for a touchdown against the New England Patriots and produced the 51-yard run on the punt fake against the Panthers.
Grant is a home run threat whenever he gets the ball in his hands. Some may call him an "offensive weapon."
He has also probably locked up the starting kickoff returner gig.
7. Allen Hurns received a lot of playing time, despite assumptions about the trading block.
Hurns played a lot for someone who may be considered a trade chip for the Jaguars. There has been some talk of Hurns potentially being shopped due to the emergence of Cole and Westbrook. He didn't play last week, which added weight to the speculation.
However, Hurns played into the second half against the Panthers and caught three receptions for 28 yards. He also had a bad drop, which was converted into an interception by Panthers cornerback Zack Sanchez. It was a mixed bag on a night where everyone seemed to struggle on the Jacksonville offense.
8. The Jaguars aren't featuring their tight ends on offense in the preseason, but maybe they should.
Three tight ends produced three of the four biggest receptions of the game for the Jaguars against the Panthers.
Ben Koyack had a 30-yard catch-and-run into the red zone, Alex Ellis had a 22-yard play and Neal Sterling hauled in a 19-yard pass. The Jaguars offense seems very wide receiver-dependent. Perhaps a spoonful of tight end looks would help shake up the offense.
Koyack has developed into a legit NFL tight end, while Ellis seems to be a favorite of the coaching staff. Sterling continues to develop at his new position and Marcedes Lewis and Mychal Rivera are a pair veterans who could serve as red zone threats.
9. The Jaguars' cornerback depth is still a question mark.
Jalen Ramsey was able to play on Thursday but wasn't really picked on. The targets were sent toward backups like Tyler Patmon, Brian Dixon, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Doran Grant.
Carolina's third-string quarterback Garrett Gilbert was able to complete 8-of-12 passes for 97 yards. Yes, that Garrett Gilbert. Oh, you've never heard of him?
10. Special teams units bounce back against the Panthers.
The Jaguars' special teams units struggled against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Against the Panthers, the groups did well in the game's third phase.
The Jaguars held the Panthers to just 12 yards on three punt returns. The Panthers gained just 46 yards on three kickoffs.
Safety Peyton Thompson was the standout of the bunch with two special teams tackles. There were no penalties on the Jaguars' special teams units.
Also, kicker Jason Myers was perfect on the night!
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