Dust off the cooler.
Clean off the grill.
Wash your jersey.
Call your friends.
Find the television remote.
Allen Iverson might have said it best.
Practice is over. It’s game week!
Ok, fine it’s the preseason. However, there is so much to learn this week for the Jacksonville Jaguars. No more hitting one another in the Florida heat.
At least for this week.
The Jaguars are traveling up to Baltimore to participate in a couple of joint practices with the Ravens, prior to Thursday’s game.
The ultimate goal for preseason games is evaluation of players. Think of it as an interview for you rookies, both drafted and un-drafted. The Jaguars roster is littered with new faces ready for their time to shine. Despite the absence of rookies tight end Josh Oliver and linebacker Quincy Williams, there are other rookies to keep your eyes on.
Josh Allen – Edge
In the minds of many across the league, the Jaguars got the steal of the draft with edge rusher Josh Allen with the seventh pick overall.
Allen joins a defense already considered to be near the top of the league. A defense that replaces experienced veterans with new faces along all three levels.
The youth and inexperience could be an issue unless defensive coordinator Todd Wash and senior defensive assistant Dom Capers get out in front of it.
The reigning SEC defensive player of the year (Allen) brings size (6′ 5″ 262 lbs.) along with explosiveness to the defense.
Additionally, he brings a portfolio that highlights his versatility on the field. Allen was asked to do many things as a senior for Kentucky, and he always excelled. Can that translate to the NFL? That will be something to see on Thursday.
Coach Wash insists that Allen is a pass rusher. However, with the disappearance of linebacker Telvin Smith and the recent injury to Williams, it makes you wonder if Allen could be plugged in at the linebacker slot. It is worth a shot to take a look at just that during the preseason.
Jawaan Taylor – Right Tackle
The Jaguars traded up three spots in the second round of the draft to select tackle Jawaan Taylor in April’s draft.
Another steal? The front office certainly believes so.
Taylor shined at the NFL combine and was high the lists of many analysts when it came to offensive linemen. Now it’s time for Taylor to prove that he is a first-round talent that fell into the Jaguars’ lap.
The time is now for Taylor. It is necessary for Taylor to be productive immediately.
Last season, the Jaguars struggled to remain healthy along the offensive front. The ineptitude of the unit impacted the game from start to finish. Taylor will not be handed the starting nod on the right side, as he has competition. But if he can harness the ability to be consistent each play, he will find himself on the field more often than not.
New offensive line coach George Warhop is the key factor in the development of Taylor and transforming the unit as a whole.
Gardner Minshew – Quarterback
There’s no doubt that quarterback Gardner Minshew is a character.
In fact, his story from Mississippi to Washington State reads like an adventure novel. His cut of shorts and mustache have been the talk around Jacksonville this summer. At times his personality overshadows his physical stature in the pocket.
But there’s something more to Minshew. Something special, perhaps.
During training camp, Minshew has had his share of ups and downs, much like any rookie. Minshew, a fifth round pick in 2019, appears to be the front-runner for the back-up quarterback role behind Nick Foles. He has the toughness and the grit that the front office relishes.
It’s time to see Minshew put it all together on the field. His time starts this week in Baltimore.
Grab some popcorn and settle in for the preseason. Lock in on one or all of these rookies and follow their progression the next few weeks.
And maybe, just maybe one or two of them will emerge with more than practice accolades, and contribute sooner than later.