Jaguars’ many flaws on full display in preseason loss to Browns

Riley Platt, Sports Reporter

After what was arguably the most exciting offseason in franchise history, the Jacksonville Jaguars kicked off their 2021 campaign on Saturday night in a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Fans entered the weekend hopeful, but it’s safe to say that has largely turned to concern following the demoralizing loss.

Cleveland wasted absolutely no time getting started, marching down the field during their first drive. The Jacksonville defense looked utterly disjointed, as the Browns kept carving their way further down the field. The defense would ultimately hold, though, allowing only a field goal.

 Featured image: USA Today Sports/Nathan Ray Seebeck

While there were plenty of offseason additions, everyone was at TIAA Bank Field to see one in particular: first overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence. Perhaps to the surprise of many, the rookie trotted out onto the field for the opening drive. In typical Jaguars fashion, the first play of Lawrence’s NFL career ended with a sack and a fumble that was nearly lost. 

After a couple of first downs, the Jags were forced to punt. It wasn’t the prettiest at times, but Trevor Lawrence had survived his first drive in the NFL. A punt only meant one thing, though: the defense was back on the field. After giving up a pair of first downs, the Jacksonville defense scraped together a stop and forced a punt. Lawrence returned for his second drive, which was highlighted by a 35 yard pass to Marvin Jones Jr. The series came to an end on a failed 4th down conversion, but it was certainly more promising than the first.

The Browns would return to the ways of their first drive, kicking another field goal to go up 6-0 midway through the second quarter. Trevor Lawrence’s night was done after two series, going 6-9 on passing attempts for 71 yards. It was now time for Gardner Minshew, another fan favorite, to shine. Nothing noteworthy would take place for the time being, but the Browns weren’t done scoring. With just over a minute remaining in the first half, QB Kyle Lauletta led an impressive drive resulting in a touchdown, giving Cleveland a 13-0 lead going into halftime.

The Jags received the ball to start the second half, with CJ Beathard taking over QB duties. The performance of the former San Francisco 49er was a pleasant surprise, going 13-16 through the air for 102 yards. Unfortunately, this drive would come to a close with the Jags still being scoreless, following a rare missed field goal by Josh Lambo. The Browns would make Jacksonville pay, adding another field goal on the following drive to go up 16-0.

All things must eventually come to an end. This was the case for the 0 on the scoreboard, as the Jaguars would finally put together a scoring drive. CJ Beathard connected with recent addition Tavon Austin in the endzone, narrowing the deficit to 16-6.

Unfortunately for Jags fans, Cleveland responded with a 20 play, 89 yard touchdown drive of their own. Second-year QB Jake Luton would finish the game for the Jags, throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Davis in garbage time to make it a 10-point game with 26 seconds left in the game. The game would end this way, with Cleveland taking the win 23-13.

So, what now?

While the debut of the new-look Jags certainly could’ve gone better, it’s far too early to overreact and throw in the towel. Fans have to understand that it’s going to take time for this team to mesh- and that includes Trevor Lawrence.

The most noticeable knock on Lawrence was by far how long he was holding onto the ball. This was made quite obvious on the very first play of the game (something that national media will surely have a field day with). While the play of the offensive line and receivers clearly impacts this, getting rid of the ball is something the rookie will have to work on going forward.

Head coach Urban Meyer recently referred to the QB battle as an open competition, making many scratch their heads. After Saturday’s opener, though, this may actually be the case. CJ Beathard, who was written off as a third-stringer, played an incredible game. While this doesn’t mean the former Iowa Hawkeye will necessarily be the starter come Week 1, it could make things interesting.

Overall, this game has to be taken at face value. It’s a preseason game; this isn’t the end of the world. It’s better to see these flaws now rather than the regular season. Urban Meyer’s squad has some things to work on, and things are only bound to get better as the season progresses. Remember Jags fans: things can only go up from here.


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