Through two preseason games, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first units on both offense and defense have looked great. Blake Bortles has completed 14 of his 18 passes for 190 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Chris Ivory has carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards and a score and T.J. Yeldon has six carries for 41 yards while hauling in a couple passes and scoring on one against Tampa Bay on Saturday night. And wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns have both looked solid in the limited snaps they played in the two preseason games.
The Jaguars’ first-string defense has looked stout when on the field as well, allowing just one touchdown drive in both games while also getting decent pressure and forcing a turnover against Tampa Bay.
But beyond their starters, the Jaguars haven’t looked efficient at all.
Now keep in mind, Jacksonville’s reserves have played far more snaps than the first team has. So the numbers will be slightly skewed in that regard. But the disparity is still stark between what the starters have done and what the backups haven’t.
Against Tampa Bay, Jacksonville’s backup quarterbacks combined to complete just five passes in 22 attempts, throwing four interceptions in the process. Chad Henne tossed two picks and Brandon Allen and Max Wittek both threw one each. And after the Jags’ first team defense held Buccaneers starting quarterback Jameis Winston to just a 30 percent completion percentage and only one scoring drive in a quarter-plus of action, the defensive reserves gave up 20 points and let the Bucs make big plays. Yes, Jacksonville managed a pick-six on a Josh Johnson interception, but otherwise the backup defenders looked much more incompetent than the starters.
Jacksonville’s reserves on offense managed just one more touchdown and a measly 89 yards of total offense against Tampa Bay on Saturday night. The backups put up a similar effort against the New York Jets, managing only a field goal after the starters scored 10 points in the first quarter.
The Jaguars have some of the best starters not only in their division, but in the whole AFC. Bortles looks to be picking up where he left off after a breakout second season, both Ivory and Yeldon are performing well in their timeshare in the backfield and Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are looking just as good as last year. And the first team defense appears to be far superior than what the Jags had at any point last season.
It may seem like nitpicking to critique Jacksonville’s backups so harshly. But every reserve in the NFL is just one play away from being thrust into a game and that means each team needs to have reliable and adequate backups, especially in key areas. And right now, Jacksonville doesn’t appear to have that across the board.
It’s only preseason and it’s early on in preseason at that. But the early returns aren’t looking promising for the Jaguars as far as their depth is concerned.