By Hays Carlyon
The Jaguars starters are playing.
After two forgettable preseason games to open the exhibition season, the Jaguars look healthy enough for coach Doug Marrone to send his starters out against Miami on Thursday night in the third (and most interesting) preseason game.
Marrone wanted to utilize the third preseason game as a dry run for the regular season. No starters or key backups will see the field in the final preseason game next week.
This is it. Ideally, the starters will play well and then lock in on the regular-season opener against visiting Kansas City on Sept. 8.
There are defensive story lines, but the offense is by far the most compelling aspect of this game.
We know the defense.
We really don’t know about the offense. We think we might. We’ve made observations since training camp opened last month, but we don’t know. Why? Because we haven’t seen all the new components of this offense against another team in a game.
That’s why it’s easy to focus entirely on the offense. Here are our five players to watch.
QB Nick Foles
Why: Duh, he’s the hope for a better tomorrow. Jaguars personnel chief Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell signed Foles in March to win and save their jobs.
Foles has performed consistently well in training camp, but this is a new test. He might be rusty, but you’d like to see two good drives in the three possessions he’s likely to guide. My hope is that he tests the Dolphins deep after throwing the long ball so well in practice since his arrival. Let the Chiefs know they can’t load the box to stop…
RB Leonard Fournette
Why: Fournette will probably get the lightest snap count of any significant player on Thursday. He’s had an impressive camp and the last thing the Jaguars need is for him to be anything less than 100 percent for the Chiefs.
Fournette will probably get a couple of carries, but it’s his receiving skills that I’d like to see the Jaguars show off against Miami. Hopefully, DeFilippo prioritizes getting Fournette a touch in the passing game or Foles checks down to him.
WR Chris Conley
Why: Conley has been a pleasant surprise after being an under-the-radar signing in free agency. His bond with Foles was evident early on.
Conley has the chance to really take pressure off of Fournette. He can get deep and has shown reliable hands. I would expect Foles to try and burn Miami deep on a pass to Conley.
LT Cam Robinson
Why: Robinson was the key domino in the whole thing in terms of the starters playing. Clearly, Marrone wanted his starting offensive line available before he played Foles. Robinson, a third-year veteran, came off the PUP list on Aug. 12 and is ready to return to the field after tearing his ACL in the second game last season.
Robinson might only be ready for 12-15 snaps. It would be a surprise if he’s able to log more than 20. I would expect that when Robinson’s night is over, so is Foles’.
RG Will Richardson
Why: A.J. Cann looked like a safe incumbent after the Jaguars re-signed him to a 3-year, $15-million contract in March. However, Richardson has been the surprise of training camp after doing nothing in an injury-plagued rookie season a year ago after being selected in the fourth round.
The Jaguars like Richardson’s combination of size and athleticism and Marrone has gone out of his way to praise him.
I think Richardson gets the start against Miami.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)