Last Updated: 2019-08-19
Dress rehearsal week is upon us in the NFL Preseason. Week 3 is the week in which the starters play anywhere from a half to three quarters in order to get ready for when the games really start to matter. With five games on Thursday night, FOX executives opted for the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Miami Dolphins matchup, so that is the preview we will opt for this week as well.
Early money has hit the board on the Jaguars, who opened a 2.5-point under“cat” to the Dolphins with a total of 34.5. In other words, expect a real barnburner in this one.
Let’s be honest, though, both of these teams have their fair share of questions. Doug Marrone’s Jaguars have only managed 10 points in two games and the reserves have not played well. Considering that the Jaguars are littered with health risks, including Leonard Fournette and Marqise Lee, it has to be a big disappointment not to see better play out of the backups.
This should be the debut for Nick Foles in the preseason. Gardner Minshew was 19-of-29 last week and took three sacks. In two games, Minshew is 26-of-43 for 248 yards with zero touchdowns, zero picks, and four sacks. Alex McGough was 2-of-9 passing and took a sack of his own. He was 3-of-8 in his debut. Tanner Lee didn’t play last week against Philadelphia after taking three sacks against the Ravens in Week 1.
There aren’t a lot of concerns about Foles’s ability, but this is a new team and a new scheme and the skill positions have been in a state of flux in the preseason. Once again, the Jaguars failed to run the ball effectively, as they managed 59 yards on 21 carries against the Eagles. McGough was the leading rush with 21 yards and he had 17 of those on one carry. The top wide receivers didn’t see many reps. Are they, and Foles, expected to hit the ground running in this one? The line move would suggest that.
The Jaguars have allowed eight sacks in two games. Some of that is because Minshew, McGough, and Lee are young or simply aren’t very good, but Marrone has to have concerns about the offensive line play. Interestingly, it was reported by Michael DiRocco of ESPN that Marrone said of Minshew after last week’s game, “there’s not a lot of snaps left; he’ll get most of them coming up”. Maybe we won’t see Foles for a long period of time this week.
We’ll see how Marrone handles things with his defense. AJ Bouye, Jalen Ramsey, DJ Hayden, Myles Jack, and several other starters did not suit up last week. Will they be thrown into the fray this week for a quarter or a half? There is nothing wrong with looking at young guys, and players like Andrew Wingard and Tae Hayes have really impressed in the exhibition games, but the defensive starters need reps at some point.
At least the Dolphins don’t represent the league’s hardest test. This will be a telling week for Miami, however. There aren’t a lot of starting quarterback battles in the NFL, but this one of them. Second-year quarterback Josh Rosen started last week in his attempt to beat out Harvard Man Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting gig. Fitzmagic will start this week.
Is that a sign that first-year head coach Brian Flores is tipping his hand? If performance has anything to do with it, maybe not. Rosen is 23-of-38 in the preseason for 293 yards, but he has also been sacked five times. Fitzpatrick has stayed upright more often, but he was 2-of-5 for 20 yards in the opener and 3-of-9 for 20 yards last week against the Buccaneers, who are not a defensive juggernaut.
Flores said over the summer that Fitzpatrick was in the driver’s seat for the job, but neither guy has inspired much confidence through two games and a few weeks of practice. Perhaps that uncertainty, and the announcement that Fitzpatrick will start, is the driving force behind the line move.
At least the Dolphins look good at running back. Patrick Laird out of Cal has 75 yards on his 13 carries in the preseason and has added a few receptions. Kalen Ballage saw time last season and looks to be the team’s #1 heading into the regular season after skipping last week. With Kenyan Drake hurt, there will be more reps there this week for Laird, Washington product Myles Gaskin, who has two touchdowns this preseason, and Kenneth Farrow.
Young guys are stepping up on defense as well. Jonathan Ledbetter had a half-sack in the opener and was a disruption against the Bucs. Jerome Baker is making a case for more playing time and so is former Ohio State teammate Adolphus Washington. Sam Eguavoen out of Texas Tech has had a nose for the ball carrier with 11 tackles in two games. Rookie Dewayne Hendrix has a couple of sacks and first-round pick Christian Wilkins got his first last week.
This will be the first dress rehearsal for Flores, who is off to a 1-1 start in the preseason. Marrone is going through the dry run for the fifth time. He is 1-3 straight up in this game and 8-11 in the preseason overall with two losses so far this preseason.
Pick: Miami -1.5
You certainly want to respect early preseason line moves, but this one seems misguided. Nick Foles will play for the Jaguars, but the Dolphins will essentially run out two starting-caliber quarterbacks. Marrone hinted at Minshew playing a lot in this game. He has played well and looked better than anticipated in Week 2, so the market may be buying some stock in that.
The Dolphins, though, are likely to use Fitzpatrick and Rosen for just about all of this one. Jacksonville’s showing last week after Cody Kessler was knocked out was pretty uninspiring as well.
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