Kerry Belkin: Slow Start
One of the most glaring takeaways from this game was the dominant theme early in this game, and the dominant theme for much of last season; the slow start. Jacksonville didn’t perform well on either side of the ball at the start of the game.
On offense, the first drive looked like it might start out promising, the Jaguars managed to get a first down. Just after securing the first down, however, T.J. Yeldon fumbled the ball and the Bengals recovered. The next two Jaguars' drive ended as quick as they started, with two back to back 3-and-outs. Those three drives would make up the entirety of the Jaguars possessions in the first quarter. The Jaguars ran a total of 10 plays the first quarter, during which Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee were targeted zero times.
Defensively, the Jaguars struggled. They were put in a difficult position their first time on the field, the Yeldon fumble resulted them defending from their own 22 yard line. Andy Dalton overthrew his first target, but came right back for a 19 yard touchdown to Giovani Bernard. Their next drive started off poorly for Jacksonville, but they managed to get the Bengals off the field following a costly Bengals penalty. Their third defensive drive, however, was poor. Cincinnati marched down the field, getting chunk play after chunk play (including a successful fourth down conversion), eating up the clock while doing so. The Bengals scored on a run at the one yard line after Prince Amukamara got called for an untimely pass interference, giving Cincinnati a fresh set of downs at the 2-yard line. This was a dress rehearsal for the Jaguars, and it was a against a playoff contender no less, so the slow start is definitely concerning given the high expectations surrounding the team. Not the showing you’re looking for as a Jags fan.
Zac Blobner: Hayes Pullard III
One name: Hayes Pullard He was the only real bright spot of the night, aside from a Tony Washington touchdown and the backups finding a way to win a game meant for the starters... Pullard was a diamond in the rough. The second-year linebacker showed versatility coming in for a play on offense and catching a would-be touchdown if not negated by a soft ineligible receiver penalty. He then bounced back on defense in his natural habitat with a dip and dash interception off Bengals QB Joe Licata for a touchdown. I'm not proclaiming Hayes is the next J.J. Watt but he certainly put himself in a prime time position for a roster spot as cuts loom.
The bottom line is Pullard stole the show. It wasn't hard with practically everyone else on the Jags Roster playing "Really bad", as Blake Bortles eloquently pointed out post game. But it still meant a lot to the fans at home and in the stadium watching, waiting, hoping their beloved Jags would give them a reason to cheer. When Hayes jumped the route, intercepted the pass, and bolted downfield - everyone was on their feet, rooting him on. Sure in the grand scheme of things it won't matter much, but as fans hang their head after a disappointing evening at EverBank, they'll also look at each other and say, "Hey did you see that Pullard kid's pick six though?" I think there's merit in that. Thank you Hayes.
Ben Freid: Can't Stop The Run
We knew the Bengals were a good team, and the Jags would have their hands full during the third preseason game. The Bengals are balanced on both sides of the ball, and it showed when Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 11 carries for 48 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hill’s bruising style, and Bernard’s open field savvy showed when the Jags had no answer for either of them.
Hill finished the first half with 8 carries for 21 yards and a 2.6 ypc along with a TD. Though the stats seem unimpressive on paper, he was used in a lot of short yardage situations. Hill also recorded a catch for 28 yards. Bernard stole the show, with 3 carries for 27 yards to go with 2 catches for 25 yards and a TD. Bernard consistently moved the chains and showed great pad level to break tackles.
With the inability to stop the run, the Jags fell short on stopping the Bengals on third down. Hill grinded out the tough short yardage situations, while Bernard sliced through the Jags in the open field. The Hill/Bernard combo is one of the leagues better running back duos, but the Jags will have to go up against Eddie Lacy, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Lamar Miller (2x) and Adrian Peterson in the regular season. These are top tier NFL running backs, and if the Bengals preseason game is an indicator, the Jags will be in for a long season against some of the best NFL running backs.
The Jags have made heavy investments in their defensive front, especially with high value defensive tackle Malik Jackson. It was tough to watch them struggle as the Bengals offensive line constantly pushed the Jags defensive line around, creating massive holes for their running backs. If the Jags want any chance of making the playoffs, they have to be able to stop the run.