Thursday's Outcome Not Meaningless for Jags

While most NFL teams use the fourth preseason game as a final tune-up for the regular season, with the starters playing just a series or two, the Jaguars won't have that luxury in Thursday's contest with the Washington Redskins.

There are too many questions that still exist regarding starting spots that will need to be answered this week, and the Redskins game could provide those answers. This time of training camp, teams must decide between fine-tuning the regulars by playing them compared to sending them to the sidelines early so as not to run the risk of injuries.

"I think if you have a veteran group that's established that you know more about, it's probably a wise thing to do (resting them)," coach Jack Del Rio said. "I think we have a younger team that needs to work so we're going to work.

"Ideally we'd like to roll out a group that for the most part is going to take the field in our opener at Indy. So Thursday I'd like to do that. We're going to continue to work through that as a staff and settle on the guys. I think there are still some decisions to be made and we'll have the next couple days to sort through it, but I would like to put what should be as close as we can come to having the starting group on the field when we kick it off Thursday night."

Most glaring among the questions needing answers is the offensive line. Neither of the tackle spots has been solidified with rookies Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton still challenging veterans Tra Thomas and Tony Pashos respectively. Monroe, the Jaguars No. 1 draft pick, missed a portion of training camp due to contract negotiations, but he's made up the lost time and is considered to be on even terms with Thomas at this point.

If Monroe isn't named the starter, it will just be a matter of time until he does take over for Thomas. That could happen by the Indianapolis game or shortly thereafter.

Britton's battle with Pashos is also a tight one but the seven-year veteran has held off the rookie thus far. Pashos struggled in the preseason opener but rebounded with stronger showing in the last two games. Britton was the Jaguars second-round draft pick, an indication that he'll eventually secure a starting spot.

In addition to the battles at the two tackle spots, another position that has yet to be resolved is right guard. Uche Nwaneri and Maurice Williams have battled each other for three training camps now with Williams earning the starting spot each of the last two seasons. But Nwaneri became a 16-game starter last year when Williams suffered a year-ending biceps injury in the season opener.

Only Vince Manuwai at left guard and Brad Meester at the center spot have locked up starting spots in the offensive line.

So now the Jaguars find themselves in the dilemma of securing answers to several starting spots and backup positions as compared to having concern about winning Thursday's game. A loss would leave the Jaguars with their first winless preseason and further alienate them from gaining fan support.

The team distributed just over 42,000 tickets for the first preseason home game against Tampa Bay, which left over 25,000 empty seats. A similar crowd is expected for the Washington contest. The team has already announced that it will likely black out all of the regular season home games this year.

"Obviously you want to win anything you keep score at," Del Rio said. "Last week was a great example of you didn't come out of that game feeling bad because you know that you did some good things early. You'd like to close it out and finish the game."


Jags Illustrated Top Stories