10 players we're excited to see in the Jags' preseason opener vs. Cowboys
It’s officially game day for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they will take the field at 5:00 PM EST against the Dallas Cowboys for their first of three preseason games. After a year where the Jags shocked everyone by winning the AFC South title, the goal is now to inch closer to the Super Bowl if not win it. That journey starts in the preseason where the team will make an evaluation on the 53 players who can best get them there.
Of course, with it being early in the preseason the starters won’t see the field a lot Week 1. Earlier in the week, Jags coach Doug Pederson said he expects them to play just a series or two, which means Saturday’s game will provide a lot of opportunity for the reserves. Regardless, we'll have the opportunity to make plenty of observations before the Jags make their final cuts in a few weeks.
Here are some players we’re excited to see both from the starting lineup and reserve unit:
QB Trevor Lawrence
Of course, we had to start with the face of the franchise. Lawrence will be in his second year in Pederson’s scheme and has looked good in camp. When considering his comfort level with the scheme and new weapons in the run-game and pass-game, he’s expected to make a leap this season. Hopefully, fans will get a taste of that on Saturday, although the starters will see limited time on the field.
WR Calvin Ridley
Simply put, Ridley has been the star of Jaguars training camp and has been a highlight reel during practices. As the team's biggest acquisition this offseason, that's what fans wanted to see, and now it's just a matter of things translating on the field. While the starters will only play a series or two, it would be nice to see Ridley and Lawrence link up for a few highlight plays to give fans a sample of what the regular season could hold.
WR Elijah Cooks
Cooks has a decent chance to earn a spot on the back of the final 53-man roster, as he's made some plays in camp. Right now, it feels like Kevin Austin may be ahead of him for the WR6 role, but his size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) makes him an intriguing option to be a preseason standout.
RB Tank Bigsby
With a star running back like Travis Etienne on the roster, many were puzzled by the decision to take Tank Bigsby in the early rounds of April's draft. However, when you look at the Jags' struggles in tough yardage situations, the selection of Bigsby makes a lot of sense. He's had a good camp, and it will be interesting to see if he brings a more physical dynamic to the Jags' already-loaded offense.
TE Gerrit Prince
Many who've been around the Jags this offseason would say Prince is one of their most improved players. After joining the team last year as an undrafted free agent, Prince spent the 2022 regular season on the practice squad. That time proved valuable as he’s been one of the team's top receiving threats in camp, and many feel he will make the team as a result. Prince gives the Jags’ tight end room a player with great speed, and as a reserve, he should get plenty of playing time to display it over the next few weeks.
DT Foley Fatukasi
The Jags’ 2022 free-agency class was fantastic when looking at the additions of Zay Jones, Christian Kirk, and Evan Engram, but one player who didn’t meet expectations was Fatukasi. A key reason for that could be that he was injured, but he’s now fully healthy. He’s a player that Pederson has said he’s been impressed with in camp, and hopefully, that will translate into preseason as the Jags front will need to be more disruptive in 2023.
DT Raymond Vohasek
When looking at the makeup of the offenses in the AFC South, the Jags need players like Fatukasi who can help disrupt the run game. Another player who is known for that is Vohasek, who was a seventh-round selection for the Jags this offseason. Vohasek also flashed his run-stuffing ability recently when the Jags worked on goal-line situations and could be set for a good preseason, too. While the Jags already have several players who flourish against the run, there still may be room for one more with Corey Peters retiring, and Vohasek could be an option to replace the veteran.
DL De’Shaan Dixon
Dixon, who the Jags signed as an undrafted free agent last season, made the Jags’ final 53-man roster. However, he didn’t get to play much and decided to make the move from outside linebacker to the defensive line. He’s had moments where he’s flashed in camp, but he probably needs a solid preseason to stick around for Year 2.
CB Gregory Junior
Junior was one of the Jaguars' late-round draft picks last season, and after spending a year with the team, it appears he has a chance to earn a role as their starting nickel. He’s been a player who has stood out in camp, but it doesn’t come as a shock when reflecting on our evaluations of him last year. Junior, who was drafted out of Ouachita Baptist University, was a player who impressed at the 2022 East-West Shrine Game and held his own in the Senior Bowl, too. That showed his ability to adapt to different competition levels, and now it will be interesting to see if his sticky coverage abilities show up on Saturday.
Safety Antonio Johnson
Johnson was a player many felt was a steal for the Jags as he had second to third-round grades attached to him. Somehow the Jags got him in the fifth round this April, and he caught the eyes of those who attended the Jags’ practices. In one of the practices we attended, he snagged a nice high-point pick on C.J. Beathard. Like Junior, he’s a player who has a chance to win the starting nickel role as he spent a lot of time there in college at Texas A&M.