But preseason results don’t matter nearly as much as the individual performances of players battling to climb the depth chart. With Jaguars starters watching from the sideline, Saturday night was largely about players trying to prove why they deserve a spot on the 53-man roster.
Here are five players who stood out from the rest and three who took a step in the wrong direction:
Stud: DE Jeremiah Ledbetter
On the first play from scrimmage Saturday, Lions quarterback Teddy Bridgewater dodged K’Lavon Chaisson before stepping right into the arms of Ledbetter. It was the first of several great plays made by the seventh-year defensive lineman.
Ledbetter later forced a turnover when he wrapped up Bridgewater just as he was handing the ball off.
The defensive lineman finished the game with a 95.2 grade on PFF, more than 11 points higher than any other Jaguars player.
Dud: K'Lavon Chaisson
When Jaguars coach Doug Pederson was asked about the team’s pass rush after the game, he spoke positively about Jordan Smith, Yasir Abdullah, Tyler Lacy, and the aforementioned Ledbetter. The absence of Chaisson from his list of impressive players feels notable.
Twice Chaisson had a clear chance to make a play in the backfield and whiffed. When the Lions faced a fourth-and-short situation deep in their own territory, it was Chaisson who jumped offsides and awarded Detroit a free first down.
Stud: WR Elijah Cooks
— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) August 19, 2023
A bittersweet reality for the Jaguars is that the team has too many talented, quality players and not enough roster spots for all of them.
Cooks appears to be one of those players on the outside looking in, despite a fantastic camp and preseason. Against the Lions, Cooks led all receivers with 69 receiving yards via just two receptions.
If the Jaguars end up waiving Cooks after preseason, their chances of getting him back on the practice squad may be slim.
Stud: CB Gregory Junior
Jags CB Gregory Junior snags the INT before the half 👀
— NFL (@NFL) August 19, 2023
Junior didn’t need another strong showing, his spot on the roster is already locked up. But he gave the Jaguars even more reason to be confident about his ability to play on Sundays.
After forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble in the Jaguars’ first preseason game, Junior was part of a third takeaway when he intercepted the Lions’ Nate Sudfeld late in the second quarter.
Dud: DB Erick Hallett II
The margin of error is pretty small for young defensive backs, given the amount of competition there is for roster spots. While some have stood out, Hallett has fallen behind.
On Saturday, he was the lowest graded Jaguars player on PFF after allowing 42 receiving yards on three receptions — not a small total when you consider that the Lions had 131 total yards of offense.
Hallett was already a long shot to make the roster and the sixth-round pick’s chances didn’t improve against the Lions.
Stud: OLB Jordan Smith
It’s been a long road back to the field for Smith and he’s made a compelling push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
On Saturday, he was on the field for 22 snaps and rushed the passer on 13 of them. Smith made the most of those chances, recording two quarterback hits and a hurry. It earned him some praise from Doug Pederson and strengthened his odds of sticking around into September.
Stud: TE Brenton Strange
Strange may not be the most polished tight end yet, but the tenacious blocking of the rookie should earn him lot of snaps in 2023 anyway.
The second-round pick caught three passes for 23 yards Saturday night, but it was his push in the run game that was really impressive. His 83.0 run blocking grade on PFF was highest on the team and his 74.2 pass block grade wasn’t too shabby either.
Dud: OT Cam Robinson
Result is a TD for the Jags but yet another overset by Cam Robinson for a pressure. pic.twitter.com/MLODh3Dq74
— Alex King (@AKing_Evals) August 19, 2023
It seems that the Jaguars’ plan is to put Robinson back in the starting lineup at left tackle once his four-game suspension ends. If that comes to fruition, Jacksonville will need much better play than it got Saturday.
Several times, Robinson was simply run over by the Lions’ second-team pass rushers.
“Cam, probably not his best game,” Doug Pederson said Monday. “I thought he was on the ground a little bit too much and beat a little bit. For somebody his caliber, he should play better.”