Preseason Week 3 continues with the Carolina Panthers visiting the Jacksonville Jaguars. The third week of the preseason is generally considered a “dress rehearsal” for the NFL season, and starting positions and important roles can be won and lost this week. PFF’s analysts have all the important position battles and players to watch for each team below:
Coverage by: Mike Manning
Position Battle: Daeshon Hall/Bryan Cox, fourth DE
- The veteran duo of Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers along with 2016 standout Mario Addison will anchor the edge for the Panthers but the spots behind them are open. Third-round pick Daeshon Hall has performed well this preseason as he is tied for the team lead in pressures with six, but he is tied with undrafted rookie Bryan Cox, and Cox tallied his six pressures in seven less pass-rushes. With much more experience in college than Cox, Hall led SEC 4-3 defensive ends in pass-rushing snaps with 404 snaps and pressures from the left side with 36.
- The lesser known Cox has been one of the highest graded defensive ends in the league during this preseason, his 87.5 overall in Week 1 was the fourth-highest of any edge defender. He out-graded Hall in Week 2 against the Titans 75.3 to 72.7 as well. The former Gator was also the team’s best run defender in Week 1 with a run defense grade of 84.3.
Players to Watch:
- Darrel Young, FB – After playing only four snaps in the preseason opener, the veteran Young was on the field for 23 snaps against the Titans. He accounted for his first touches since 2015 with four rushes and 16 yards after contact while forcing a missed tackle. Young is battling with rookie Alex Armah but has out-snapped him 27 to 11 thus far.
- Taylor Moton, T – The promising rookie was drafted as a tackle but has played guard as well this preseason as the team looks to shore up the offensive line. Moton’s 88.4 pass blocking grade against the Titans was the second-highest by a tackle in Week 2. He has only allowed one pressure in 45 pass blocking snaps this preseason, the second-most pass-blocking snaps on the team.
- David Mayo, LB – With the departure of A.J. Klein in free agency, Mayo is fighting for the backup linebacker spot behind Luke Kuechly. With only 31 regular season snaps under his belt, Mayo has been a top special teams contributor the past two seasons with 16 special team tackles to lead the team. Mayo leads the Panthers defense this preseason in tackles (10) and is tied for the lead in defensive stops (4). He will look to improve on his 68.5 game grade from this past week though.
Coverage by: Aaron Resnick
Position Battle: Blake Bortles/Chad Henne, QB
- Bortles has struggled in his 18 preseason attempts, and hasn’t completed any of his four passes that traveled more than nine yards past the line of scrimmage. When kept clean in the pocket, Bortles has had an adjusted completion percentage of 80.0.
- Henne, when kept clean, has an adjusted completion percentage of 92.3 and to this point a passer rating of 143.9. So far Henne has attempted six passes that traveled more than nine yards past the line of scrimmage. He has completed only two of them, but Henne’s adjusted completion percentage on passes of 20 yards or more sits at 75.0 percent as two were dropped.
- Neither quarterback has had the majority of their yards come through the air, as Bortles currently sits at 44.4 percent, compared to 44.8 percent of Henne’s. Henne was granted the start for the Week 3 game against Carolina.
Players to watch:
- Dede Westbrook: With Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns playing only a combined 13 preseason snaps to this point, Westbrook has taken advantage of the opportunity. A fourth-round pick this past April, Jaguars quarterbacks (primarily Brandon Allen) have had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when targeting him through two preseason games. In his 22 snaps in route, Westbrook has averaged a ridiculous 7.86 yards per route run and has accumulated 49 yards (seven per reception) after the catch. While quarterback is an uncertainty, the Jaguars have the makings of an exciting and deep receiving corps.
- Sheldon Day: A fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2016, Day has shown a lot of promise this preseason, particularly last week against the Buccaneers. In that game, Day played 45 snaps and finished with an overall grade of 89.7 while managing to record a sack and three stops. So far this preseason, Day has played 89 snaps while recording three total quarterback pressures and has a run stop percentage of 9.1 percent on 33 snaps in run defense. While Day might not play much in this game initially, he’s a name to monitor throughout the season.