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NFL Preseason Game: Panthers Versus Jaguars

The outdoor sports calendar bursts at the seams on Saturdays in September, with the start of dove hunting season and a full slate of college football games. Sunday schedules that include morning worship services, will expand to watching professional football with family and friends, and watching the road to the Super Bowl unfold. Actually attending an NFL game is always an option too, and I hit the road down to Jacksonville to watch the Carolina Panthers take on the Jaguars in a preseason game that settled which quarterbacks will start in the regular season.

My last trip to take in a Jaguars game was about ten years ago, and the Jacksonville franchise has continued to evolve since then. While the address for the stadium remains the same, which may be remembered by some as the Gator Bowl, the facilities have been upgraded and expanded to first-class NFL standards. New owner Shad Khan purchased the team in 2011 and brought renewed focus to winning football games, but also to invest in the football stadium.

Probably the biggest addition is the new enclosed practice facility that is adjacent to the football stadium. A new concert venue amphitheater with 5000-seats is also attached to the facility. Most of the $90 million dollar renovation plans are complete now including club seating areas for season ticket holders and walk out patios for all fans to utilize including a swimming pool. The stadium is now known as EverBank Field thanks to sponsorship by the Jacksonville financial institution, with two Jumbotron video screens to show crystal clear instant replays.

Jacksonville is a part of the AFC South division in the NFL and they are coached by Doug Marrone. The head coach has been rotating two quarterbacks in the preseason and Chad Henne was named the starter against the Panthers, and Blake Bortles came in to play QB during the second half. This formula was a role reversal from two prior preseason games, showing Jaguars fans that the position of starter was up for grabs.

The starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton returned to the field for the Jaguars game, after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Newton showed no signs of rust as he led the Panthers down the field methodically during their first possession, using a combination of running plays for rookie Christian McCaffrey capped by a short touchdown pass to veteran Kelvin Benjamin. Head coach Ron Rivera liked the results so much that Newton was removed from the game to continue to rest up.

The Jaguars first possession stalled out when Henne was sacked on third down and they were forced to punt. But the Jags defense held on the next series and and it was Carolina’s turn to punt. The ensuing Jaguars series got to fourth down, and they faked their punt in an effort to establish some momentum. I think they faked out the entire stadium, including those of us in the press box,
when Corey Grant busted up the middle for a long gain. A defensive penalty on Carolina gave the Jags a first and goal and they ran the ball in for a touchdown to tie the game at 7 – 7. The scoring went back and forth for the remainder of the game, with each team making a field goal before half time for another tie at 10 – 10. Both offenses seemed to move the ball better in the second half, with many backup players on the field trying to secure a spot on the regular season rosters. When the game ended Carolina scratched out a narrow victory 24 – 23, but the Jaguars had given their fans plenty of plays for their fans to cheer during the Thursday night game.

The Jags play again this Thursday night at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium when they travel to take on the Atlanta Falcons. Coach Marrone has since named quarterback Blake Bortles as the starting QB for the Jaguars season opener on September 10 against the Houston Texans. The Jaguars travel to London, England to play a regular season game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 24, which is an annual overseas trip for the Jacksonville franchise. Most Jaguars games can be watched on TV when viewing channels broadcasting from Savannah, which is in the Jaguars network coverage area.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com