Four storylines from Jaguars/Saints preseason action

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The Jacksonville Jaguars fell to the New Orleans Saints 24-20 in the first game of the preseason on Thursday night at TIAA Bank Field. Here are a few key storylines from the game:

The Jaguars first-team offense was impressive.

In the first drive of the game, Jacksonville’s first-team offense, led by quarterback Blake Bortles, had no trouble moving the ball down the field. The Jaguars’ 15-play, 79-yard drive took 7:02 off the clock, included three third-down conversions and concluded with a 2-yard touchdown run by Bortles.

Running back Leonard Fournette chipped in five carries for 24 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Bortles was 6 of 9 for 53 yards, with completions to tight end James O’Shaughnessy and receivers Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook, who caught two balls for 28 yards on the drive. Bortles appeared poised, confident and ready to go.

“We were kind of talking about it, joking about it, that it kind of felt like we never left,” Bortles said. “Like we kind of picked up where we left off last year. It felt good.”

The Jaguars first-team also proved successful without starting left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Jeremy Parnell, who both didn’t play for precautionary reasons pertaining to injuries.

Most of the first-teamers only played the first drive, which head coach Doug Marrone revealed was due to a play count he and his staff planned for the game.

Cody Kessler appears he will be a reliable backup quarterback.

After the Jaguars’ first drive of the game, it was the Cody Kessler show until the fourth quarter, and the third-year player posted a solid performance.

The former Cleveland Brown and University of Southern California product finished 14 of 17 for 139 yards, 1 touchdown, a passer rating of 120.3 and a completion percentage of 82.4. Kessler led the Jaguars on three scoring drives, one of which ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Orndoff. The other two drives were capped off by Josh Scobee 49-yard field goals.

Kessler protected the ball, committing no turnovers, and efficiently and consistently worked the Jaguars down the field.

“I think Cody played extremely well,” Marrone said. “I think he looked good. He was comfortable in there. I thought he made some good throws.”

In two years with Cleveland, Kessler played in 12 games, throwing for 1,506 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. The Browns won one game in the two years Kessler was on the team.

“It’s a fresh start for me,” Kessler said. “It was tough last year. It was a tough situation. Having a fresh start here and being in this organization and just how positive everyone here is and excited to really get the season started … it was nice and I really just fit right in from day one.”

Rookie quarterback Tanner Lee played like a … rookie.

There’s no way to beat around the bush here: The Jaguars’ sixth-round draft pick out of Nebraska didn’t have a good NFL start.

Tanner Lee finished 4 of 8 for 37 yards and fumbled the ball twice, one of which was recovered by the Saints. He appeared confused in the pocket and fazed by the speed of the pros, as he was sacked on his first two plays and three other times later in the fourth quarter.

“There will be a lot to learn from,” Lee said. “I’m looking forward to next week’s game and being able to learn from the things that happened with the whole group. It will be good to learn from and be better next week.”

Bortles noted that Lee is from New Orleans, so that most likely added extra pressure for him.

“It’s his first NFL experience and he was playing against his hometown team, (so) he was fired up,” Bortles said. “It’s just all part of the learning and growing process and figuring things out.”

Four Jaguars weren’t on the field during the national anthem.

Jaguars Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Telvin Smith and running backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon decided to stay off the field during the national anthem.

Smith said he has “certain beliefs” but that this won’t be a distraction in Jacksonville.

“This is not going to become a distraction for this team,” Smith said. “I did what I did. I don’t know if it’s going to be every week, can’t answer if it’s going to be every week, but, as a man, I’ve got to stand for something.”

Smith also said he loves the military and noted that he wore his “Salute to Service” cleats for the game.

Fournette refused to comment on his decision to stay off the field.

“It’s a personal thing and I don’t want to get into it, but everyone has their own beliefs in certain things,” he said.

Marrone said he didn’t know about the situation until after the game.

“The only thing I can say is that the NFL and the NFLPA are obviously working together on it,” he said. “I don’t know if … to my knowledge there’s nothing out there right now on what the players can do. I think I made it clear that, for me, I’m always going to stand with my hand on my heart and I think that the people that don’t, then they’ve got to answer to it, to the media.”

Coming up next

The Jaguars will practice with the Minnesota Vikings next week in Minnesota, and will play against the team in the second preseason contest on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 1 p.m.

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