Carolina Panthers

Jaguars’ messy situation makes Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey pick look even better

Panthers coach: Cam Newton 'did what he was supposed to do' against Jags

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera addresses Cam Newton's return to action and his team's performance Thursday against the host Jacksonville Jaguars.
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Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera addresses Cam Newton's return to action and his team's performance Thursday against the host Jacksonville Jaguars.

Before you puff up your chest, hunch over your keyboard and fire off an email, I know: It’s the preseason.

So take this with a grain of salt.

There is a relatively small sample size to evaluate the starting talent on either Jacksonville’s or Carolina’s roster.

Despite this, it is glaringly clear that when it comes to Jacksonville’s quarterback situation, the Jaguars have thrown a bowlful of mashed peas at the wall, toddled over to the smelly green mess, and smeared themselves in it.

And it makes what the Panthers did in the draft – amid the Leonard Fournette versus Christian McCaffrey at No. 8 debate that permeated loudly through the entire fan base – look all the better.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton assesses his shoulder after making preseason debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017.

After a bad training camp and not-much-better preseason, Jacksonville’s 2014 third-overall pick Blake Bortles is getting acquainted with the bench. Backup Chad Henne started Thursday night’s preseason game against Carolina and wasn’t awful (he completed eight of 14 attempts for 73 yards with no turnovers, but converted just one of seven third-down attempts).

But the whole point of drafting Bortles was to usher in the post-Henne era.

And now, the Jaguars don’t really have a backup plan at quarterback if something happens to Henne – other than to potentially get robbed by Bortles’ fifth-year option, which is worth $19.1 million and guaranteed for injury. That, plus his inconsistent performance, make Bortles a clunky trade piece.

When April came around, Jacksonville did the expected and selected a special power-run talent in Fournette.

But the Jaguars needed a quarterback. They didn’t take one.

And this draft was chock-full of talented running backs. Fournette, whom they selected at No. 4 overall, is special, yes. Stunningly so.

But his running style needs creases and gaps. Jacksonville’s offensive line is not well-equipped to provide these, so a shiftier back may have been more helpful – Alvin Kamara, perhaps, or Dalvin Cook. (After drafting Dede Westbrook, who in college was twice arrested on domestic-violence charges, it’s not like the Jaguars’ front office showed they have any qualms about off-the-field issues in players.)

And the quarterback they perhaps could have traded down a few notches to snag early, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, will now hammer them twice a year with Houston, during a schedule that also includes Marcus Mariota and Andrew Luck twice a year, too.

Heck, Nate Peterman was even available late, reasonably so, even, and the former Pitt signal-caller had to have been a better option than Bortles, right? Right??

Jacksonville could have even had Fournette and Peterman, if we really want to get crazy. But they stuck with Bortles – until Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Carolina appears to be headed in the right direction with McCaffrey and second-round pick Curtis Samuel. The team needed speed and mismatch weapons for quarterback Cam Newton, and they went out and got the two that could give that to them.

The Jaguars didn’t mean to, but this mess in Jacksonville just made Carolina’s choices look that much sleeker. Like a team trying to move forward.

I suppose it’s always easier to evaluate in hindsight. And it’s definitely easier to pick apart the mess you don’t have to clean up.

Although to be fair, most of us already knew we hated mashed peas.

Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn took a reporter's phone after Zack Sanchez's big game at Jacksonville and used it to interview Sanchez.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @jourdanrodrigue

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