JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With most starters watching from the sideline, Atlanta and Jacksonville got a last look at players vying for open roster spots.
No one really stood out.
Fullback Brock Bolen scored on a 16-yard run, Josh Scobee kicked two field goals and the Jaguars beat the Falcons 13-9 Thursday night.
The teams exposed just a few starters to the preseason finale, with coaches and close friends Mike Smith and Jack Del Rio preferring to save them for next weekend's season openers.
They can only hope for better execution. The Falcons converted just 1 of its first 9 third-down plays. The Jaguars had a measly 100 yards in the first half.
Jacksonville's Luke McCown replaced David Garrard and completed 5 of 12 passes for 39 yards in the first half. His numbers would have been better if Tiquan Underwood, battling veteran Troy Williamson for the team's final receiver spot, had not dropped two passes.
Williamson wasn't much better. He failed to get two feet down on a perfect pass near the sideline, and dropped a third-down pass near the goal line in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons (2-2) played without their entire starting offense and without seven defensive starters. Ryan, running back Michael Turner, receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez got the night off. So did defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, defensive end John Abraham, linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Dunta Robinson.
They wore shorts and T-shirts on the sideline.
The Jaguars (2-2) had plenty of guys in similar attire. Garrard, running Maurice Jones-Drew and receiver Mike Sims-Walker were among six offensive starters who didn't dress. Most of Jacksonville's starting defense — except for cornerback Derek Cox — also sat out.
Cox, a third-round draft pick in 2009, has struggled this summer. He played better Thursday night, but it came against backups.
Del Rio used three of his five starting offensive linemen. Left tackle Eugene Monroe, right tackle Eben Britton and center Brad Meester played the first half because Del Rio wanted to get them more time together. Guards Vince Manuwai and Justin Smiley, both vying with Kynan Forney for the right guard spot, also started.
"We had a couple of starters play," Del Rio said. "We have to toughen them up and get a little more work in. We played our first team offensive line. I thought they needed that offensively. We just want to be sharp with all of the work we're getting."
Jones-Drew has missed five consecutive practices and didn't travel for last week's game at Tampa Bay. He denied an Internet report he had arthroscopic knee surgery, but acknowledged Thursday night he has been "taking care of all the nicks and bruises."
"I wanted to be out there with my teammates, but we felt the best thing for me was rest and rehab and getting my body back right ..." Jones-Drew said. "I feel great. I can't wait to get out there and play Denver. They are the first hurdle in our road to success and I can't wait to get out there."
He called the false report "a big mess over nothing."
"There have been some false reports out there about what happened, which is fine," Jones-Drew said. "People are going to speculate, but that is not going to hurt anything that happens with this team. More than anything else guys understand. They want me back, I want to be back, and I will be back on Monday doing everything I need to do to get ready to beat Denver."
Atlanta moved the ball more effectively than Jacksonville, but Antone Smith's fumble in the second quarter was costly.
Smith broke through the line and gained 10 yards before safety Courtney Greene jarred the ball loose. Greene recovered, and the Jaguars scored the game's lone touchdown four plays later. McCown hooked up with Bolen for a short gain, then Bolen weaved his way through several defenders for a 16-yard score — his third of the preseason.
"He's had a nice camp and preseason," Del Rio said. "He's playing well and I'm not really surprised."