JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When undrafted receiver Kevin Elliott arrived in Jacksonville, he had as much confidence as a seasoned veteran.
It raised eyebrows then.
It seems justified now.
Elliott had a 77-yard touchdown reception, likely solidifying his spot on the regular-season roster, and the Jaguars beat the Atlanta Falcons 24-14 in their preseason finale Thursday night.
"The 24 hours leading up to the game was hard," Elliott said. "I couldn't sleep; it was like the first day of school. I believe I will sleep well tonight. I did everything I could."
The teams took vastly different approaches to the game. The Jaguars (3-1) played their offensive starters into the second quarter; the Falcons (1-3) sat their offensive stars and played most of their defensive regulars just one play. Two starters — linebacker Akeem Dent and defensive tackle Peria Jerry — played considerably more.
"We felt we got enough work done with those guys in the first three games," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "The starters played one play both sides of the ball. We only had five starters on offense and six starters on defense. We told them they were going to play one series and they got it. It was quick and short."
The results hardly showed that.
Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert fumbled on the opening play. Trying to pitch to Rashad Jennings, Gabbert's toss hit fullback Greg Jones in the backside. The Falcons recovered, and Jacquizz Rodgers scored on the next play. Gabbert and his fellow starters stayed in for 25 plays, including an 18-play drive that ended on an errant fourth-down pass, but failed to score.
"Whenever you can string together that many plays is a positive," Gabbert said. "We'd like to finish that with a touchdown, of course. But the ability to execute for 10 or 11 minutes consecutively is pretty good."
Gabbert completed 7 of 12 passes for 64 yards. Several of his misses were poor throws. He barely overthrew Laurent Robinson on what would have been a 61-yard TD connection.
"That's a play I have to hit," Gabbert said. "Laurent is wide open and we have to find a way to get him the ball. It's one of those where it's a matter of two inches. We are perfectionists and we will get that corrected."
Backups Jalen Parmele and Elliott picked up the slack for Jacksonville.
Parmele ran six times for 56 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown to tie the game in the second quarter. Elliott, of Florida A&M, caught two passes for 85 yards, including a nifty catch and run in which he broke two tackles before finding the end zone. He also continued to shine on special teams, breaking double teams and making tackles all over the field.
He left little doubt about his position heading into Friday's final cuts. He likely will be on the 53-man roster, lining up at receiver alongside Laurent Robinson, Justin Blackmon, Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts. Brian Robiskie also is in the mix.
"I made sure I put something on film every day that makes the coaches say, 'We've got to keep this kid,'" Elliott said.
Elliott caught a slant pass from Chad Henne, slipped between Peyton Thompson and Charles Mitchell and then shook off Robert McClain before gliding in for a score.
Henne completed 4 of 6 passes for 106 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The pick came when running back Keith Toston tipped a pass over the middle that landed in Dominique Franks' hands. The play did little to help Toston land a roster spot.
Parmele's performance didn't help Toston, either.
Parmele averaged more than 9 yards a carry. The Jaguars are looking for a third-string back, someone to fill in while Maurice Jones-Drew continues his holdout. Jennings is the starter, and Montell Owens is the backup. Parmele and Toston have been vying for the final spot.
Toston finished with 71 yards on 13 carries. Jennings carried 11 times for 34 yards before heading to the bench for good. Owens did not play after developing stiffness in a knee earlier this week.
Atlanta took a long look at backup quarterback Dominique Davis. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and others never left the sideline.
Davis completed 14 of 24 passes for 175 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. He hooked up with Kevin Cone for a 49-yard scored that tied the game at 14 in the third period.
"We wanted to get a good, long, extended look at him," Smith said. "We played him the entire ball game, and I thought he handled it well."
The Falcons told Davis right before the game that he would play a lot. Aside from a couple of mistakes, he felt good about his performance.
"It was a learning experience for me," Davis said. "I still have to improve a lot, the speed of the game, making good reads, throws. I'm confident it will come. I've been improving since I first got to camp, and I'll keep working at it."
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