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What we learned

Posted Dec 16, 2011

Breaking down the Jaguars' loss to the Atlanta Falcons

What we learned from the Jaguars’ 41-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons Thursday.

Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, but here it is . . .

1) Maurice Jones-Drew is really, really tough. So, did we learn that Thursday or did he simply reconfirm what we already knew? OK, he reconfirmed it. Jones-Drew played through an ankle injury, and he did it at a stage of the season when a lot of guys wouldn’t have. Yes, there’s the NFL rushing title out there as a carrot, but does anyone really think he would be sitting out if he had 1,050 yards instead of 1,300?

2) Jones-Drew is having a year to remember. Again, we didn’t exactly learn it, but for most of the game, Jones-Drew was the Jaguars’ offense – statistically, he was more than the Jaguars’ offense, even. On Thursday, he produced a big game – and his longest run of the season – against a defense once again geared to stop him. Say it however you want to say it and when you’ve said it once say it again: What Jones-Drew is doing this season? It’s special stuff.

3) Aside from Jones-Drew . . . Well, there just isn’t a lot of production offensively. There hasn’t been for much of this season, and that was even more true with a banged-up receiving corps.

4) Josh Scobee’s pretty tough, too. Lost in the mess that this game quickly became was Scobee toughing out a groin injury to kick – and kick pretty well.

5) Dwight Lowery matters for the secondary. Two weeks ago, the defense struggled in his absence against San Diego. Two weeks later, another set of big-time receivers had an equally effective game against a Lowery-deficient secondary on Thursday.

6) Blaine Gabbert is . . . Truthfully, I’m not sure we learned that much about Gabbert Thursday. Gabbert did get better late in the game in mop-up time and he threw some of his best passes late in the game, and at this stage, he needs experience wherever and whenever he can get it. A lot of things went wrong with the Jaguars offensively and defensively Thursday. Bottom line here: Gabbert wasn’t the story for the Jaguars on Thursday, no matter how much the analysts and the critics may think otherwise.

7) Shahid Khan is going to make in impact. You can’t hear an interview with the Jaguars’ owner-to-be – and you sure can’t be in the same room with him – without coming away with a feeling that you’re around a guy who won’t settle for average. There will be a learning curve for Khan as an owner, but if early indications are correct, it won’t be a lengthy one. He’s committed to making this work in Jacksonville and he’s committed to winning. Knowing that makes 41-14 a little easier to live with today.

8) The Jaguars’ secondary is just too beat up. Once again, this is reinforcing what we already knew rather than breaking any new ground. But you can’t ignore it as a factor Thursday. You’re down to your fourth and fifth corners and down to the third free safety? It’s hard to cover Roddy White and Julio Jones with your starters, much less backups and players who weren’t with the team a month ago.

9) Kassim Osgood still makes special teams matter. A week ago, it was Montell Owens who changed the game with two forced fumbles on special teams. On Thursday, Osgood blocked punt that led to the Jaguars’ first touchdown. It came after the outcome was long decided, but that didn’t make the play less impressive. There’s a reason those two each make Pro Bowls on special teams. It’s a difficult, thankless job and Osgood and Owens excel.

10) Jeremy Mincey doesn’t quit. And Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith don’t either. The Jaguars were outmatched in spots defensively and that meant things getting away early. They also didn’t stop the run nearly as well as they wanted, and that all adds up to a feeling that maybe this team – and this defense, particularly – is just worn out and too beat-up to function at a high level anymore after a season carrying the load. But Mincey and Posluszny and Smith all fought to the end. Not that you’d expect anything different.

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