JACKSONVILLE – Here’s what we learned from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 34-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Sunday . . .
1. The Jaguars are improving. No, it wasn’t enough to get the first victory of the season. And no, losses aren’t satisfying. But to say the offense Sunday wasn’t overall better than it had been the first four games of the season is to ignore reality. Maybe it’s in small, small steps, but it’s improvement, and for now, that’s Head Coach Gus Bradley’s objective.
3. The offensive line may be coming together. The Jaguars’ offensive line had one of its best games of the season – and that was without Joeckel and Eugene Monroe, the latter of whom was traded to Baltimore last week after starting the first four games of the season at left tackle. The Jaguars allowed just two sacks – one for a loss of two yards to defensive end Chris Long and none to defensive end Robert Quinn. The Jaguars also had their best running game of the season.
5. . . . but there are too many mistakes. Way, way too many mistakes. As good as Gabbert looked on a handful of plays, reality is reality. And the reality is Gabbert has thrown seven interceptions with one touchdown this season. He wasn’t pressured as much Sunday as he had been earlier in the season, but he really struggled with pocket presence Sunday. In particular, several times in the second quarter Gabbert looked to run when there was little pressure. Many people want to call that fear. It’s not. Gabbert takes too many hits and throws the ball well too often under pressure to call him afraid. But he doesn’t always sense where and when to move and that hurts the offense.
6. Gabbert is still Gus Bradley’s quarterback. Gabbert left the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Bradley said afterward he had no plans to pull Gabbert if he hadn’t been injured, and he said that Gabbert will remain the starter if healthy.
8. Justin Blackmon is an impact player. He caught a 67-yard pass on his first reception of the season. He also caught a 39-yard touchdown later in the game. His body control, power and catching ability give him a unique skill set and his presence gave the Jaguars several stretches when they were productive on Sunday. He helped the offense in a big way, and if he can stay on the field, he could be the Jaguars’ best offensive player this season.
9. The Jaguars are capable of winning. There are observers penciling in the Jaguars for a 0-16 season. On Sunday, they were within seven points with a little more than 10 minutes remaining. That’s not saying what the Jaguars did Sunday was good enough. If you don’t win, it’s not good enough. But this is team is improving and it was competitive Sunday. Keep improving, and there will be more winnable games.
10. Sen’Derrick Marks was a good free-agency signing. We knew that already. But the free-agent defensive tackle continues to be the Jaguars’ most effective defensive linemen. He registered a sack Sunday and also had two passes defensed, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
12. Next Sunday is a big, big test. How many bigs could we put in that statement? The Jaguars’ opponent next week, the Denver Broncos, beat Dallas 51-48 Sunday. The Jaguars have scored 51 points this season. Never say never, but the Jaguars will be bigger underdogs Sunday than any time in their history. The test isn’t big; it’s monumental. And it will be here in six days.