SEATTLE, Wash. – Here’s what we learned from the Jaguars’ 45-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., Sunday...
1. The Jaguars are a long way from Super Bowl contenders. We knew this before the game, but Sunday afternoon‘s game at Seattle was perhaps the clearest measure yet. The Seahawks are an ascending team, with players playing like a unit, playing confidently and communicating at a high level. They also have a very good quarterback, Russell Wilson, and one of the NFL’s best secondaries. They’re Super Bowl favorites and played like it for three quarters. They’re where you need to get. That’s the level. The Jaguars are at least 28 points from it as of now.
2. Cecil Shorts III is getting better. He’s the Jaguars’ best offensive player, but he’s still not elite yet. To be an elite receiver, you have to be able to beat double teams and have a go-to route that’s very difficult for the defenses to stop. Shorts is getting better at beating double teams and he’s becoming very, very good at the back-shoulder catch – a very difficult route to stop. He’s not there yet, and the Jaguars have to get him more involved early, but he’s getting there.
3. The interior of the line is struggling still. This has been a problem area the first three weeks. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is struggling to find holes, and it starts with the interior. He has rushed for 115 yards on 44 carries this season, and rushed for 43 yards on 19 carries Sunday. It’s tough to be effective throwing when you’re averaging just over two yards a carries, so this is hurting a lot of areas.
4. First downs are still a problem. This stems in part from the running game struggling. Chad Henne fumbled a snap on the Jaguars’ first first-down play Sunday, and Jones-Drew dropped a pass on the second first-down play. A run by Jones-Drew on the third first-down play lost a yard. Those plays led to the Jaguars facing third-and-double digits on all three drives and were a big reason the Jaguars finished the first quarter without a first down.
5. A change may be coming up front. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley talked after the game about the need to examine whether the team will be more effective gap-blocking or zone-blocking with the current personnel. The team moved to a zone-blocking scheme this offseason, but could start utilizing more gap concepts.
6. The Jaguars miss Marcedes Lewis . . . He hasn’t played in the first three games of the season. He said last week he believes he will play against the Colts next week. The Jaguars need that to be true. He’s a strong blocker on the edge, and a player who must be accounted for in the passing offense. He’s not the difference between 3-0 and 0-3, but his absence is a factor in the offense being stagnant for long stretches.
7. . . . and Justin Blackmon, too. Shorts is developing into a very good receiver. He produced 143 yards on Sunday. Imagine having a threat on the other side of the field – another option in the passing game – and you know how much the Jaguars miss Blackmon. Again, he’s not the difference between 0-3 and 3-0, but it’s a factor.
8. The youth in the secondary is showing up. The Jaguars knew they would be young in the secondary this season. They didn’t know they would be playing a lineup in Week 3 that included three rookies – safety Johnathan Cyprien, safety Josh Evans and cornerback Demetrius McCray – and a corner, Will Blackmon, who also wasn’t on the roster when training camp began. It stood to reason youth was going to be an issue for the defensive backfield at some point this season. Sunday was one of those points.
9. Maurice Jones-Drew is tough. He didn’t have holes on Sunday, but after spending the week questionable with a strained tendon his ankle, he played the entire game against Seattle. With his lack of running room, it’s tough to know how close he is to full health, but it’s hard to fault the effort.
10. The run defense is struggling. This looked like an area that would be improved in preseason. Right now, it’s not playing that way. The Jaguars allowed 156 yards on 36 carries Sunday, and while 29 of those yards came on runs by wide receiver Golden Tate, there were also times Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch just had too much room. A lot of it defenders being out of gaps on plays, but whatever it is, it’s hard to be as effective on defense as the Jaguars want to be when you’re allowing huge runs.
11. Johnathan Cyprien is a strength. He’s active, and although he makes mistakes, they’re mistakes of aggression. The rookie safety has forced a fumble in each of the last two games. He’s a long way from as good as what he will be, but it’s starting to look like he eventually will be pretty good.
12. It’s time to come home. Two games, 6,661 miles, nine days in hotels, two tough losses. The Jaguars likely will benefit from this trip. Players on Sunday talked about it very much being a bonding experience. But as of late Sunday, it was time to get off the road and get back to EverBank Field.