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What we learned: Lions vs Jaguars

Posted Nov 5, 2012

Here's what we learned in the Jaguars' 31-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at EverBank Field Sunday

1. The corner isn’t quite turned at quarterback. There was much excitement last week over Blaine Gabbert’s first 300-yard game. Some of the excitement came in this space. Gabbert’s still getting better as a whole over the course of the season, but Sunday was a step back for the first two-and-a-half quarters. And on Sunday, those two-and-a-half quarters were what mattered.

2. Gabbert needs to throw downfield. It’s hard to know why it didn’t happen, but after throwing downfield relatively consistently the last two weeks, it didn’t happen in the first half. Part of it was the interior rush of the Lions. Some of it may have been Gabbert not seeing plays downfield. Whatever, the offense didn’t open up until the second half and by then, it was too late.

3. All is not lost at quarterback, either. This has been a pretty bleak start to “What We Learned.” There will be bleakness to come, too. It’s hard to avoid that at 1-7, but Gabbert did play better in the last quarter and a half. That’s not enough, but last year bad starts usually meant bad finishes for Gabbert. That wasn’t the case Sunday.

4. Laurent Robinson may have a chance to contribute this season. You wondered for the last month if he could make a serious impact. He had, after all, missed three games with a concussion. But the veteran free-agent signee caught six passes for 41 yards, and was a primary target in the second half. There wasn’t much positive from Sunday, but maybe that’s a start.

5. The corner isn’t turned as a team. Just as there was excitement over Gabbert last week, there was energy and hope last week after two improved performances. But the NFL is about winning, and although there have been competitive moments and some near-miss losses, the Jaguars are 1-7. And at 1-7, it’s hard to say there’s not a lot missing.

6. Plays still aren’t getting made. It’s been a theme all season, and a source of frustration. But good teams make plays at critical times. The Jaguars too often this season let makeable plays become incomplete passes and mistakes. They’re not a talented enough team to overcome that.

7. Something’s wrong at home. What is it? No one seems to know, but the Jaguars have been competitive on the road, losing twice in overtime, winning once and playing Green Bay close deep into the fourth quarter. That, in fact, is about the sort of team many expected the Jaguars to be – competitive against much of the league and needing to play really well to play with the best teams. At home it has been markedly different, markedly worse. It’s frustrating. It’s baffling. And it’s why they’re 1-7.

8. Justin Blackmon needs to get on the details. The rookie wide receiver twice in the last two games has failed to get two feet down on catchable passes near the sidelines. On Sunday, he dropped an early pass that was in his hands. He also doesn’t appear to be running routes crisply. He’s being criticized by fans for a lack of effort, and while that’s a hard area to gauge, there are too many avoidable mistakes being made. Rookie wide receivers struggle, and Blackmon has every chance to improve, but right now, his struggles are significant.

9. Derek Cox can’t cover Calvin Johnson with a sore back. Probably no one can cover Johnson one on one on, back injury or not, but the Lions All-Pro receiver had more than 100 yards – in the first half. Cox missed last week with a back and was limited this week, and it showed. Credit him for the effort, but Johnson dominated the game, and the Jaguars had no answers in the first half.

10. The running game is struggling. This was an area of strength for years. This season, it has become an area of concern. The Jaguars haven’t rushed for more than 70 yards in any of the last five games – since their lone victory of the season, at Indianapolis in Week 3. Teams are forcing the Jaguars to beat them with the pass, and while the passing has improved in spots, it’s not consistent enough to force teams to change their defense.

11. The interior run defense is too inconsistent. The run defense played better the last two weeks than at the beginning of the season, but on the goal line Sunday, the Lions scored too often and too easily. The Lions didn’t dominate the game running, but they were effective enough when it mattered.

12. Bryan Anger is good. All right, no one wants to hear about the rookie punter. We get that. But credit him for this. He had two tough games back to back and responded with maybe his best game of the year. Jeer at this entry all you want, but he punted well and for a quarter, helped keep the Jaguars in the game. It’s not enough, but on a tough day, it was something.


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