The Jacksonville Jaguars not only laid an egg in their 2013 opener, they laid a big one. Jacksonville set a franchise record for punts in a game with 11 and scored a total of zero points while on offense. In fact, the Kansas City Chiefs ran back an interception for a touchdown, meaning they scored more points while the Jaguars had the ball than Jacksonville did.
On the bright side, there's nowhere to go but up. Jacksonville may have gotten blown out in its first game of the 2013 season, but Gus Bradley and his coaching staff will use this game as a measuring stick against which they can compare future performances.
What, exactly, can a team learn from a blowout like today's game? Quite a bit! Such as...
You're probably already familiar with "the norm" for Blaine Gabbert: panic in the pocket, inaccurate passes and a general ineptitude that leaves fans longing for the days of David Garrard.
Gabbert looked fantastic in the preseason against the Jets, leaving fans hoping the days of "same old Blaine Gabbert" were over. Sadly, the Gabbert that showed up today was the familiar face of last year's struggling young quarterback.
Gabbert spent much of the game running for his life from a Chiefs pass rush that overwhelmed the Jaguars' banged-up offensive line.
But when he did have enough time to deliver the ball, he was all over the place. He threw 35 passes but only completed 16 of them for 121 yards. He threw two interceptions, both of which went directly to a Chiefs defender with no receiver in sight. His bubble screens were off-target, and his quick slants hit his receivers in the feet.
He was, unfortunately, the "same old Blaine Gabbert."
No, the Jaguars shouldn't play Chad Henne. Stop asking. There's a reason Henne couldn't beat out Gabbert for the starting gig in the preseason.
Jacksonville's defense didn't exactly dominate this game, but it did show signs it could be a challenge for opposing offenses before the season is over.
Jason Babin didn't spend the whole game in the Kansas City backfield the way Justin Houston did in Jacksonville's, but he picked up a sack by chasing down Alex Smith after Andre Branch flushed him out of the pocket on a stunt.
Paul Posluszny was credited with 10 tackles and was steady, if unspectacular. Classic Posluszny.
Dwayne Gratz appeared to be trailing his receiver a decent amount, but the Jaguars' defensive backs were able to hold Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to four catches for only 30 yards.
They're going to be pretty bad most of the time, but there were glimpses of the defense Gus Bradley wants this unit to become. They have a long road ahead of them, but they're not a lost cause by any means.
If the Jaguars offense continues to struggle, it won't be because Maurice Jones-Drew is struggling to return to form after his foot injury last year.
Jones-Drew showed no signs of injury. His cuts were sharp, his feet were quick, and he finished his runs strong. Several times, he twisted out of the initial hit and picked up another yard or two.
There wasn't a ton of room to run, but MJD made the most of it. He picked up 45 tough yards on 15 carries despite a general lack of available space.
Jacksonville has plenty to worry about this year, but Maurice Jones-Drew's return from injury isn't one of them. He looked completely healthy.
With 12:17 left in the second quarter, Blaine Gabbert threw a pass down the right side to Cecil Shorts. At first, it appeared Shorts had made a fantastic catch. Then the ball popped out before Shorts reached the ground. The pass was ruled incomplete.
A challenge flag appeared on the field. I missed the explanation of the challenge and assumed it was Andy Reid challenging the play to change the ruling to a catch and fumble recovered by Kansas City.
Upon viewing the replay, it was obvious Shorts had never had possession of the ball and the pass was correctly ruled incomplete. I laughed at Andy Reid, who had wasted a challenge. Classic Andy!
When the ruling was announced, I was stunned to realize it was Gus Bradley who had challenged the ruling on the field.
Bradley apparently felt Shorts had caught the ball and had been down by contact before the ball came out.
I watched the replay several times, and my initial thoughts on the play were confirmed. This was a horrendous challenge. There were three potential outcomes:
- The ruling on the field would stand. The Jaguars would lose a time out and a challenge.
- The ruling on the field would be overturned. The pass would be ruled a completion and Shorts would be ruled down by contact.
- The ruling on the field would be overturned. The pass would be ruled a completion followed by a fumble recovered by the Chiefs.
Two of these three potential outcomes are negative, and the replay was pretty clear. Bradley essentially wasted a challenge. I'm not sure if he simply got bad advice from his review team or decided on his own that it was a catch, but this was an error in judgment that could have cost the Jaguars big-time if the game had ended up being close.
Jaguars wide receivers ended today's game with seven catches for 68 yards. Cecil Shorts accounted for 40 of those yards, meaning the Jaguars' other wideouts put up a meager 28 receiving yards.
Justin Blackmon was the Jaguars' second-leading receiver last year with 865 yards. He was the team leader in targets with 133 and in first downs with 41. Blackmon was a pretty large part of Jacksonville's offense in 2012, and he was unavailable for today's game because he's suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Though I have a feeling the presence of Blackmon wouldn't have taken the Jaguars' passing offense from pathetic to respectable, he would've helped.
Coach Gus Bradley's scheme calls for penetration by the front four to allow the secondary to play press-man coverage and take opposing receivers out of the game. The key here is pressure from the front four.
The Jaguars definitely didn't provide that.
Kansas City's tackle combination of Branden Albert and Eric Fisher effectively took the Jaguars' pass-rushing ends out of the game. The Jaguars managed one sack on a stunt, but they only managed one sack, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits on the game.
Alex Smith didn't exactly pick apart the Jaguars' secondary, but he's one of the worst quarterbacks the Jaguars will face this year. If they get this little pressure against Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, the game will be over before halftime.
Though Cecil Shorts ended the game with an underwhelming stat line of three catches for 40 yards, it was pretty clear he was the most talented pass-catcher on the field.
Shorts had a couple plays that would have been spectacular grabs if not for the presence of outstanding Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers. Down the stretch, Shorts made a phenomenal tumbling grab, plucking the ball out of the air while lying on the ground.
Cecil picked up all 40 yards receiving in the fourth quarter, but he was targeted a team-high 11 times. He spent the majority of the game tied up with Flowers as opposed to moving around the formation to exploit matchups, similar to what the Colts do with Reggie Wayne.
If the Jaguars want to have any success throwing the ball, Shorts is the man to whom they should be throwing.
Expect the Jaguars to find more ways to get the ball in his hands in the coming weeks.
The Luke Joeckel we saw on the field today wasn't the Luke Joeckel Jaguars fans watched highlights of on draft night.
He had trouble twisting his body and wasn't able to beat Justin Houston to the edge consistently. Houston abused Joeckel all game, picking up three sacks and three quarterback hits and spending most of the game in the Jaguars' offensive backfield.
The hip flexor injury Joeckel suffered in camp was clearly still affecting him. He looked relatively stiff, and his feet didn't seem as quick as they did on film.
The Jaguars drafted Joeckel second overall because they felt the right tackle position was increasing in importance. With star left defensive ends Robert Mathis and J.J. Watt in their division, the right tackle spot is definitely a crucial one.
The Jaguars need Joeckel to get 100 percent healthy before he has to match up against star pass-rushers like Mathis, Watt, Aldon Smith, Mario Williams and others.