Jaguars vs. Seahawks: Takeaways from Jacksonville's 45-17 Loss to Seattle
The Jacksonville Jaguars were overmatched from the start in their Week 3 45-17 loss to the undefeated Seattle Seahawks. Playing on the road is hard enough, but the Jaguars were playing at CenturyLink Field, a building in which the Guinness World Record for noisiest sports stadium had just been set the previous week. Throw in the fact that the Seahawks are one of the NFL's best teams and the Jaguars are one of the worst, and it had the makings of a beatdown from the start.
Jacksonville was down 24-0 at the half, and Seattle pulled starting quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch before the third quarter was over. The Jaguars were a 20-point underdog in Vegas, via Vegas Insider, but still weren't able to cover the spread. It was an ugly football game.
There's always something to learn from every game, even when it's a drubbing at the hands of one of the league's elite teams. Here's what we can take away from Week 3:
Russell Wilson Is Really, Really Good
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was fantastic as a rookie last year, and his performance Sunday left no question that he's one of the league's best at the position. He was almost flawless, piling up 202 yards passing and four touchdowns in less than three quarters of play.
Wilson made it look easy. He evaded sacks, bought time in the pocket and found whoever was open. Several of Wilson's passes were balls intended to give his receivers chances to make plays on the ball, and most of them resulted in lengthy completions.
The Seahawks are a Super Bowl-caliber team, and Wilson's fantastic play is part of the reason why. The Jaguars had no answer for Wilson, and I have a hard time believing many NFC teams will either.
The Jaguars Need to Generate More Turnovers
The Jaguars had only forced one turnover through two games this season, both of which were double-digit point losses. They continued the losing trend against the Seahawks, falling in Seattle by 28 points, but they were able to force two turnovers, which tripled their season total.
Johnathan Cyprien made a great play to chase down Wilson from the backside and slash the ball out of his hands, giving the Jaguars possession at the Seahawks' 44-yard line with two minutes and 38 seconds left in the second quarter. The Jaguars drove to the Seattle 18, but the drive ended with a Chad Henne interception.
After a fantastic coffin-corner punt by Bryan Anger, the Seahawks started their second drive of the second half from their own 2-yard line. On third down, Paul Posluszny picked off Wilson and took it to the 2. From there, Maurice Jones-Drew plunged into the end zone and closed the gap to 31-7.
The Seahawks were far too good for Jacksonville to keep up with, but the Jaguars defense might have a chance to keep the team in games if it can generate turnovers more frequently. Two is good, but more would be even better. The offense isn't moving the ball, but perhaps it'll have an easier time scoring if the defense can get it the ball in enemy territory more often.
MJD Scored, but He's Not the Same
Maurice Jones-Drew wasn't expected to play Sunday, but he suited up anyway and submitted a gutsy performance. He tallied 19 carries against a tough Seattle defense and got into the end zone for the first time in 2013.
Despite Jones-Drew's heavy carry load, however, he only picked up 43 yards rushing, and his longest rush was only eight yards. MJD's foot still appears to be bothering him, and he appears to be lacking the burst he had a couple of years ago.
Is it the injury? Maybe. Are the miles the Jaguars have piled onto MJD's tires over the past several years causing him to slow down? Perhaps. Either way, the Jones-Drew who played in Seattle Sunday wasn't the player Jaguars fans were hoping to see this year. Hopefully he can get healthy and show his slowdown was injury-related and nothing more.
Jacksonville's Secondary Is in Bad Shape
The Jaguars got torched through the air by a Seahawks offense that entered Week 3 ranked 24th in passing yards. Jacksonville allowed 331 yards through the air to the combination of Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson, and three different Seahawks pass-catchers had five catches and 75-plus yards receiving.
With starting cornerback Dwayne Gratz nursing a high-ankle sprain, Seahawks castoff Will Blackmon was forced into the starting lineup. The other starting corner, Alan Ball, missed the game with a groin injury, forcing rookie seventh-round pick Demetrius McCray into the lineup.
Wilson picked on McCray early and often, sending receivers Sidney Rice and Golden Tate into his area for much of the first half. The Pro Football Focus numbers aren't available yet, but I have to think McCray's grade was pretty low.
Free safety Dwight Lowery left the game in the first quarter with a concussion, which forced another rookie into the lineup. Sixth-round pick Josh Evans took over for Lowery and predictably struggled. Honestly, the entire Jaguars secondary struggled in coverage.
When Gratz, Lowery and Ball return to the lineup, the Jaguars might have better success against the pass, but Jacksonville struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks when they were healthy. With them out...start all your fantasy quarterbacks against the Jaguars.
Cecil Shorts Is the King of Garbage Time
Wide receiver Cecil Shorts wasn't having much luck with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman for most of the first half. Shorts was only targeted three times in the first half, and all three were on the Jaguars' final drive of the half. He only caught one pass for 15 yards before the break as the Jaguars struggled to move the ball against a stout Seahawks pass defense.
In the second half, however, the Seahawks backed off defensively and let Shorts run wild. Quarterback Henne looked for Shorts early and often in the second half, targeting him with 15 passes. Shorts pulled down seven balls for a total of 128 second-half yards to boost his game totals to eight catches for 143 yards. It was a mirage.
Sherman effectively shut Shorts out of the game plan in the first half, and the Jaguars' dynamic young receiver wasn't able to make any plays until the Seahawks took their foot off the gas pedal. With a legitimate starting quarterback, Shorts might be able to make lines like this one more common, but until that happens, expect more of Shorts' production to come in garbage time than we'd like.
Johnathan Cyprien Continues to Flash
Though he made his share of mistakes, which are to be expected from a rookie, strong safety Cyprien made another handful of plays against the Seahawks that reinforced the belief that he is Jacksonville's best player in the secondary.
Cyprien was credited with three solo tackles and four assists, but his biggest play of the game was on a safety blitz. He flew around the corner, and Wilson broke contain and rolled to his left. Cyprien chased Wilson down from behind and chopped the ball out of hiss hands. The Jaguars recovered the fumble in Seattle territory and proceeded to drive into the red zone.
Every week, Cyprien seems to make at least one "flash" play where he jumps off the screen. If he can more consistently make plays like the strip-sack against Wilson, Cyprien could eventually become one of the league's best safeties. He's got the talent; now it's a matter of developing consistency.
Jacksonville Really Misses Marcedes Lewis
Tight ends have taken over the NFL. They are the trendy new offensive weapons that all great offenses either already have or desperately want. Guys like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are scheme-transcendent talents any team could use, but there are plenty of good tight ends like Owen Daniels, Jordan Cameron and Greg Olsen whose teams are working to get into space and isolate in favorable matchups.
Jacksonville already has a solid tight end in Marcedes Lewis who can help open up its offense. Besides being a fantastic run-blocker, Lewis is also an accomplished pass-catcher. He's had issues with his hands in the past, but he would still be a huge upgrade over interim starter Allen Reisner.
Lewis put up 58 catches for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010 and followed that up with a combined 91 catches for 1,000 yards and four touchdowns over the next two years. He's not Rob Gronkowski by any means, but he's definitely an integral part of the Jaguars offense.
Jacksonville tight ends Reisner, Clay Harbor and D.J. Williams have caught a total of zero passes against Seattle and have a combined nine catches for 79 yards and a touchdown over the first three games. They need Lewis back in the lineup pretty badly.
The Jaguars Might Be Historically Bad
This game was always going to be a blowout...hence the spread of 20 points in Las Vegas. However, through three games the Jaguars have the makings of a historically bad team.
Continuing on their current pace, the 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars have a shot to finish with the worst point differential in NFL history. They are near the bottom of the historical rankings in points per game, yards per play and points allowed, and they have have only scored two more points (28) than the number of times they've punted through three games (26).
Unless the Jaguars make positive progress over the course of the 2013 season, we might be mentioning this team in the same conversation as the winless 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 2008 Detroit Lions.
This is a rebuilding season, and Jaguars fans have the patience to wait through this tough season, but it could get worse before it gets better. General manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley have their plan in place, but it will take time to execute, and the mess Gene Smith left them can't be cleaned up in just one season. Hopefully these records for futility don't fall at the hands of the 2013 Jaguars, but the watch is on.