Many, including me, thought this week's San Diego Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game was winnable for Jacksonville. The Chargers were coming off a short week after playing on Monday Night Football, and they were a West Coast team flying east for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.
The game didn't play out as I expected, with the Jaguars suffering a 24-6 loss at home. Jacksonville's offense was sloppy, and its defense was just as bad. The Jaguars allowed the Chargers to pile up 434 yards of total offense, and San Diego handily won the time-of-possession battle 37:30 to 22:30.
It's tough to win when your opponent doesn't turn the ball over and wins the time-of-possession battle by 15 minutes. Jacksonville moved to 0-7 with a "home" game against the San Francisco 49ers in London next on the schedule, followed by a much-needed bye week.
This week's performance was a huge step backward for Jacksonville after competing hard against the Denver Broncos on the road last week. Let's take a look at what we can take away from Jacksonville's poor showing against the Chargers.
The Jaguars entered this Week 7 contest ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. They had given up 915 yards on the ground over six games for an average of 152.5 yards per game, more than 120 total yards and 20 yards per game more than any other team.
San Diego's rushing offense only averaged 100.5 yards per game through its first six games, but this week's performance will help it shoot up the rankings. It piled up 158 yards on the ground against the Jaguars, and its banged-up offensive line consistently blew Jacksonville's defensive line off the ball.
If Jacksonville can't get better play from its defensive line, opponents will continue to pick up huge chunks of yardage on the ground and move the chains at will. The Jaguars have personnel needs that make it difficult to stop the run, but they also simply need to play better at the line of scrimmage.
Last week against the Broncos, Cecil Shorts sustained a sprained sternoclavicular joint, a joint near the clavicle and rib area, and missed the majority of the game. Bleacher Report Sports Injuries Lead Writer Will Carroll stated it would be "surprising" if Shorts was able to take the field against the Chargers, but Shorts told Jaguars.com Senior Writer John Oehser "my goal is to get out there and play this week."
Shorts battled pain all week, at one point stating his injured sternoclavicular joint made it difficult for him to sleep at night:
Cecil Shorts says his injury is better, but he still needs help getting his jersey off and says he can't sleep because of the pain. #Jaguars— Hays Carlyon (@HaysCarlyon) October 17, 2013
However, Shorts toughed out the pain and was missing from the inactive list for Week 7. Many thought he would be limited, though, and Justin Blackmon would be the focus of the offense.
They were wrong. Shorts was targeted 13 times by quarterback Chad Henne and caught eight passes for 80 yards. He allowed an easy touchdown pass to slip through his fingers in the fourth quarter and watched a third-down quick slant bounce off his hands in the first half, but Shorts' performance was impressive for someone playing with such a painful injury.
Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts appear to be a very formidable receiving duo for opponents to combat. When the Jaguars find their quarterback of the future...watch out.
The Jaguars ran the ball 17 times against the Chargers, and Chad Henne accounted for four of those carries. Of the remaining 13 carries, nine of them went to Maurice Jones-Drew, while Justin Forsett accounted for two and Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman received one each.
Of the four Jaguars running backs to receive carries, Jones-Drew looked like the slowest and least explosive back by a wide margin.
Forsett exploded through the line on both of his carries and made quick cuts, causing defenders to miss and picking up extra yardage. Todman blew through the line on his fourth-down carry, picking up eight yards. Denard Robinson got in on the action, taking his only carry around the left edge and slicing toward the middle for a nine-yard gain.
Jones-Drew only picked up 37 yards on his nine carries and looked to be a step slow. He wasn't making defenders miss, electing to try to run them over instead. He looked more like Michael Turner than the explosive change-of-pace back he was earlier in his career.
I'll be surprised if Jones-Drew is back in Jacksonville next year. With that in mind, it might be time for the Jaguars to start giving their other three backs more carries to see what kind of contribution they might be able to make in the future.
A week after a respectable performance in Denver against the Broncos, the Jaguars offensive line took a major step backward at home against the Chargers.
San Diego sacked Chad Henne six times and was in his face all game. It was credited with seven quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss and five passes defensed, several of which were batted passes at the line of scrimmage.
The Chargers held the Jaguars to a total of 78 yards rushing and consistently beat the Jaguars offensive line at the line of scrimmage. Third-year revelation Thomas Keiser had an especially impressive game, notching two sacks, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a batted pass on fourth down to force a turnover on downs.
Against the 49ers next week, Jacksonville's line will need to play more like it did in Denver than it played this week against the Chargers, or it might get Chad Henne killed. Justin Smith and company are much better than Keiser and the rest of the Chargers defensive line. The Jaguars need to get better along the offensive line...fast.
The Jaguars went into this Week 7 matchup with a total of seven turnovers forced, leaving them 12th in the AFC in that regard. After generating zero turnovers against San Diego, that ranking is sure to stay near the bottom of the barrel.
Jacksonville's defense has played respectably through seven games, but one forced turnover per game isn't going to result in very many victories. The Chargers were able to march up and down the field almost at will. They controlled the ball for 15 minutes longer than the Jaguars and at one point were 7-of-8 converting third downs.
Head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell want to build a defense similar to that of the Seattle Seahawks, and one of the calling cards of the Seahawks defense is generating turnovers. Seattle is first in the NFL with 19 turnovers generated and has an aggressive defense that can keep the Seahawks in the game even when the offense sputters.
Getting rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz back should help, but the lack of a pass rush is the main culprit. Without pressuring the quarterback, opposing passers can simply sit in the pocket and find open receivers. It also negates the potential of strip-sacks.
The Jaguars aren't that far away from having a respectable defense, but they won't get anywhere near the top of the league ranks until they start generating more turnovers.
Last year, the Jaguars finished the season dead last in the league with only 20 sacks. They're on pace to surpass last season's total, but the pass rush is still far from being fixed.
Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks sacked Philip Rivers Sunday, but that was the only time Rivers went down. Marks' sack gave him two on the year, tying him with defensive end Jason Babin for the team lead.
Jacksonville's front seven is in desperate need of a makeover. Apart from Marks, the chances any of the Jaguars' current defensive linemen will be retained after this season are pretty slim.
Until general manager Dave Caldwell has a chance to put his stamp on the defense and acquire some pass-rushers, the Jaguars will likely continue to struggle rushing the passer.
Over his first two games, Justin Blackmon put up ridiculous stats: 19 catches, 326 yards and a touchdown. He was essentially the Jaguars' entire offense against Denver, accounting for 190 yards of the team's total of 362.
Blackmon looked like the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft had been well-spent. With Cecil Shorts ailing, many thought Blackmon would continue his string of dominance against the Chargers and put up yet another 100-yard game.
Unfortunately, Blackmon was only targeted nine times against the Chargers after racking up a whopping 20 targets the previous week. He caught six balls for 58 yards and wasn't able to get into the end zone.
Shorts, meanwhile, was targeted 13 times and caught eight passes. He was clearly a larger part of Jacksonville's offensive game plan against San Diego.
Justin Blackmon has the potential to be one of the league's best wide receivers, but he's not there yet. If you were expecting Jacksonville's game plan to be all Blackmon, all the time, it's time to stop. He can't carry the Jaguars offense all by himself...at least not every week.
Jacksonville has now played three home games in 2013, and EverBank Field has yet to see a Jaguars touchdown. The Jaguars scored two points in their home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs and only managed a field goal Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts, and though they managed a pair of field goals against the Chargers, they are still without a single touchdown at home this year.
Next week is the fourth home game on Jacksonville's schedule, but the game will take place in London, England, as part of the NFL's attempt to increase the NFL's appeal abroad. The Jaguars have a bye Week 9 and play in Tennessee Week 10, meaning the next game they play at EverBank Field won't take place until Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Jaguars-Cardinals matchup will take place on November 17, almost a full month from Sunday. After that, the next Jaguars home game on the schedule is Week 14 against the Houston Texans, which will take place on December 5.
How long will the Jaguars go without a touchdown at home? Your guess is as good as mine, but I can guarantee they won't score a touchdown at EverBank Field until Week 11 at the earliest.