Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New Orleans Saints: Jacksonville Grades, Notes & Quotes
The most horrendous start of the season sunk the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, as they fell, 38-27, to the New Orleans Saints for their 10th loss of the season. Although their playoff chances were shot coming in, Sunday was a debacle.
Whether their poor play was due to the fact that they were already out of contention or just flat unprepared, the Jaguars looked closer to a team in its first year under head coach Gus Bradley rather than a team nearing the end of its third season with Bradley at the helm.
The defense had no answer for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and the offense was too busy playing horizontal, negating big gains and turning the ball over in the first half too often to even give themselves a legitimate chance in the second.
The 24-6 halftime deficit is the biggest one we've seen all season, and while the offense did admirably to score 21 points in the second half, the defense still allowed two scores that solidified the Saints' win.
While it's hardly a compliment, the Jaguars have stayed close with nearly every opponent this season, many of them better than the Saints. But, for whatever reason, the Jaguars were unprepared and outmatched Sunday.
When Blake Bortles throws two picks in a game, it's hard to really praise him. However, the first pick was an easy pass interference call that was missed, while the second was a terrible mistake. Throw in 368 yards and four TDs, and it's hard to fault him for Sunday.
The early horizontal play didn't really fit his game, but once the Jaguars trailed and Bortles got to play his preferred direct style, he started to light it up. Hopefully, offensive coordinator Greg Olson will finally see that starting conservative and stalling isn't much better than getting aggressive and taking risks.
Running Back: C+
The Jaguars running backs, Denard Robinson and Jonas Gray, averaged 4.6 yards per carry, but they ran a combined 11 times due to the early deficit. However, Robinson has still struggled to hang onto the ball and Gray is hardly a savior.
Robinson had a drop on a checkdown and a fumbled handoff, and it's getting concerning. His style of play has to be matched by sure hands, and three fumbled handoffs in the past two weeks isn't a good look in that regard.
Wide Receivers: B
When wide receiver Allen Robinson started slow, the Jaguars looked to be in major trouble on more than just defense. But as the game progressed, he found his groove for 167 yards and a TD, with the touchdown coming on a 90-yard catch-and-run.
WRs Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee also got involved, both scoring, with Hurns going for 106 yards and reaching 1,000 yards on the season. It wasn't a proud day for the team, but the receivers did well enough.
Tight Ends: C
Tight ends Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis saw three combined targets, a weirdly small amount of throws considering Bortles' improved relationship with Thomas in recent weeks.
Lewis' small contribution is something to be expected, but Thomas was pretty much out of the picture Sunday. It certainly happens, and their small amount of looks earns them an average grade.
Offensive Line: C+
Once again, the offensive line performed decently well, but nothing stellar. Bortles was only sacked twice and the running backs found a decent amount of space, but it wasn't a dominant showing by any means.
The offensive line has mostly been mediocre this season, and Sunday fit that bill perfectly. As the season comes to an end, it's apparent that the line has some solid pieces, but it still needs work.
Defensive Line: D+
The defensive line was close to the worst group on the field, but a "not being the worst" mentality is pretty damning on its own. It offered little resistance or life, and that was a crucial part to the Saints' offensive success.
The Saints ran for a combined 135 yards and a 3.9 average, and Brees faced little pressure, leading to a 411-yard performance with little worry. Not a great look for a group that has done so much better in prior games this season.
The linebacker group has been the best part of the defense, but it were pretty lackluster Sunday. Obviously the absence of LB Telvin Smith hurt, but it failed to provide any explosiveness besides LB Paul Posluszny's sack.
LB Hayes Pullard III does deserve credit for coming in for Smith and totaling seven solo tackles and a tackle for loss. It wasn't a spectacular showing, but he proved that he can suffice as Smith's backup for the time being.
The only reason the defensive line wasn't the worst positional group for the Jaguars is due to the secondary. Brees, despite injury and absent offensive weapons, still threw for 411 yards and three TDs.
It's easily been the worst part of the defense, but Sunday was one of its worst showings. There will likely be plenty of movement on the defense in the offseason, but the secondary may see the biggest overhaul.
Special Teams: C+
Kicker Jason Myers took one kick all game, which he made, and punter Bryan Anger only had to punt three times early. Anger was able to average 50 yards a punt, which is solid. A quiet, but marginally positive day.
The Jaguars looked flat unprepared, which rests on the coaches' shoulders, but other than that, not too much can be directly shifted to them. However, Olson's early play-calling didn't even give the Jaguars a chance to keep up with the Saints.
The A-Team Reaches Its Goal
Hurns and Robinson showed promise in 2014, but their massive 2015 tandem effort has taken Jacksonville and the NFL by storm. On Sunday, Robinson continued his incredible season with his 14th TD, and Hurns was able to notch 1,000 yards and his 10th TD.
There are very few things to praise from Sunday, but the "A-Team" balling out in a 4 p.m. game is certainly one of them. The two had their best combined day in a while, and their 273-yard, three-TD day may have been their best one ever.
Both are already lethal offensive weapons, but they are continuing to grow and mature with Bortles as well. Sure, the defense looked like it had given up, but after the initial offensive struggles, Robinson and Hurns went out and performed to try and give Jacksonville some hope.
The Jaguars still have a lot of work to do, but having some offensive firepower through these two receivers helps expedite that process. It's not easy to watch the Jaguars, but Robinson and Hurns are making it worthwhile.
Davon House Continues to Match Early-Season Success
Cornerback Davon House has been a solid addition this season, and his 21 passes defended, now tied for the Jaguars' franchise record, have been impressive and helpful. However, teams are starting to figure him out and opposing receivers are getting space.
House is good in a lot of ways, but the weight of a terrible secondary makes his struggles much more visible. When he succeeds, it's easy to praise and notice, but when he trips and fails, it's just as apparent.
While he is certainly a nice piece to have going forward, the initial impression of "potential shutdown corner" has been quickly disproved. He's certainly a good player, but he isn't flawless and has shown why the Jaguars have to address the secondary first this offseason.
House failed to shutdown Brees and his receivers, and it really didn't matter who he was on. He definitely wasn't the worst man out there, but his overall play certainly wasn't good.
Honestly, House's situation provokes more sympathy than anger. He's obviously worked extremely hard to play as well as he's had, but he's been let down by teammates.
Hayes Pullard III Proves Capability on Sunday
Pullard hadn't seen a lot of playing time coming into Sunday, but the absence of Smith allowed him his first real chance to prove that he could not only suffice, but he could be a contributing member of the defense as well.
He certainly didn't put in the kind of impactful performance Smith has done regularly, but he wasn't the weak link some feared him to be. In fact, he did his job relatively well for all four quarters, save for some understandable positioning issues.
Getting the most out of young, low-profile players like Pullard and fellow LB Jordan Tripp is how teams create proper depth and extensive, successful personnel, and Pullard seems like he could be the latest addition in that regard.
It's not how teams create their starting lineup, but the Jaguars will have to address that this offseason. In the meantime, the Jaguars can be thankful that another young player is showing promise.
Gus Bradley Talks Mental Lapses and Defensive Errors
The Jaguars looked simply inferior on defense against the Saints, and that was in nearly every regard, including organization and preparation, two things that Bradley is directly responsible for.
Bradley mentioned various errors in his postgame press conference on Jaguars.com, and he complimented the Saints for capitalizing on those mistakes.
"Those things like that took place all day," Bradley said. "And when you're playing against an offense like this, with that kind of precision, you have to be on the details. You have to be. There cannot be lapses in communication."
However, it shouldn't matter how precise a team is; it's unacceptable to get shredded like that so early in the game. Teams make game plans with the hope to open defenses up, but the Saints didn't even have to worry about that.
The Jaguars defense has shown that it's relatively weak, but failing to be competent on the field is a totally different story. It's Bradley's job to have this handled, and he failed to do that Sunday.
All stats provided by ESPN.com unless otherwise stated.
Evan Reier is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report covering the Jacksonville Jaguars. Follow Evan on Twitter @evanreier.