JACKSONVILLE – Here’s what we learned from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 28-2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 regular-season opener at EverBank Field Sunday:
1. The work in progress is just that . . . We knew the building process wasn’t complete. We knew it probably wasn’t close, because you don’t rebuild a 2-14 team in one offseason with one draft. We learned Sunday that there’s indeed still some building to do. Maybe a lot.
2. . . . and the work in progress may take time. This team has talent around the roster. Sunday doesn’t mean that’s not true. But it lacks experience, and lacks having played together. Getting those things will help, but getting those things takes time. Maybe months. The Jaguars hope it’s less.
3. Blaine Gabbert . . . well, the best way to say it is he still looked like Gabbert did last season. That doesn’t mean he’s awful, though there are many who would disagree after Sunday. He looks like a quarterback who needs to be protected to function. He looks like a quarterback who needs receivers to consistently catch the ball. Some quarterbacks are good enough to overcome a drop on second down with a 15-yard completion on third down. Gabbert isn’t there yet. Because he is developing, he’s going to have plays where he simply does not throw the ball well. He’s also going to have throws that are big-time throws and put the receiver in a position to make a big play. You have to catch those and make plays. But all of that aside, does he need to play better than he did Sunday? Of course.
4. The Jaguars are going to give Gabbert every chance. He struggled, and the offense wasn’t going anywhere in the second half. Some of that was on him. Some was on the receivers. Some was on the offensive line. Whoever it was on, the Jaguars stayed with Gabbert. Chad Henne didn’t enter the game until Gabbert sustained a cut on his hand that needed 15 stitches. We’ll wait this week to see if the cut is enough to keep Gabbert from playing, but unless it is, there’s no sign that the team is switching quarterbacks.
5. The Jaguars miss Marcedes Lewis. This entry is not implying that all of the Jaguars’ woes were tied into the absence of tight end Marcedes Lewis. They weren’t, and they probably wouldn’t have won the game had he played. But he’s a big-time run blocker, and the Jaguars’ running game struggled more than was expected Sunday. His absence also didn’t help the passing game, either.
6. The Jaguars miss Justin Blackmon . . . Again, this doesn’t imply that the Jaguars would have won had Blackmon played. But the second-year wide receiver is a player who can turn a short pass into a first down, and he did it several times during the preseason. With the offense struggling early, a quick throw to the sideline to a tackle-breaking Blackmon would have been a nice option.
7. . . . and Cecil Shorts misses him, too. The Jaguars’ offense is a developing entity, and it’s not deep enough to withstand a key part missing. That was evident on Sunday, and with Blackmon out, targeting Shorts appeared to be tougher than it was last season. The Chiefs appeared to try to take away Shorts and make the Jaguars beat them with Ace Sanders and Mike Brown. The Jaguars couldn’t do that Sunday. Shorts was targeted 11 times Sunday, but caught just three passes for 40 yards. He was targeted just twice in the first half.
PHOTO GALLERY OF KC VS JAX
8. Ace Sanders is still a rookie. Sanders’ quickness will help the Jaguars, sooner rather than later. But on Sunday, he caught just three passes for 14 yards, being targeted nine times. His early drop on a would-be first down ended a scoring drive late in the first half. Again, the Jaguars probably don’t win if Sanders catches that pass, but a lot of things contributed early.
9. The offensive line must improve. And fast. This was an area that was supposed to be a strength entering the season. Luke Joeckel was drafted to play right tackle, and theoretically that would give the quarterback – Gabbert or whoever – more time to throw. Well, Gabbert struggled on Sunday, but the offensive line rarely helped him. Pressure came from the interior and from the edge. With Blackmon/Lewis out, and with Gabbert dealing with a thumb injury, the Jaguars needed the area on which they believed they could depend to perform. On Sunday, it didn’t.
10. The pass rush must improve, too. The defense for the most part on Sunday did its job. The Jaguars played with enthusiasm and energy, and got the Chiefs off the field consistently in the second half. What the defense didn’t do was create much pass rush. Alex Smith didn’t make the Jaguars pay consistently. Other quarterbacks will.
11. Bryan Anger has stamina. He punted 11 times Sunday, a franchise record for punts in a game. It’s not the record you want your team to set, but we needed to mention it here. So, we mentioned it.
12. One game is one game. Well, we didn’t learn that, but it’s true. The Jaguars struggled mightily. It wasn’t the start to the season anyone wanted, but a lot of this season is about finding an identity. The defense may have taken a small step toward that with a solid second half. The offense appears to have a more difficult road, but there are 15 games and as difficult as Week One may have been, teams have turned worse starts into successful seasons. Success for the Jaguars will mean improvement, and that absolutely remains an attainable goal.