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What we learned...

Posted Dec 17, 2012

Here's what we learned from the Jaguars' 24-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday...

1. Cecil Shorts is tough – and good. Shorts said after the game Sunday that it took him a quarter or so to get comfortable after missing last week with a concussion. Once he got comfortable, he continued to show that he is certainly the Jaguars’ most-improved player this season – and probably flat-out their best offensive player, too. He registered his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, the most for the team since 2004, and he continued to show his best may still be to come.

2. The offensive line is struggling to the finish... The run game shouldn’t be this ineffective, even without Maurice Jones-Drew, and the pass protection has been a problem all season. On paper, this group is better than this, but on the field, it hasn’t performed. That’s a major reason the team has slipped to the bottom of many offensive categories.

3... and the defensive line is, too. The Jaguars have allowed at least 166 yards rushing in each of the last three games – this from a group that really has been pretty healthy all year. The group has 15 sacks this season, last in the NFL, and not stopping the run or generating a pass rush puts a lot of strain on the entire defense.

4. The third quarter is not kind to the Jaguars. Or maybe the Jaguars aren’t kind to the third quarter. Whatever the wording, the third quarters have been rough lately. The Jets turned the game around a week ago in the third quarter, and the Dolphins on Sunday used it to roll up 200 yards offense and solidify a six-point halftime lead. Each week, the game has gotten away enough that the Jaguars couldn’t get it back. That’s not a positive trend.

5. Justin Blackmon continues to progress. He is still dropping a few passes more often than you would like, and overall this season many expected more production from the No. 5 overall selection. Still, with rookie wide receivers, you don’t worry much if they’re not perfect. You only worry if they show so little that you don’t think they can improve. Blackmon absolutely has shown he can better. That will take work and it will take spending an offseason improving weaknesses. That’s not easy, but if Blackmon does it, he can be an effective receiver and start the gradual improvement good receivers in this league typically make.

6. Jason Babin has enough left. Babin on Sunday registered his second sack/forced fumble in as many games. He also got significant pressure on Ryan Tannehill, who had to roll away from Babin several times to avoid sacks. He’s not dominating games, but considering the state of the overall defense, no one could. Still, he’s shown in three weeks since being acquired off waivers from Philadelphia that he could be effective for the foreseeable future.

7. The Jaguars can’t get a break. Let’s say this up front: bad luck is not why the Jaguars are 2-12. But twice in the last two games the Jaguars have had a touchdown taken off the board. Against the Jets, it was when a fumble return by Dwight Lowery was reversed. Against the Dolphins, it was when offensive tackle Guy Whimper was called for failing to report as eligible when lining up as a tight end. Either way, plays like that are difficult for a struggling team to overcome.

8. The defense is wearing down. The defense must play better than it did Sunday. No one involved would tell you different. But when the offense continually goes three-and-out as it has in the third quarter the last two games, it puts the defense on the field a lot. It’s no coincidence that the majority of the rushing yards allowed in the last two games have come in the second half.

9. Bryan Anger is good. Anger didn’t have his best game against the Jets last week. In fact, he struggled noticeably at times. On Sunday, he returned to form with a 47.4-yard average and two punts downed inside the 20.

10. The quarterback issue isn’t solved. Chad Henne has played well at times, particularly considering that the offensive line isn’t helping much. Other times in his five games since becoming the starter, he has just been OK. Has he played well enough to be the starter entering next season? We’ll see, but the quarterback situation overall remains very unsettled and that was a question that needed answering by season’s end.

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