FOXBORO, MASS. – The final score wasn't of tremendous concern to Jack Del Rio.
That's pretty much true of any NFL preseason game, and considering the circumstances – a slew of starters out and a game plan emphasizing evaluation more than outcome among them – the Jaguars' head coach wasn't going to worry much about the outcome.
Even if that outcome was particularly one-sided.
So, while a 47-12 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium Thursday night in the preseason opener for both teams hardly pleased Del Rio, it did little to sway him from the idea there are better times ahead.
"We are going to have a good team this year – today is just the first step," Del Rio said, adding, "Anytime you're keeping score, you don't want the score to look like that, so I'm not real excited about that. . . .
"They didn't play some and we did the same. I thought early on things were decent. In the first half, we had more of the people we're counting this year playing, and I thought it was pretty solid. There's a whole lot to correct."
Del Rio saw good things from the Jaguars' run defense early.
And he saw good things from rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, making his first NFL start in place of injured veteran starter David Garrard (back).
Gabbert played the first half, completing 9 of 16 passes for 85 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. He had a passer rating of 71.1.
"There were some positives and some negatives," said Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in last April's 2011 NFL Draft. "I'd like to come away with more touchdowns. We had a lot of opportunities that we didn't capitalize on.
"We had a few mental errors that I made and other people made, but we're going to look at the film, we're going to critique things and get better from there."
Del Rio, who said this week he expects Garrard to practice this week and play against the Atlanta Falcons next week, said he liked Gabbert's poise in his first NFL action.
"We'll look through the tape," Del Rio said. "From the live performance that we saw, I thought he did some decent things. It didn't look like he was in awe or that the situation was too big for him. "
Added Del Rio, "He looked like a guy who belongs in this league and who is going to be a good player in this league."
The Jaguars played without not only two-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis, and two of their best defensive linemen: end Aaron Kampman and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, the latter of whom is expected to begin practicing this weekend.
The game also was the debut of a free-agent class widely expected to improve a defense that ranked 28th in the NFL last season. Linebackers Clint Session and Paul Posluszny started less than a week after beginning practice with the team, as did safety Dawan Landry. Cornerback Drew Coleman played in a nickel back role.
The foursome played the first quarter, but not thereafter.
"They didn't play a lot tonight by design," Del Rio said. "We wanted to basically get them a little exposure and move on. They are all going to be good players for us. I think it's obvious when you watch what they bring to us and what we're seeing on tape not only on the practice field but in the meetings. They're going to have a real positive impact. We are going to be a good team. I'm not trying to talk anybody into it right now. We're just going to work in camp and glad to have the chance tonight to go against someone else."
Of the Jaguars' defense, Del Rio said, "It looks like we are going to play good run defense. We have been pretty solid there. "
Linebacker Daryl Smith, playing for the first time with Session and Posluszny, said the game mostly was about getting a bit of experience with new players in a brief amount of time.
"I think we got a chance to do that and it was exciting to be out there playing together," Smith said. "It's about getting those reps and allowing our play to speak for itself. We will be able to gain that trust we need to have. It was just good to be out there."
Gabbert looked composed early, completing 3 of 5 passes for 27 yards on his first drive. He handled pressure well, and while he was sacked once, he also completed a first-down converting four-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller on 3rd-and-2 from the Patriots 23.
The Jaguars took an early 6-0 lead with field goals on their first two series. After Gabbert led a 57-yard, 12-play drive that ended with a 41-yard field goal by Josh Scobee, the Jaguars forced a turnover when cornerback David Jones forced tight end Aaron Hernandez to fumble.
Landry recovered the fumble, and after the Jaguars produced just three yards on the next drive, kicker Sam Swank's 40-yard field goal made it 6-0.
"We did okay," Posluszny said of the first-team defense. "We didn't want them to score, but unfortunately they put one in on us. The mistakes we made are easily correctable because the guys we have out there have the ability to make the plays but we have to make sure we execute them."
Del Rio and Gabbert each expressed disappointment at failing to capitalize on those scoring opportunities with touchdowns. The Jaguars also struggled at times to protect Gabbert early, allowing three first-half sacks and several other pressures.
"This is basically a new group," Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe said. "(Vince) Manuwai is gone and I had built a relationship with him on the line. Now (rookie guard Will) Rackley is working with me so it's just different for both of us. It's good that we can come out here in the preseason and just work together because playing with a different player you don't necessarily know where that guy is going to be. When you consistently play with a guy you start to understand how he plays the game. You build that relationship and it just makes things easier."
It was pretty much all Patriots after Swank's field goal. They led 19-9 at halftime, and outscored the Jaguars 28-3 in the second half. The Jaguars played their front-line players about 14 or 15 plays, and that's something Del Rio said will be dramatically different the rest of the preseason.
"We're not going to play our backend people that much again this preseason, so that's a relief more than a concern," Del Rio said. "It was pretty ugly out there at the end. We're going to have a good team. I'm very confident of that. We're just going to stay the course. . . .
"The back end of the roster wasn't much fun to watch. We have 90 guys in camp, so we're not going to get carried away focusing on the last 30 guys on this football team."
The Patriots had 28 first downs to 12 for the Jaguars and had 478 total yards to 193 for Jacksonville. After halftime, New England had 17 first downs to four for the Jaguars and outgained Jacksonville 268-79.
"We took some lumps tonight," guard Uche Nwaneri said. "That's what preseason's for, to learn from these mistakes, correct them and get better the next week. That's what we're looking forward to do."