JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the day after the Jaguars' season-opening loss to the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 regular-season opener at EverBank Field
1.Aggressiveness needed.We begin Day After Takeaways on offense, which is where Head Coach Gus Bradley spent much of his time in his next-day press conference Monday. Bradley's emphasis was on the offense not responding to adversity after Panthers cornerback Josh Norman returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown with 9:01 remaining in the third quarter. Twenty-four minutes remained and the Jaguars trailed 17-9. The game shouldn't have been over but the Jaguars never again crossed midfield. Bradley was as concerned with quarterback Blake Bortles' approach throughout the game – specifically, that Bortles didn't play aggressively enough and give the Jaguars' receivers chances to make "50-50" plays on the ball. The gist: while Bortles has to protect the ball and can't make foolish throws that lead to easy interceptions, he also can't play a game afraid to make a mistake. His game is about making plays aggressively, and that's how Bradley wants him to play.
Check out some of the best images from the Jaguars season opener against the Panthers.
2.One step at a time.The Jaguars got positive news Monday with the announcement that Sen'Derrick Marks and Marqise Lee will return to practice on a limited basis Wednesday. But it remains to be seen how quickly each will play. Marks almost certainly won't be this week, with Bradley saying Monday the veteran defensive tackle's emphasis this week will be on individual work. Bradley said Lee has a better chance of returning Sunday than Marks, and the second-year wide receiver said Monday after being out since early training camp with a hamstring issue he's not yet thinking about whether he can play Sunday. "I'm not even looking to Sunday," Lee said. "I'm looking at it as more a day at a time. The trainers asked me about Sunday, too. My main focus is I want to worry about Wednesday. If Wednesday goes well, I'll worry about Thursday. If Thursday goes well, I'll worry about Friday. If Friday goes well, I'll worry about Saturday. If Saturday goes well, I'll see if I can play Sunday. It's a five-step process. I'm not trying to look past anything."
3.Experience a plus.Sunday was tough for the Jaguars – and for the offensive line. The loss to the Panthers was a sharp contrast overall to the improvement shown throughout the preseason, and the five sacks allowed offensively was a sharp contrast to a preseason in which Bortles largely was kept well-protected. While tough days for the team and the offensive line were season-long themes en route to a 3-13 record last season with 71 sacks, offensive guard Zane Beadles said a significant difference this season is experience. An offense that was historically young in spots last season is for the most part a year older, something that's true on a line that added veteran right tackle Jermey Parnell and veteran center Stefen Wisniewski in free agency and former Buffalo Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone as offensive line coach. "There are going to be looks that some guys haven't seen before and some things to learn from, but with Doug's experience and guys having more experience it's going to do good things for us," Beadles said, adding that Sunday's issues in pass protection were "all things that can be corrected."
4.Make a play.Bradley said the defense for the most part played well Sunday, but said the notable exception was allowing three long drives. Those were the Panthers' three scoring drives, possessions that took 14, 12 and 15 plays and covered 45, 66 and 64 yards, respectively. The 45-yard drive ended with a 43-yard field goal, the 66-yarder ended with a touchdown and the 64-yarder used 8:07 of the fourth quarter and ended with a 47-yard game-clinching field goal. The Panthers converted six of nine third downs on those drives. "We didn't do a good job on those drives on third down," Bradley said. "Those drives really showcase that we didn't capture all of the opportunities that we had.
5.Still supporting.As he did Sunday, Bradley spent time in his next-day press conference discussing some of the more obvious errors that directly cost point and opportunities. That included four dropped passes, including drops by wide receiver Rashad Greene, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson that prevented potential "explosive," 20-plus yard plays. "Again, things that we can control," Bradley said. "We are good enough to catch a ball. We do it in practice. We need to carry those things over to the game field. If we do that, we get more explosive opportunities." Bradley also addressed the situation at kicker, where rookie Jason Myers missed a 44-yard first-half field goal and a first-half extra point. Myers became the kicker two weeks ago when the Jaguars traded veteran Josh Scobee to the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I know (General Manager) Dave (Caldwell) and I both said with our kicker that we didn't anticipate he'll be perfect throughout the season; we know there might be some glitches," Bradley said. "We just didn't expect it to show up the first game, but we'll keep working with him and supporting him and hopefully good things are going to come as far as our kicking game."