JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the day after the Jaguars' 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday
1.A matter of timing.We begin day-after takeaways on the Jaguars' offense, which after scoring 11 touchdowns in the last two games scored two Sunday – one of which came on a 39-yard drive. The unit was largely stagnant Sunday except for a three-drive stretch late in the first half and early in the second, but Bradley said it wasn't complete failure – particularly early – as much as a detail here or there. "There were some chances for us to make some big plays," Bradley said, adding that the primary issue appeared to be timing. Quarterback Blake Bortles narrowly missed at least two potential big plays – a would-be touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas in the first half and a would-be long gain to wide receiver Allen Hurns on the final drive. Bortles and wide receiver Allen Robinson also barely missed a potential first-down reception on the final drive. "It was either, 'would have been a great catch?' Yes," Bradley said. "Was it a catchable ball? Yes. It would have been a great catch. Could it have been more accurate? Yes." The Jaguars were close to 14 or 17 more points Sunday – just not close enough.
2.Plenty of life.Sunday was far from Bortles' best game of the season. He completed 23 of 38 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown, but his late first-half interception on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line set up a Falcons field goal. That was a 10-point swing, and he also narrowly missed the aforementioned potential big plays. But Bortles for the season remains much-improved, having thrown 31 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions compared to 11 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions last season. Another positive for Bortles and the Jaguars: with two games remaining in the regular season, the second-year veteran has shown few if any signs of regressing mechanically. Mechanics were an issue he worked to improve in the offseason, and he also has shown no effects of the arm weariness that plagued him at times late last season. "His routine and how he has it set up has been very good," Bradley said Monday. "I just talked to him last week and he felt great. If he's going to throw a hard ten like we do on Saturday he goes through the whole routine in his warm ups so he's really strict, really disciplined on it. I know it's helped him."
3.Tough day at left tackle. Left tackle Luke Joeckel appeared to struggle early on Sunday, and Bradley on Monday afternoon said that was indeed the case. Joeckel, who allowed four pressures in the game, allowed two early – and one forced Bortles to scramble from the Jaguars' end zone. "I can't sit here and say he had a great game," Bradley said. "He gave up some pressures." Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, had played well in recent weeks leading to Sunday. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed two sacks this season with seven quarterback hits and 29 hurries. "He's been performing well," Bradley said. "I think he'll respond. He's been playing pretty consistently. This game, there were some challenges. … He showed flashes again yesterday, but there were some that were pretty evident."
4.Stay tuned.Another week, another few days monitoring the Jaguars' running back. That appears the likely scenario this week, with starter T.J. Yeldon missing Sunday with a sprained knee and his replacement, Denard Robinson, reporting a left foot sprain Monday morning. The running game struggled without Yeldon Sunday, with Robinson rushing for 28 yards on 14 carries. Bradley said he remains hopeful Yeldon can play in the final two games of the season. "I think that's the part right now, just hearing from the trainers and they're saying he made great progress last week," Bradley said, adding that he believes the "arrow" is "up" on Robinson being able to play. Robinson struggled with ball security Sunday, fumbling twice in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars' offense stagnated after the two third-quarter touchdown drives. Bradley noted that Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux did a good job forcing one of the fumbles, but he overall called a fourth-quarter offensive performance that featured three fumbles "unacceptable." The Jaguars currently have two healthy running backs on the roster: third-year veteran Joe Banyard and second-year veteran Jonas Gray. Banyard played only on special teams Sunday and Gray did not play after signing off Miami's practice squad last Tuesday.
5.One leads to the other …Bradley as might be expected spent much of his next-day press conference discussing slow starts by the offense and ongoing issues on third down. The Jaguars have failed to score a touchdown in the first half in each of the last two games, and they also have not converted a third down during that span. The Jaguars are 0 for 11 on third downs in the first half in the last two weeks, and perhaps unsurprisingly Bradley said one statistic has much to do with the other. "When you're 0-6 on third down offensively that doesn't help you start faster," Bradley said. "Third downs is a big thing. It allows the drives to continue. The time of possession was way in their favor in the first half and a lot of those things come to third down." All five of the Jaguars' first-half third downs Sunday were third-and-five or longer. Bortles threw incomplete four times and threw to Denard Robinson for a three-yard loss on the fifth play.