JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the day after the Jaguars' loss to the New York Jets Sunday …
1)Striking a balance.We begin Monday takeaways on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, whose late-game fumble was a focus during Head Coach Gus Bradley's day-after press conference. Bortles threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. But with the Jaguars trailing 21-16 and 5:19 remaining, he rolled left on first-and-20 from the Jets 20, waited too long to decide whether to throw or run and fumbled when hit by linebacker Calvin Pace. The Jaguars never had possession in Jets territory with a chance to take the lead again. Bradley on Monday noted that one of Bortles' strengths is the ability to extend plays. "He's done that throughout the game," Bradley said. "He's done that throughout the year." But Bradley also said against some defenses, there are opportunities for Bortles to run in the red zone, which means sometimes he needs to "just run the ball and get as much as you can or slide and we'll go onto the next play." The Jaguars won't likely counsel too much caution. Bortles' tendency to look downfield in such a situation led to his 31-yard, game-winning touchdown against Buffalo in London – and his instinct of passing first/running second is the right one and not one you want to change.
2)Performance to remember.While the Jaguars' defense has struggled at times this season, that wasn't the case Sunday. The defense held the Jets to 290 yards and 14 first downs, with New York converting 5 of 15 third downs. Three of four Jets touchdowns came on drives of 51, 32 and 25 yards after a long kickoff return and two Jaguars turnovers. Most notable was the performance against running back Chris Ivory. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Ivory's 26 yards were the fewest ever for a back with 23 or more carries, an effort that moved the Jaguars to seventh in the NFL in run defense. "Everybody understands the defense and understands their role, and they understand they don't have to be more than they are," defensive tackle Roy Miller said of the run defense. "That means we have all the right pieces – when you feel confident in the guys around you and you don't try to do too much." Of stopping Ivory, Miller said, "It wasn't anything magical. You just saw guys fit, fit, fit right into their gap. It was like watching a dance from our perspective. We were doing everything that we wanted to in the run game."
3)Hurns optimistic.The Jaguars appeared to come out of the Jets game relatively healthy, with guard Zane Beadles returning to the game after leaving with a knee injury and defensive tackle Michael Bennett and linebacker Dan Skuta leaving with hamstring and groin injuries, respectively. Wide receiver Allen Hurns wore a protective boot on his left foot Monday after sustaining a foot injury on the Jaguars' last offensive play of the game, but said an MRI and an X-Ray Monday revealed no extensive damage. "I was a little worried, but it's nothing serious," he said Monday. "We'll see how it goes. It was more sore today than last night, but I think I'll be fine." Hurns has 36 receptions for 365 yards and six touchdowns this season, having caught a touchdown pass in a franchise-record six consecutive games.
4.Searching for production.Tight end Julius Thomas' statistical struggles Sunday weren't from a lack of the Jaguars trying. Thomas, signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, caught three passes for 14 yards – that despite Bradley saying he was the Jaguars' second-most targeted receiver. Thomas, after missing the first four games of the season with a hand injury, has 13 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown in four games. Bradley said there were plays set up for Thomas Sunday, including a fade route in the end zone and a play in the second quarter from the Jets 35 on which Bortles was pressured into an incompletion. "It's unfortunate, because there are a couple of plays set up for him for big plays," Bradley said, adding that he didn't believe a recent abdomen injury was an issue for Thomas Sunday. "I don't know how much of it is conditioning," Bradley said. "That would be a great question for him. The more and more they (he and Bortles) work together, the better they'll be."
5)Higher level.Bradley said the Jaguars are seeing good things from strong safety Johnathan Cyprien in recent weeks – and that held true Sunday. Cyprien, a second-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, registered a team-high 13 tackles Sunday and Bradley said he did not miss a tackle. While Cyprien has had some memorable missed tackles the past two seasons, he overall has been a solid player. The Jaguars entered the season wanting more consistency from Cyprien, and he showed signs Sunday. "I thought he did very well," Bradley said. "I think he's like our whole defense. I just thought overall as a unit they performed very well and I thought for him, we talked about having a good feel for the defense, when to come down, where to stay back, where to fit. I just see him having more clarity and playing at a higher level. Hopefully he continues with that consistently."