JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the Jaguars' 20-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers Sunday in the 2015 regular-season opener at EverBank Field
1. Struggling start.This wasn't the start to the 2015 regular season the Jaguars expected offensively. And while the key people talking in the wake of a 20-9 season-opening loss to Carolina on Sunday said it in different ways, the consensus was this was a disappointing, surprising start. Particularly after the offense looked good in preseason. "I didn't (expect Sunday's performance), to be honest with you," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "I felt like we would execute better. I think we had some opportunities; we just didn't finish." The Jaguars produced 265 yards and 18 first downs, with quarterback Blake Bortles throwing two interceptions and wide receiver Allen Hurns losing a fumble deep in Panthers territory in the first half. After the first-team offense produced points on 8-of-11 preseason drives, the Jaguars' offense had just one touchdown Sunday. Bortles was sacked five times, completing 22 of 40 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
1a.Updating injuries.The Jaguars sustained several injuries from which players didn't return. Left tackle Luke Joeckel sustained a sprained ankle and will be evaluated, and cornerback Aaron Colvin will be evaluated after leaving with a shoulder injury in the second half. Wide receiver Rashad Greene sustained a blow to the head and was undergoing concussion protocol after the game. Joeckel left the game in the first half, then left the game permanently in the second half.
2. Gotta make 'em.The Jaguars' receivers missed a few makeable plays early – and the result was at least two missed scoring opportunities. Allen Robinson dropped a would-be 18-yard pass from Bortles on the first possession, but two errors later in the half hurt more. First, Allen Hurns lost a fumble at the Panthers 7. On the next series, rookie Rashad Green dropped a pass that would have been a first down at the Panthers 5. Hurns also had a big third-down drop early in the third quarter with the Jaguars driving down by eight points. "You guys (the media) addressed it in preseason … we had some dropped passes," Bradley said. "We'll get that taken care of, but it showed up again today. Its concentration and focus and things like that."
3. Gotta make those, too.Jason Myers' NFL debut hardly could have been rougher. The Jaguars' rookie kicker, who became the kicker when the team traded long-time kicker Josh Scobee to Pittsburgh 13 days before the regular season, missed his second field-goal attempt Sunday – a 44-yarder in the second quarter. He also missed a second-quarter extra point that enabled the Panthers to take a 10-9 lead into halftime. Myers has potential and a huge leg (all three of his returns were touchbacks), but those makeable misses hurt Sunday. A lot. Bradley, after outlining several areas where mistakes hurt the Jaguars Sunday, spoke about Myers late in his post-game press conference. "Put that in there, too," Bradley said of Myers' missed kicks. "Our whole philosophy is to go out there and be full prepared so you can play with a clear mind so you can be your best. Obviously, we didn't do that today in some areas."
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4. Disappointing drive.Bradley said the defense played well overall, allowing 263 total yards and 17 first downs. The unit sacked quarterback Cam Newton twice and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny had a first-half interception that could have changed the game's momentum had the offense taken advantage of the field position. But Bradley and Posluszny each said the disappointing moment defensively came in the fourth quarter. That's when the Panthers moved 64 yards in 15 plays, using 8:07 to move from their 7 into position for a 47-yard field goal by Graham Gano that gave the Panthers a 20-9 lead with 2:41 remaining. The Jaguars appeared to have the drive stopped, but a Jaguars timeout moment before a drive-stopping play on 3rd-and-10 from the Panthers 7 gave Carolina a new third down. Newton passed 10 yards to veteran Jerricho Cotchery for the first down on the ensuing play. "That was on us," Bradley said. "They converted on that one there and kept it going. … We had other opportunities there with a couple of missed tackles that could have gotten us out of that drive." The Panthers converted four third downs on the drive. "That was a tough drive," Poslusnzy said. "The thing about that is that happens at the beginning of the drive. We say, 'OK … miscommunication … no big deal … Let's continue to play.' Then, they continue to convert on third downs, moving down the field. That's the disappointing part about it for us."
5. Feeling his way.An early bright spot for the Jaguars didn't last long enough. T.J. Yeldon, a rookie second-round selection making his first NFL start at running back for the Jaguars Sunday, showed early in the game why he was in the starting lineup despite just eight preseason carries. Yeldon in the second quarter showed good instincts and quickness, running for gains of 14 and 11 yards on back-to-back carries. He also had a six-yard reception for a first down on the series, which ended in a 22-yard field goal by Myers that tied the game, 3-3, at the end of the quarter. "He did a good job," Bradley said. "I think you'll see him evolve more and more with each experience, each game." Said Yeldon, "Every time you get a good run, it brings your confidence up. I got my confidence up and just kept going … I had to get used to the game. … Overall, I felt pretty good." Yeldon finished with 51 yards on 12 carries after rushing for 34 yards on seven first-half carries. The Jaguars as a team rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries, including 26 on eight second-half carries. "We will take a look at it," Bradley said of the second-half drop-off. "I know we have to be able to run the ball."