Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 39-29 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium Inglewood, Calif., Sunday
1.This one wasn't all Minshew. Give Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II some credit. Sunday's game began with him facing pressure on and off the field – a fierce Chargers pass rush and outside noise with national reports he could lose the starting job if he struggled Sunday. Minshew struggled early, not completing a pass until the second quarter. But he recovered and helped keep the Jaguars in the game through the end of the third quarter, completing 14 of 27 passes for 173 yards and touchdowns to running back James Robinson (second quarter) and wide receiver Chris Conley (third quarter). Minshew still held the ball too long in the pocket at times and appeared to continue checking down rather than throwing into tight windows downfield. But this game felt more about a defense that allowed more than 30 points for franchise-record sixth consecutive game – and an offensive line that struggled to protect with five sacks allowed – than a struggling quarterback. Minshew addressed the pregame reports following the game. "That was never mentioned," he said.
2.James Robinson is the real deal. This has been easy to forget recently, with other issues around the Jaguars becoming glaring – and with the Jaguars falling behind so quickly in recent weeks that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden couldn't run as much as would have been ideal. Well, Gruden called a lot of runs in the first half Sunday – and the result was Robinson's most-effective game since early in the season. Robinson on Sunday played true to his style, maximizing runs with second effort and gaining yards after contact – and squeezing the most out of every play. He finished with 119 yards and a touchdown rushing and also had a receiving touchdown. He was the Jaguars' best offensive player, and that's not the first time this season that has been the case. "He's really done a great job," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "The plays he makes and the things he does – it's not like a rookie. The effort he plays with .. you probably don't get as good a feel for it watching the game on TV as when you're on the sideline how hard he plays."
3.This was a gutty effort – and a somewhat surprising one. No, guts don't matter much in the NFL not compared to winning. But the Jaguars' rally from a 16-point deficit on Sunday qualifies as one of this franchise' gutsiest and more unexpected comebacks for this franchise in recent memory. It's not that the Chargers were elite, but the noise and the adversity facing the Jaguars entering Sunday was real. Four starters were out, including weakside linebacker Myles Jack. They had lost five consecutive games and hadn't been particularly competitive in the last four. And there was the noise around Minshew. When the Jaguars fell behind 16-0 in the second quarter, it felt as the Chargers would ease away for an easy victory. The Jaguars felt in this one until when wide receiver Dede Westbrook lost a fumble on a late third-quarter kickoff return that changed the game's momentum permanently. "Those guys give a strong effort," Marrone said. "You guys know. You guys are watching the same thing we're watching on the sideline. Those guys are playing with everything they have. … I want to make sure I'm clear: I have zero issue with anyone that goes on that field because of the way they play and the way they try."
1.James Robinson is the engine of the offense. His powerful runs in the second quarter held the Chargers' defense near the line of scrimmage and set up play action, Minshew's strong suit. The two worked hand in glove on both second-quarter scoring drives but on the second, Robinson gained 50 of 67 yards, and opened the playbook for Minshew. Credit to Minshew for the way he rebounded from a horrendous first quarter, but he didn't pick this team up and put it on his shoulders; he put in on Robinson's and that gave them a chance to get back into the game. "He's a guy that plays like a veteran; he really does," Marrone said of Robinson.
2.Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa made both young offensive tackles look bad at times on Sunday. He's a top-shelf talent both rushing the passer and against the run; he's really a fun player to watch. He made big stops on fourth downs Sunday, beating both Jaguars young tackles – Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor – and he pushed Taylor around on a first-quarter sack. I thought this would be a game for Robinson to establish his value heading into the offseason, but he doesn't want to use this one. Taylor is very talented, but he still has technique issues and footwork to polish so he can play more consistently on the right side of the offense.
3.The Chargers put up a lot of numbers and hung 39 on the defense – but I thought the defense played better than it showed. The Jaguars went to Los Angeles without Jack, nose tackle Abry Jones and safety Jarrod Wilson – and they played most of the game without cornerback Sidney Jones IV and linebacker Dakota Allen – but they kept the game close while the offense struggled and tossed three consecutive three and outs at the end of the second half and to start the third quarter when it mattered to give the Jaguars some momentum. Eventually, they wore down against Herbert and wide receiver Keenan Allen because they don't have a pass rush and the coverage couldn't hold up. The fumbled kickoff by Westbrook didn't help, and the offense couldn't put together a fourth quarter drive to take some of the heat off them. That makes those numbers look worse than they were.