JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 27-25 loss to the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday
1. Jake Luton was better than it was fair to expect.DJ Chark Jr. summed up the day when it came to Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton Sunday. "Hats off to Jake," the third-year Pro Bowl receiver said. Indeed. Luton, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, threw for 304 yards and a touchdown with an interception Sunday – and he also ran for a touchdown. He threw a 73-yard touchdown to Chark on the game's third play and made other big-time throws to the sideline and intermediate zones of the secondary. He made some of the mistakes expected for a quarterback taking his first in-game NFL snaps; his lone interception was a bad throw that cornerback Vernon Hargreaves easily caught and Luton narrowly avoided a couple of other first-half interceptions. But Luton for the most part played poise, handling himself well in the pocket and leading an impressive 80-yard drive that he capped with a 13-yard scramble with 1:30 remaining. That he threw errantly on the ensuing two-point conversion cost the Jaguars a chance to tie. It didn't erase an impressive debut for a player who appears likely to start at quarterback for the Jaguars this season moving forward if he continues to play as he did Sunday.
2. Give the Jaguars' defense some credit.After struggling much of the season – and being fairly criticized for it – the Jaguars' defense turned in one of its better games of the season Sunday. Yes, it allowed two too-easy touchdown passes to quarterback Deshaun Watson – 57 yards to wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the first half and 77 yards to wide receiver Will Fuller in the second. But this defense on Sunday had defensive end Josh Allen, weakside linebacker Myles Jack and safety Jarrod Wilson all healthy together for the first time since early in the season – and Allen and Jack in particular made a difference against Houston. Allen shared a sack with middle linebacker Joe Schobert at the end of the first quarter and Jack forced a fumble in the second quarter. The unit also got the Texans off the field three times in the fourth quarter, giving the offense a chance for the late rally. The personnel is still too young in many places and not good enough in others. But the unit played about as well as it can Sunday. It deserves credit for that.
3. James Robinson is as real as it gets.Not that we didn't know this already, but the Jaguars' rookie running back James Robinson showed yet again he is a legitimate starting NFL running back. The undrafted free agent started an eighth consecutive game, finishing Sunday with 99 yards and a touchdown rushing on 26 carries. He did this Sunday against a Texans defense geared to stop him knowing Robinson would be a focus of the Jaguars' offense with Luton making his first NFL start. Robinson was particularly impressive on a mid-second-quarter drive on which he rushed for 56 yards on a 75-yard drive, tying the game at 13-13 with a one-yard run. Robinson may have trouble getting Rookie-of-the-Year attention because of the Jaguars' record. But he is worthy of mention for the award. If he keeps playing as he has been playing, he may actually have a chance to get it.
1. That's an NFL arm, folks.The 73-yard touchdown to Chark was a thing of beauty, but it wasn't the most compelling display of Luton's arm strength. He made a couple of throws from the near hash to the far sideline with zip – including one on the run looking downfield to wide receiver Chris Conley on the third-quarter field-goal drive that had former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor's eyes wide open and his head nodding vigorously. In the fourth quarter, he rolled right under pressure and put the ball in play for wide receiver Keelan Cole to earn pass interference and a first down. It's far from certain that he's the franchise quarterback of the future – he threw one interception and could have had a few more – but he did check a lot of the boxes Sunday. It doesn't hurt at all that at nearly six-foot-seven he can stand in the pocket and see the whole field. He was also aware off the rush, but not panicked, and I especially liked how he came back from a penalty or an interception to lead a productive drive. The fourth-quarter touchdown drive was beautiful despite the miss on the two-point conversion. Now, let's see how he responds to a trip to Green Bay – a team that will have a game of Luton to use to game plan.
2. CJ Henderson had a tough day at the office on Sunday.The rookie first-round corner was called for a pass interference on the Texans touchdown drive after the two-minute warning in the first half, a penalty that cost the Jaguars 50 yards. He also allowed a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter to Fuller where he just looked lost. Henderson is a really talented kid who early in the game looked up to the challenge of Cooks and Fuller – but by the end of the third quarter looked like he needed a break. I think a more consistent pass rush would help, but cornerbacks have to get over days like this and quickly. Next Sunday it's Aaron Rogers throwing to Davante Adams.
3. Myles Jack showed you what kind of player he can be when he's healthy.He attacked the line of scrimmage, covered backs out of the backfield and ran down the seam with tight ends. Plus, he was a tackling machine, creating a turnover and positive field position late in the second quarter. He's a terrific player in his natural spot playing the weakside for the first time in his career. I thought he was so good at times in coverage Sunday that defensive coordinator Todd Wash could pull the amoeba defense out and it generated pressure and a couple of sacks. Now, if Jack can just stay healthy.