JACKSONVILLE - Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 20-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 3 of the 2019 regular season at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Thursday
1.The sacks are back. You figured the Jaguars needed a good defensive performance to win Thursday. What they got was a great one that felt a lot like 2017. The Jaguars registered nine sacks Thursday, with defensive end Calais Campbell registering three, rookie edge rusher Josh Allen registering two and a half and third-year veteran end Dawuane Smoot registering the first two of his career. The defense not only harassed quarterback Marcus Mariota and shut out the Titans for three quarters, they held running back Derrick Henry in check; the powerful back who has been the difference in a lot of Titans victories over the Jaguars in recent seasons never came close to controlling tempo Thursday. This was a second consecutive big-time performance for a defense that again looks like one of the NFL’s best. If the defense looks like this moving forward, this team can stay in a balanced AFC South.
2.Give it up for the ‘Stache. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II’s remarkable story continues, and this feels like it might keep getting better. Minshew, who like all other Jaguars storylines was overshadowed this week by Jalen Ramsey, on Thursday led the Jaguars to a critical victory in his second NFL start. He wasn’t spectacular the entire game, and the offense struggled late in the first and early in the second quarters partly because of poor field position. But Minshew gave the Jaguars a critical 14-0 lead with touchdown passes on his first two drives. That set the tone and allowed the Jaguars to play from ahead – something they haven’t done enough recently. Minshew should have had three touchdown passes if not for a third quarter drop by Dede Westbrook. This Jaguars offense isn’t close to perfect, and the paltry running game that struggled again Thursday will hurt if it doesn’t improve. But Minshew and the passing game are showing signs of being good enough to complement what appears to be a good defense.
3.This was big – really big. While cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s ongoing request for a trade was the major Jaguars story Thursday, it shouldn’t overshadow that this was a gutsy victory in difficult circumstances. The Jaguars were playing a division rival that had beaten them in four consecutive meetings, there was deafening noise about Ramsey all week and a loss would have felt as it had destroyed the season. So, what did the Jaguars do? They played their most complete game since the first quarter of last season, and in doing so showed some serious signs of life. The Jaguars outplayed Houston in the final three quarters last week and outplayed Tennessee throughout Thursday. For everyone obsessively watching the Ramsey story, there’s a different story going on: This team is playing well in recent weeks and could have a chance to get on a roll moving forward.
1.That was a great performance. When you consider the noise in Jacksonville this week and mix in the short week and an 0-2 record there was a better than average chance this Jaguars team might stumble out of the gate. They did NOT, and in fact they hit the field with great energy and purpose. Credit Doug Marrone and the coaching staff for navigating rough waters this week and keeping his team focused on getting their first win.
2.Gardner Minshew does not disappoint. I keep waiting for the rookie quarterback to look like a rookie quarterback. He did NOT on Thursday evening. He looked like a young veteran who understands the game. He was patient in the pocket, accurate with his arm and never seemed remotely close to making the kind of rookie mistake that haunted his predecessors. He was and is up to the challenge and as long as he gets that kind of support from his defense it will be fun to watch. He needs a running game. Leonard Fournette had negative eight yards until his 69-yard run in the fourth quarter. Maybe it’s a simple fix, maybe it was the wet field, maybe it’s just the way it goes.
3.Sacksonville is back. Calais Campbell had his most productive game since 2017 with three sacks and constant pressure. Rookie Josh Allen added two of his own and a forced fumble while defensive coordinator Todd Wash sent the house at Marcus Mariota as often as he wished. Duwane Smoot got his first and second career sacks, Taven Bryanm Leon Jacobs and Marcel Dareus all got in on the action and the Jaguars finished with 9 sacks the most since they posted 10 in Indianapolis in October of 2017. It was expected to be this way and in week three of 2019 things were as they were supposed to be. The scary thing for opponents is Yannick Ngakoue didn’t get a sack, doesn’t have a sack yet this season and will head to Denver in 10 days with an even bigger chip on his shoulder than he normally carries.