EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium Sunday
1. This was opportunity squandered in a big, discouraging way. We must lead there, because it's Sunday's obvious theme. The Jaguars' season in no way ended with a 23-20 loss to the Jets Sunday; the NFL season is too long for that. But this team on Sunday had a chance to move into sole possession of first place in the AFC South. And it looked on the Jaguars' first drive as if they were taking advantage of the opportunity when the offense took a lead with a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Bortles to running back Leonard Fournette. But the Jaguars' defense allowed a 75-yard touchdown run on the ensuing series – and finished by allowing 8.0 yards a carry. The Jaguars then squandered multiple opportunities to win in overtime before losing on a bizarre, mistake-filled sequence late. That made for a discouraging day for a team that expected more Sunday. 2. Leonard Fournette is a star developing before our eyes.This must be coupled with the addendum that more consistency is needed from the rest of the offense, but Fournette for a fourth time in as many games showed on Sunday he is worthy of his role as the offense's focal point. Fournette was the offensive workhorse early – and when the offense worked Sunday, he was the primary reason. The Jets at times dared Bortles to beat them – and for too much of Sunday, he didn't. But Fournette continued to show the ability to push the pile forward. He showed that the whole pre-draft idea of him not being a good receiver was a myth. He again showed he's the real deal. Can the rest of the offense complement him enough? That will be the question moving forward. 3. The pass rush is for real, but the run defense …The Jaguars' pass rush remained very effective Sunday, but what has started as a good season for this defense now has a pressing issue. The defense on Sunday allowed 256 yards rushing, with 75 coming on a first-quarter touchdown run by Bilal Powell and 69 more coming on a third-quarter run by rookie Elijah McGuire. Powell appeared to perhaps be down by contact early on his run, but McGuire scored easily – and the Jets were effective running throughout most of the game Sunday. The pass rush registered five more sacks Sunday, and the Jaguars have 18 through four games. That's a good sign. But if this defense is going to be the elite, carry-the-team defense it expects to be, it must stop the run first to get the opportunity to rush the passer.
Sexton ... 1. The Jaguars run defense was horrible on Sunday in New York, giving the Jets 256 yards and two touchdowns - both longer than 69 yards. For a unit with as much beef up front and speed sideline to sideline, it was tough to watch. I get the 75-yard touchdown that tied the game at seven in the first quarter because that was a mental error, but the other 181 yards were right down the Jaguars throats. Myles Jack told me in the post game locker room that everything that went wrong is fixable, and he better be right because the Steelers and Le'Veon Bell are waiting in Pittsburgh next week, and you don't have to know whether the ball is pumped or stuffed to know what's coming.
- Marqise Lee could have made his quarterback look a lot better if he held onto that third down conversion in overtime. Same for Arrelious Benn whose holding call on Leonard Fournette's fourth quarter touchdown would likely have won the game. But Bortles was way off after the first series today. I'm honestly not sure where he was throwing the ball most of the time. A week after he played brilliantly in London, he looked like the Blake of last season with batted passes, wobbly throws and a general inability to take advantage of a defense that gave him the ball back in the fourth quarter - and even scored a touchdown. We're back to the question of the quarterback and his future with a game like this.
3. You just get the sense that this team is going to look back at 2017 and shake their heads at what could have been with games like these. Yes, they're in a first place tie in the AFC South, and they have 12 games to play, but the offense is going to be a crap shoot if the quarterback can't find a consistent level, and right now, that looks like it's a long way from happening.