Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Panthers 34, Jaguars 27

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 5 of the 2019 regular season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday

Oehser…

1. This was a miserable day for the defense. We’ll start here because where else do you start after Sunday? The Jaguars, a team built to win with defense and with most of its star power on that side of the ball, allowed the Panthers 285 yards rushing. That’s a bad statistic, but what’s worse is they allowed the Panthers 10.6 yards per carry. This wasn’t about missing cornerback Jalen Ramsey; rather, it was about what the players who were playing failed to do. Defensive players afterward talked about gap control and about small mistakes leading to big plays. That’s true, and that is the con of playing a gap control defense; when one player gets out of a gap it can lead to huge running plays. That’s particularly true when facing a running back a good as Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for 176 yards on just 19 carries. The good news is gap-control problems are fixable, so there’s no reason this must be a trend. But make no mistake: this was a miserable game for the Jaguars’ defense, and particularly for linebackers Quincy Williams and Myles Jack. And it’s very definitely a fixable problem that must be fixed fast.

2. This was an important day for Gardner Minshew II. Forget Minshew Mania or all the talk about the bandana and the mustache. It might be time to stop wondering when reality will catch up with the Jaguars quarterback, because the reality is the sixth-round rookie on Sunday once again showed how capable he is of playing quarterback in the NFL at a high level. The Panthers posed Minshew’s toughest test to date, and he hadn’t faced a defense as disciplined with as consistent a pass rush in his first three starts in place of injured Nick Foles. Minshew more than handled the challenge from the start Sunday, throwing for 374 yards and two touchdowns. He also once again proved he can handle adversity, rallying the Jaguars from a 21-7 first-half deficit. The sack/fumble/touchdown that led to that lead could have broken Minshew’s confidence. It didn’t break Minshew and it appears more that he’s not going to be broken. One obvious addendum here: Minshew must project the ball better. He fumbled three times, and a couple were fluky, but ball protection is key for the position and it’s nearly impossible to win with three giveaways at the position.

3. DJ Chark is becoming a star. While Minshew will continue get most of the attention around the Jaguars, the emergence of Chark is nearly as important to the offense – and it was a major reason the Jaguars stayed in the game Sunday. Chark, a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, was unknown as a rookie. He’s unknown no more. Chark’s eight receptions for 164 yards receiving with two touchdowns kept the Jaguars in Sunday’s game as much as Minshew’s performance, and the second-year veteran’s speed along with his body control has given him the look of the true No. 1 receiver the Jaguars haven’t had in a decade and a half. He’s special, and his development is a reason the Jaguars appear to have their best passing game in recent memory.

Sexton ...

1. The Jaguars have a quarterback and he gave them a chance at the end despite three turnovers and a defense that was incapable of giving him a hand. The outcome wasn’t what the folks from Jacksonville wanted but that was a good Sunday afternoon of NFL football. The locker room wasn’t down, they weren’t happy, but they know they have a quarterback and that gives them a chance next week and the week after….and the week after that.

2. The Jaguars never led in Sunday’s 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers though they never felt like they weren’t going to win. You could feel the confidence on the sidelines but for once the confidence was on the offensive side of the bench. The defenders, to a man, talked in the locker room after the game about what it meant to have an offense that could get them the win. I can’t help but think this defense can figure out what cost them so dearly in the running game today and start to support an offense that is getting better in a hurry.

3. The defense only needed a few stops on Sunday and the outcome might have been different. They couldn’t answer the riddle of the Panthers running game which is built around Christian McCaffrey’s amazing blend of speed, hips, acceleration. He isn’t a bulldozing kind of running back but the Jaguars were nearly powerless to stop the third-year runner from running for 176 yards, 237 total yards and three touchdowns. 285 yards is the kind of embarrassing number that will have defensive coordinator Todd Wash sleepless as he prepares for Alvin Kamara and New Orleans next week. I remember the day the Jaguars ran for 275 against Indianapolis in December of 2006. Tony Dungy was calm in the postgame locker room and told the media he was confident they could fix their run defense. They did and won the Super Bowl. This too can be fixed with the players they have in the locker room.

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