JACKSONVILLE – A day after the 2021 regular-season opener, senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas Sunday…
1. Mistakes matter. The Jaguars lost in one-sided fashion Sunday, but a review of the first half explains the loss. The Jaguars dropped at least five passes in the first half, also committing four first-half holding penalties – including three by offensive linemen. They had seven total first-half penalties and 10 for the game. "It's self-inflicted," Head Coach Urban Meyer said. "That was the biggest disappointment. … You know, three preseason games, you'd think we'd have that fixed. So that's something that we're going to -- I would 'guesstimate' you would not see that again. That's inexcusable."
2. The Jaguars threw waaaay too much. The early penalties put the Jaguars in bad down-and-distance situations. The Texans then took a double-digit lead. Those two factors helped lead to 16 rushes for the Jaguars for the game and 51 passes. "That's not where we've got to be," Meyer said.
3. Lawrence has growing to do … Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, struggled at times Sunday. He threw three interceptions and said afterward he had four or five other passes off target. "I've got to be more accurate," he said. "There were a lot of opportunities that I missed. I probably missed four or five open receivers that could have been big plays or even just keep the chains moving."
4. … but he's going to be good. Lawrence completed 28 of 51 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns with the three interceptions. Despite the missed opportunities, he made multiple reads and passes that were exactly what you want from a rookie quarterback – and that few rookie quarterbacks can execute. "I love Trevor," Meyer said. "We all do. Trevor is just going to get better and better and better. Trevor is going to be great. He's a very accurate passer, and today at times he wasn't. So we've got to find out why."
5. Lawrence is what you want in a No. 1 overall selection … This is different than saying he's going to be good (No. 4 on this list) because this is about Lawrence after Sunday's game. Lawrence, remember, never had lost in the regular season in college or in high school. His demeanor during his postgame press conference reflects his ability to handle the task of developing into a franchise quarterback. Everything about him is impressive. He will be fine.
6. … and he's not losing confidence. Lawrence's most telling post-game quote may have come when he was asked about dealing with his first career regular-season loss. His answer was confident without being cocky: "I know I'm going to respond well. I'm made of the right stuff, so I don't have any doubt about that."
7. Lawrence gets that this matters. One final thought on Lawrence. He wasn't giddy or remotely satisfied late Sunday afternoon. "It's frustrating, and I hate losing," he said. "I hate losing. So, we're going to get better. But that's all you can do is watch the tape, learn from it, get better, and move on."
8. Meyer hasn't lost faith. Meyer: "We're still a work in progress, as you see. I did not anticipate that today. I thought our guys worked really hard. I believe deeply in this team, and we worked our tails off. Line up and go again."
9. Turnovers were lacking. Not only did the Jaguars commit three turnovers Sunday, they forced no takeaways – with an apparent early fumble recovery negated when officials ruled that Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor had passed to running back Phillip Lindsay, who bobbled the exchange before Jaguars defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen recovered. "We've got to get the ball," Allen said. "That's one thing we have to really harp on, is getting the ball. We didn't have that many opportunities to get the ball, but we've got to go get it."
10. The Jaguars did OK against the run. Yes, the Jaguars allowed 160 yards on 41 carries, but consider: 29 of those yards came on a run by Taylor – and Texans running backs rushed for 120 yards on 37 carries, an average of 3.24 yards per carry. There were times early the Jaguars could have stuffed the Texans' run-focused attack a bit better, and the Jaguars' secondary must make plays on the deep ball. but this wasn't a bad performance against the run – particularly with Houston leading by double digits for most of the final three quarters. "We can get better, especially toward later in the game," Allen said of the run defense, "but overall, I think we did a good job."
11. Manertz can contribute as a receiver. The Jaguars signed tight end Chris Manhertz as free agent this past offseason largely because of his blocking ability. But he showed throughout training camp he is effective as a receiver. He showed it again Sunday with a 22-yard touchdown reception from Lawrence in the first half.
12. This team may be able to run. The Jaguars got away from the run early because of penalties and stayed away from it late because of the score. But they averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a team, with running backs James Robinson (five yards a carry) and Carlos Hyde (4.9) both effective. That could be a good sign.