JACKSONVILLE – Ah, Wednesday …
For the eighth time in the 2015 regular season, we have reached the day of the week where it is time to put the recent Sunday behind – and for a sixth time, that means moving past a Jaguars loss.
And while there was a small feeling of progress around the Jaguars in the wake of a 28-23 loss to the New York Jets that easily could have – and perhaps should have – gone the other way, the reality of a 2-6 record remains strong.
The Jaguars could have won Sunday, just as they could have won in four of their other five losses. But they did not win because they didn't make critical plays at critical times – and because they couldn't take advantage of late opportunities.
Can that change Sunday? Can it change sometime over the final eight games?
Those are pressing questions that have been asked all season and have yet to be answered.
Here are six more questions as the Jaguars begin preparations for the Ravens:
1)Can Blake Bortles reduce the mistakes?This isn't going to happen overnight. It's just not. Bortles is a young quarterback who's growing rapidly, and because he's a big-play, throw downfield quarterback, that's going to mean mistakes. That will be true during the developmental years – and probably thereafter. But with the Jaguars likely to play a lot of close games in the second half of the season, Bortles reducing a mistake here or there – and making a better decision here or there – will mean a lot.
2)Will Julius Thomas get more involved?It's going to be harped upon until something changes with the free-agent tight end's production. Does his presence help the offense and allow more one-on-one looks for Robinson and Hurns? Almost certainly. Do the Jaguars still need more output from Thomas? Also, almost certainly.
3)Is Marqise Lee ready?This has been a question for a few weeks, but it feels timelier now. The second-year wide receiver worked limited Friday – his first practice since Week 3. He is expected to up his workload in practice this week. It still feels a bit iffy for Sunday, but less so than last week and a lot less so than the weeks before that.
4)Are the Ravens better than their record?On paper, this looks like a winnable game for the Jaguars. The usually consistent Ravens are 2-6, and their slew of waylaying injuries has included season-ending Achilles injuries to defensive end Terrell Suggs and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. Still, these are the Ravens and they spent last week's bye week talking of winning their final eight games. This isn't an easy game by any stretch.
5)Can the Jaguars' defense stop the run?So far this season, with the exception of what now seems an aberration against Tampa Bay, this has been a resounding yes. The performance last week against Chris Ivory and the Jets was memorably dominant. Still, the Ravens' wide receiver corps is full of new, young faces and this is a team that believes in its ability to run. Always.
6)Can the Jaguars close?This will be a question until it's not. The statistics – five losses this season in games decided in the fourth quarter – are as familiar as the frustrating feeling after most Jaguars games this season. At some point, this young team must learn to close consistently. Perhaps that time comes Sunday.