JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser preps for the week ahead with five quick questions for Jaguars-Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, Sunday
1.Can the Jaguars play a whole game?There may be no question asked as often around EverBank Field this week. The Jaguars have played quality first halves against contenders two of the last three weeks, trailing the Colts 6-3 three weeks ago and leading Houston 13-10 at halftime this past Sunday. They lost to the Colts, 23-3, and 27-13 to the Texans. The Jaguars have scored just one offensive touchdown in the third quarter this season. Some of that is due to youth on offense. Some of it is due to inconsistency from rookies and veterans alike. Whatever the reasons, until that performance improves, this will remain a question.
2.Is Blake Bortles improving?The rookie quarterback has played well enough at times the last two weeks to make the case he is improving. He led a game-winning drive against the Giants two weeks ago, and then had a solid first half against Houston this past week. Those are incremental steps, and he eventually has to take more significant ones. Taking steps of either kind against Baltimore won't be easy. The Ravens rush the passer well enough to make this one of the Jaguars' toughest matchups of the season.
3.Can the Jaguars protect Bortles?This is an ongoing question – and understandably so for a team that has allowed a league-high 54 sacks. The Jaguars allowed four sacks Sunday against Houston, but improved enough that Head Coach Gus Bradley praised the group the next day for playing well. Earning praise this week will be difficult. Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervill leads the NFL with a franchise-record 16 sacks through 13 games, and veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs has 8.5 sacks. The Ravens as a team are sixth in the NFL this season with 37 sacks.
4.Will the pass rush get home?The Jaguars need to rush the passer well and create turnovers to have a chance to win. That has been the formula all season and there's no sign of that changing. The Jaguars had two sacks Sunday against Houston but when the defense didn't force a turnover, the offense couldn't drive full fields often enough to stay close. Can the front recreate the havoc it created while forcing eight fumbles in two games before Houston? If so, the Jaguars have a chance. If not …
Take a closer look at the Jaguars upcoming opponent, the Baltimore Ravens.
5.Can the Jaguars find their future?The Jaguars are 2-11. So while winning matters Sunday, what matters as much the rest of the season is answering questions about the roster. Can Aaron Colvin keep developing into a starter? Can Marqise Lee be a go-to, plan-the-offense-around-him receiver? Are Johnathan Cyprien and Luke Joeckel core players? Is the offensive line of the future on the roster? All are key questions and none will be answered definitively in a three-game stretch. But searching for those answers will be what the final three games are about.