JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser preps for the week ahead with five quick questions for Jaguars-Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday …
1.Can the rookies grow up?The Jaguars' season-long lean toward offensive youth has become an overriding theme. Six rookies started on offense Sunday – quarterback Blake Bortles, offensive linemen Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko, tight end Nic Jacobs and wide receiver Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. Considering tackles Luke Joeckel and Austin Pasztor have less than 16 career starts, and considering rookie running back Storm Johnson appears in line for more carries, this is a unit with scant experience to go with significant potential. How soon can that group get consistent? It's a critical question.
2.Can Bortles reduce mistakes?The story around Bortles will develop and morph all season. Early on, the question was when he would start. Then, it was if he could make the team better. Now, it's about reducing turnovers. He has thrown two interceptions in each of his first three regular-season appearances. That's understandable and expected for a rookie, but reducing them will now be the focus.
3.Was Sunday for real?This question pertains to the Jaguars' defense, which looked against Pittsburgh Sunday more like how it was expected to look this season. The front seven and safeties were stout against the run, the pass rush got to Ben Roethlisberger enough to bother him and the secondary didn't let the Steelers' receivers control the game. That's the sort of scrappy, surviving defense the team expected from the unit. If the Jaguars are going to be competitive moving forward, they need more of it.
4.Is this one winnable?It's an unfair question, because without a doubt the 1-4 Titans see Sunday's game as being just as winnable as the Jaguars do. But the Titans have lost four consecutive games and could start Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. He's capable, but not at the level of Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Roethlisberger. Those are the last three quarterbacks the Jaguars faced. The Titans are coming off a tough loss at home to Cleveland. Fair or unfair, the question will be posed to the Jaguars, "Is this the week you get Victory No. 1?"
5.Is Storm the answer?The Jaguars have sought a productive combination at running back since the start of the season. Toby Gerhart started the season as the primary back, and while he remains the starter, the team has worked Denard Robinson in the mix, with some Jordan Todman in there, too. Against Pittsburgh, Johnson carried four times for 27 yards and looked as impressive in the feature role as any Jaguars back this season. Is it Johnson's time? Time will tell, but his opportunity and what he will do with it will be pressing issues around EverBank Field this week.