Here's what we learned in the Jaguars' 24-14 loss to the Houston Texans Sunday.
Some of it's good. Some of it's bad. But here it is . . .
1)The defense is good.Very good. After eight games, this is no fluke. The unit played well enough to win and even created scoring opportunities for the offense. It doesn't make up for 2-6, but it's a remarkable turnaround.
2)The offense . . . Well, the offense sure ain't the defense.
3)Good defense isn't enough. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, that's the case. When the offense can't score more than 14 points in a game, the defense has to play perfectly. You can do that on occasion – and the Jaguars had one such occasion against the Ravens – but you can't expect it every week.
4)Mike Sims-Walker wasn't the cure-all after all.Not a knock on Sims-Walker, but what was wrong with the Jaguars' offense two weeks ago is still wrong. The receivers aren't getting open, and when they are open, there are still too many drops. You feel like celebrating one or two first downs. That's not how it should be.* *
5)Clint Session may have been a good signing after all.In yet another example of the danger of drawing conclusions too quickly, Session was criticized in the first month and a half and in the last two weeks has turned in his two best games of the season. He's an aggressive player who will make up for mistakes with big plays, and he's being used the right way – as an attacking, big-play linebacker who can change momentum.
6)Blaine Gabbert is a rookie.We learn this week after week and we relearned it Sunday. It's not fun. It's excruciating at times. It may be the off-season before muchchanges that you notice. That's not fun, either. It just is.
7)It's not just the quarterback.It pretty much has been all-bash-Gabbert-all-the-time in the wake of Sunday's loss, but you can't hang the passing game struggles all on him. He has missed some throws, but an awful lot of those incomplete passes are either drops or passes that are getting knocked away by defenders right on the receiver. The routes aren't crisp enough and the timing is off. That's more than just the quarterback struggling. Here's the biggest problem: Just about every rookie quarterback is going to have errant throws. Cam Newton had them when the Jaguars and Panthers played, and Andy Dalton had them when the Jaguars and Bengals played. Gabbert has had errant throws, too, but his accurate throws are getting dropped or knocked away by a defender. He needs to improve, but he's not getting help.
8)Maurice Jones-Drew can't do it all.Jones-Drew didn't run horribly. He never runs horribly. But when the offense is facing 1st-and-20s, he can run for 10 yards and you're still in passing situations. It's tough to establish the running game that way.
9)The pass rush is improved. The Jaguars haven't been dominant rushing the passer, but there's a reason for that: they don't have a dominant, superstar pass rusher. But they have been good enough to disrupt the opposing offense. Credit the guys up front and the defensive coaches for calling blitzes at the right time. Quarterbacks have looked uncomfortable quite a bit this season and without a superstar pass rusher, that's not easy.
10)It's time to reassess.There was talk last week about a victory getting the Jaguars into the playoff chase. That was obviously more than a little optimistic for a team that was then 2-5, but at 2-6, it's time to put that away unless something very unexpected happens. Still, the season is not over, and moving forward, this is about this team showing it cares enough to continue to compete. There are character guys on this team, so they'll give effort, but considering the circumstances, this isn't easy.