What we learned from the Jaguars' 38-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers Monday.
Some of it's good, some of it's bad, but here it is . . .
1. The secondary is just too banged up.At least it was on Monday. The Jaguars are still talking Next Man Up when it comes to injury, and that's good. It's what interim coach Mel Tucker wants and it's what they must do. You have to believe you can win no matter who is in the game – starter or reserve. But on Monday night, there was little question that health in the defensive backfield played a major, major role.
2. Dwight Lowery matters.The secondary already was without Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, the starting corners. They also were without Will Middleton, the top backup cornerback all year. All those guys are on injured reserve. Still, for a quarter and a half Monday, the Jaguars' secondary kept Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers from completely dominating. Once Lowery, the Jaguars' starting free safety, went out with a shoulder injury, Rivers struck quickly and decisively with three touchdowns in five minutes and the game was out of reach.
3. Blaine Gabbert has a long way to go.It's not an impossible journey, but there's no sugarcoating it: progress must be made. Just how much improvement the rookie can make the rest of the season remains to be seen and it's almost going to take some serious work in the off-season. That's OK. That's when major work in the NFL gets done, particularly with young players. Gabbert has talent. He has potential. He has all those tools. He also has the desire to improve. He was very, very young when he was drafted. All those things play in his favor, and apparently after 10 games, something else needs to be developed. Doing that is up to him.
4. Gabbert does have potential.Before everyone falls over themselves ripping the guy, don't forget that the second quarter counts, too. He looked very, very good in that quarter and as a result, the Jaguars' offense did, too. It wasn't enough, but it was a flash and that's what he needs to build on moving forward.
5. Jacksonville still loves the Jaguars.There was too much going wrong on the field in the second half to spend too much time on this, and it's not as if we didn't already know it – but there's a passion in this city for the Jaguars. There was a real energy in the crowd before the game, and it remained real much of the first half. It got ugly in the second half, but in the pre-game it was impressive. There is work to be done. There are changes to be made. But it's there.
6.The depth on the defensive line is catching up, too.Defensive end John Chick hadn't been a superstar this season, but he had made an impact. He went down in the second quarter, and was helped from the field. That's a significant blow to the Jaguars' pass rush.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew is just, plain good.Same story, different week here. He keeps going and going. The Chargers knew he was going to run. Shoot, every team this season has known he was going to run . He still had 97 yards rushing against San Diego and accounted for over 61 percent of the Jaguars' offense. Hard to believe the guy had major knee surgery in January. He's special, and he's leading the NFL in rushing.
8. Sometimes, the wheels just come off. That happed Monday. Once the secondary gave up the three touchdowns, suddenly instead of being down by four points the Jaguars were down by 17. Some teams in the NFL these days can make up 17 points in a half. The Jaguars have had trouble scoring that in a game, so at that many points . . . well, the odds weren't good.
9. Cecil Shorts may still be OK.Yes, the rookie has struggled this season, and yes, he still only has two receptions for 30 yards. But the reality is a lot of people around the team still think the rookie from Mount Union can be a productive player moving forward. He went to a Division III school, and a lot of times small school guys need a year. It happened with Pierre Garcon. He was a non-factor as a rookie in 2008 and he has been productive and dangerous since. Shorts had a 5-yard touchdown reception on Monday on which he showed athleticism and body control. It was as good a catch as a Jaguars player has had all year. He still has a chance, and there's no question he figures in the future.
10. The receivers . . .Well, how often do we say it? And how often do we see it? Gabbert wasn't perfect, and he wasn't close, but there still aren't a whole lot of plays where the receivers are wide open, either. For the game, the Jaguars' receivers had five receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. This group needs a major upgrade, and it will be the primary focus of the off-season.