JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 33-25 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday…
1.The defense is a major issue. The Jaguars in four games have allowed 20, 33, 31 and 33 points; even in a league skewing toward offense, that's too many. The defense is struggling in many areas – most notably pass rush and secondary— and allowed scores on five consecutive second-half possessions against Cincinnati.
2.Pass rush is a concern … The Bengals entered Sunday having allowed a league-high 14 sacks. The theory was a pass rush that had three sacks in three games could get healthy in Cincinnati. That theory proved incorrect. The Jaguars sacked Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow once – a sack for no yards lost credited to defensive end Josh Allen.
3. … and the run defense might be, too. The Jaguars' run defense was OK three weeks and ranked 16th in the NFL at 116.3 yards per game allowed. The area remained OK for a half Sunday, allowing 46 yards. Then – playing without injured cornerback CJ Henderson and injured weak-side linebacker Myles Jack – players started jumping out of gaps and Bengals running back Joe Mixon took advantage with 121 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Mixon finished with 151 yards rushing and the Bengals finished with 205 yards rushing – the Jaguars' first 200-yard-plus-rushing game allowed this season after five such games last season.
4.The Jaguars are beat up – like really beat up. Jack and Henderson left with ankle and shoulder issues. Left tackle Cam Robinson left with a knee injury and cornerback D.J. Hayden and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. both left with hamstring injuries. Those absences weren't why the Jaguars lost. They sure didn't help.
5.Jack was a big loss. We knew before Sunday he had been playing well this season. We learned Sunday just how much he means to the defense. The Jaguars were slowing Mixon with Jack in the game. Mixon ran wild in Jack's absence.
6.Josh Lambo is really good. You knew the Jaguars would miss kicker Josh Lambo when they placed him on injured reserve with a hip injury. When Aldrick Rosas missed from 48 yards early Sunday, you remembered why.
7.DJ Chark Jr. matters. There weren't a slew of positives Sunday. The third-year wide receiver was one, catching eight passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. The Jaguars have scored 27, 30 and 25 points when Chark has played. They scored 13 when he didn't. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II called him one of the NFL's best receivers. Minshew's right.
8.Shenault will be good. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden still has to work to get Shenault opportunities because the rookie wide receiver isn't quite ready to get open consistently on a variety of routes as a receiver. Shenault will get there as he learns to use his hands to get off press coverage. For now, he continues to show big-time ability. He's a future star.
9.The offensive line is fine. This group continues to play well. It's not keeping Minshew entirely clean, but entirely clean is a fantasy when teams are down by two touchdowns every week. The offensive line is playing well. If the defense was playing better, more people would notice.
10.Minshew remains a mystery, because at times he is very good … Minshew was good at times Sunday – and his statistics were very good. He deserves credit for a late first-half drive that went the length of the field without time outs and netted what at the time seemed a key field goal. He also got the Jaguars back in the game with a nice late drive, finishing 27 of 40 for 351 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
11. and he struggles at other times. Minshew' first-drive interception was his fourth in the last three games, and he struggled on back-to-back three-and-outs as the Bengals took over the game's momentum in the third quarter. He also continued to hesitate in the pocket and continues to struggle at times against soft zones when forced to throw to the middle of the field. We're four games into the season and still trying to get answers.
12.James Robinson is good. The rookie free agent continues to impress. He's an efficient, smart runner who appears headed for a very good NFL career. There may be no brighter early spot on this team.
13.The Jaguars are struggling on third down. There may be no more important statistic for this team. The Jaguars converted 62.2 percent of their third downs in Weeks 1 and 2 and looked like a contending team. They have converted five of 20 the last two weeks and have looked much different.
14.Taking the ball doesn't solve everything. Remember? Last week? When the Great Jaguars Debate was about whether Head Coach Doug Marrone should take the ball when winning the coin toss instead of deferring to the second half? Well, Marrone indeed took the ball after winning the toss Sunday – and Minshew's interception ended that first drive. The Bengals then took over the game's momentum with a touchdown drive to start the second half. Taking the ball didn't lose the game for the Jaguars Sunday. But deferring hadn't lost them the last two, either.