JACKSONVILLE – Here's What We Learned from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday…
1.The Jaguars aren't "there" yet.This should have been obvious to anyone, but in the "euphoria" of a three-game winning streak – and four victories in five games – some may have forgotten. Many of those same "someones" viewed Sunday's loss as a "step back." It wasn't. The Jaguars need to improve to get where they want to go. That was true during the winning streak and it remains true. And that's OK because…
2…The Jaguars are still progressing.What? Progressing in a loss? Yes, there were signs of progress on Sunday – and yes, even in a loss. The Jaguars during the first half of the season couldn't score touchdowns at home. On Sunday, despite a slew of injuries and costly turnovers, they still had a chance late. That's not satisfactory, because winning's the objective, but from where this team began the season there's progress.
3.The Jaguars are running better.The Jaguars ran for 159 yards Sunday without Maurice Jones-Drew and with two injuries on the offensive line. During September and October, they couldn't sniff 100 yards rushing in the best of circumstances. On Sunday, they not only sniffed it, they rushed past it in a blur. Perhaps most significantly they got better in the second half in this area than the first. That's a sign that this team knows what it needs to do function and how to adapt. That's significant.
4.Jordan Todman is a factor.Before Sunday, Todman's career-high rushing game was 31 yards. With Jones-Drew out with a hamstring injury, he made his first career start Sunday and rushed for 109 yards on 25 carries. Teams typically need two quality running backs these days. The Jaguars may have that.
5.The offensive line is improving.It took time this season for the Jaguars to adapt to the combination zone/gap blocking scheme brought in by offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and offensive line coach George Yarno. Consider that adaptation process well underway. The Jaguars have rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last four games after not doing so in the first 10. This isn't a dominant running team yet, but it's much better than it was early in the season.
6. Marcedes Lewis is having a solid stretch run.The Jaguars' tight end missed five games early in the season with a calf injury, but once healthy, he has been a significant factor offensively. He has nine receptions for 122 yards in his last three games, and he has caught a touchdown pass in each of those three games.
7.Andre Branch is getting better.The second-year veteran end has four sacks in the last five games. It may be time for people to stop remembering how he struggled in preseason and early in the season and focus on what he is doing now, which is much more than many anticipated before the season.
8.Josh Scobee may be having his best season.Scobee made both of his field-goal attempts on Sunday, converting from 32 and 55 yards. He has made 21 of 23 field goals this season, with one miss coming from 60 yards and another being blocked. Impressive stuff.
9.Denard Robinson's ball-security issues haven't gone away.The rookie's third-quarter fumble on the 1-yard line was costly, costly, costly. Instead of the Jaguars pulling to within three points with an impressive, run-oriented drive, the Bills took possession on their 20. That was Robinson's third fumble of the season in 19 carries. As talented as he is, it's difficult to trust him to carry the ball right now.
10.The Jaguars aren't going to the postseason.This was a long, long shot once the team started 0-8, but four victories in five games kept them mathematically alive for the postseason through Week 15. But on Sunday, the Jaguars were eliminated when the Dolphins beat the Patriots. A few minutes later, the Jaguars lost to the Bills, which also would have eliminated Jacksonville.
11.The Jaguars miss Cecil Shorts III.They miss Justin Blackmon, too, but Blackmon's suspension is six games old, so we'll focus on Shorts. He missed the game with a groin injury that lingered much of the season and got worse last week. Without him, the Jaguars' receivers combined for 10 receptions for 87 yards, an average of 8.7 yards per reception.
12.The Jaguars are resilient.No Jones-Drew. No Shorts. No Johnathan Cyprien. No Will Rackley. All four missed with injuries, which meant the Jaguars were without their leading rusher (Jones-Drew), leading receiver (Shorts) and a player who had helped the defense improve significantly in recent weeks (Cyprien). That's a lot to be without, but even after falling behind 20-10, the Jaguars rallied to tie. It wasn't enough for a victory, and it won't be enough forever, but for this team in the first year of the building process … well, this team is further along than it was in September and October. No question.