JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned from the Jaguars' 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field on Sunday …
1.This team really was getting better. Indeed, indeed. Remember last week? When many, many observers wondered if the Jaguars were really improving? Well, one victory doesn't change everything and the Jaguars absolutely must build on this, but they beat a 3-2 team Sunday. They weren't doing anything close to that last season or early this season. That's improvement.
2.The Jaguars won't go 0-16 this season.This was silly talk, but before Sunday the fact still remained that it was talk. This team was coming too close and giving itself a chance too often to not win this season. But now we know for sure. No, 0-16 is not a possibility.
3.The Jaguars' defense is playing well.It almost went unnoticed the past few weeks, but the defense allowed 10 of the 17 points to Pittsburgh and 16 points to Tennessee. Yes, there had been some long passes, but overall the defense was playing winning football. It was a lot more noticeable Sunday. Winning has a way of doing that.
4.Blake Bortles is human (and still a rookie) …The Jaguars rookie quarterback had been showered with praise through his first three starts, and he generally had been praiseworthy. But he struggled Sunday with three interceptions, at least two of which appeared to have pretty strong elements of "rookie mistake." He's still doing a lot of things well, but Sunday was his toughest game yet.
5. … and, yet, Bortles still found a way.This is not to say, "Bortles found a way to win the game for the Jaguars." The running game and defense deserve much of the credit for Sunday's victory. But while Bortles threw three interceptions, he also had a touchdown pass late in the first half that capped a big-time two-minute drive and made plays with his legs in the second half.
6.Bortles' legs are a factor. Bortles rushed five times for 37 yards and it's clear that if defenses don't concern themselves with his running ability it's going to be costly. As time goes on, defense will have to pay attention him and that will help the running game overall.
7.Denard Robinson may have something.Many wondered if he could be an every-down running back. The question may even have come up in What We Learned now and again. Well, we learned Sunday that the second-year back can carry 22 times in a game for 127 yards. Robinson may nor may not be a player you want carrying 350 times a season, but he's certainly a guy the Jaguars want to carry a lot more than has been the case to this point.
8.The offensive line can run block after all …The Jaguars' offensive line has been roundly criticized this season – and rightly so. The team entered the game last in the NFL in rushing and had allowed a league-high 27 sacks. The Jaguars rushed for a season-high 185 yards on Sunday, and when that happens, the offensive line has to get credit. They also allowed just two sacks after allowing six the week before.
9.Allen Robinson keeps getting better.If it seems like this is a weekly What We Learned entry it's because that's just what it has become. He's not pushing for the Pro Bowl yet, but with each week it is more and more evident that the rookie second-round selection has the ability to be very productive in the NFL. He caught four passes for 60 yards Sunday, and his 31-yard touchdown reception at the end of the first half showed his ability to make the reception then turn it into something more.
10.Telvin Smith may be starting to get it.The rookie linebacker has big-time speed and playmaking ability. On Sunday, he showed it, registering a sack/fumble and returning an interception 15 yards to set up a late touchdown. He also had another near-interception in the third quarter. The Jaguars are looking for young players to start developing, and Smith showed some development Sunday.
11.The Jaguars' defensive line is solid.This group was expected to form the core of a defense that kept the Jaguars in games. Early on there were skeptics even though the line was continuing to do its job. Now, the defense is coming together as a unit and the line remains a huge reason.
12.Sen'Derrick Marks is a playmaker.Anyone watching this team the last season and a half has seen it, but the veteran defensive tackle continues to be an impact player. He had two passes defensed at the line of scrimmage, and remains the best free-agent signing of the Dave Caldwell/Gus Bradley era.
13.The season isn't over.This isn't an entry about the postseason. It's about a young team that has a chance to improve and build. That always was what this season was about. It had been doing it since Blake Bortles entered the starting lineup. On Sunday, there was more tangible evidence.
14.Winning is fun.I mean, "Duh … right?"