JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 28-11 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday
1.Sometimes, the game is easy to analyze. This will be a relatively straightforward “What We Learned.” That’s because two storylines dominated all others Sunday – i.e., three first-half turnovers by quarterback Nick Foles and Head Coach Doug Marrone’s halftime decision to replace Foles with rookie Gardner Minshew II. All else was secondary.
2.Foles is struggling. Really struggling. Time will tell if he starts for the Jaguars again, but Foles doesn’t look like the player who quarterbacked clutch postseason runs for the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons. Shoot, he doesn’t even look like the player who quarterbacked the Jaguars in training camp. The Jaguars expected Foles to be provide consistent, poised leadership at the start of the season. A broken clavicle kept that from happening. They expected a lift at midseason when he returned from injury. That didn’t happen, either.
3.The ‘Stache provides energy. Minshew entered the game at halftime, and there’s little question he provided a lift. The Jaguars cut into a 25-0 deficit and were at the Buccaneers 1 with a chance to pull to within 25-18 midway through the third quarter. Minshew isn’t yet polished, but his mobility and creativity appear to give this team the best chance to win right now.
4.Injuries have taken a toll again. Make no mistake: Injuries weren’t why the Jaguars lost Sunday, and they’re not why the Jaguars are 4-8 and solidly in last place in the AFC South. But the defense on Sunday played without their best three defenders up the middle – safety Ronnie Harrison, middle linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The Jaguars fared OK against the run, but the injuries have weakened the spine of this defense.
5.Josh Allen is special. We’ve been learning this about the rookie edge defender all season; we saw further evidence Sunday. Allen on Sunday set the Jaguars’ rookie record with his ninth sack of the season, and these aren’t fluke plays. He pressures consistently and gives consistent effort. Not much has gone right for the Jaguars in recent weeks, but Allen continues to look like a foundation piece for the defense – and the franchise.
6.This team can still rush the passer. It’s not just Allen. The Jaguars had four sacks Sunday and are tied for sixth in the NFL with 38 for the season. Considering how poorly the Jaguars have defended the run, and considering how rarely the Jaguars have led, that’s remarkable.
7.Tight end remains a deficiency. Whatever the future holds for the organization, this position must be addressed in the offseason. The inability to get any production in the passing offense in the middle of the field has crippled the offense all season. That didn’t change Sunday.
8.Jawaan Taylor is still a rookie. The Jaguars’ right tackle shows all the signs of being really good, but he was beat too quickly and too easily for both sacks – once by linebacker Shaq Barrett and once by defensive end Carl Nassib – that caused Foles’ first-half fumbles Sunday.
9.You don’t win in the NFL with four turnovers. A lot went wrong for the Jaguars Sunday, but start there. The Jaguars made progress in this area in October, but they’re minus-three in giveaway-takeaway for the season. They were minus-three Sunday. This team can’t win that way.
10.Talent on defense is an issue. Whenever you looked up Sunday, an undrafted free agent was getting beat defensively. This defense was one of the NFL’s most-talented units in 2017. That’s not the case anymore.
11.The run defense isn’t “fixed.” Yes, the numbers were better Sunday. The Jaguars snapped a three-game streak of allowing 200 or more yards rushing. But a big play came early when Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber scored on a 15-yard touchdown run that looked like too many of the breakout, momentum-changing runs the Jaguars have allowed this season.
12.Dede Westbrook and DJ Chark Jr. are receivers for the future. They made plays that mattered Sunday. They appear to be reliable. The Jaguars need more from the rest of the receivers and tight ends, but this duo is solid.
13.Josh Lambo is good. Your weekly reminder.
14.Sometimes, it’s not hard. It’s worth repeating. Foles’ early turnovers defined this one. Marrone’s decision to bench Foles at halftime further defined it. That was the storyline, and that was how this game will be remembered.