JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 30-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday…
1. LaRoy Reynolds has guts. The rookie linebacker had his helmet ripped from his head on a first-quarter Jaguars punt. He didn't stop pursuing the play. Not even close. The scene of him making a tackle on Colts wide receiver Griff Whalen while running full speed won't soon be forgotten – and will live on for a good long while in social media circles.
2. Injuries hurt.The Jaguars were without cornerback Dwayne Gratz, defensive tackles Roy Miller and Brandon Deaderick, linebackers Russell Allen and Geno Hayes and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. Those absences weren't the only reason the Jaguars didn't play well Sunday, but as linebacker Paul Posluszny said, "It didn't help."
3. The Jaguars will have the No. 3 selection in the NFL Draft.Will they use it on a quarterback? A pass rusher? Will they trade up? Or down? Let the speculation – and oh, will there ever be speculation – begin.
4. The Jaguars need a pass rusher.The Jaguars' defensive line played with effort and intensity all season. Defensive line coach Todd Wash and defensive coordinator Bob Babich squeezed a lot of out the front seven and the pass rush was a factor the second half of the season. But you still need a guy who can dominate in an obvious passing situation. The Jaguars don't have that.
5. Marcedes Lewis remains at a high level.This has been pretty obvious since the veteran tight end returned from a calf injury. Once he got back to full health around midseason, he was productive in the passing game and was a force on some plays. He also remained one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the NFL. There will be speculation about his future in the coming weeks, but he was valuable in the last half of the season.
6. Chad Henne remains inconsistent.Henne was off his game Sunday. That's how Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley put it after the game, and it was true. But don't forget: Henne was playing without two receivers – Blackmon and Shorts – that should have been the team's top two receivers. Henne threw nine touchdown passes over the final five games of the season and helped the offense begin functioning at a far higher level than at the beginning of the season. Credit him for that, but it's hard to picture the Jaguars not having a new quarterback next season.
7. The Blaine Gabbert era is over.The third-year veteran didn't start after leaving a Week Five loss to the St. Louis Rams with an injury. He was healthy in the last nine games of the season and spent that time as a backup to Henne. He likely will resurface in the NFL, and with a change of venue, he perhaps can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. But that almost certainly won't be in Jacksonville.
*8. This team believes. *Jaguars players believed in Bradley from the start of the season. They believed it during an 0-8 start. They believed it even more so after the bye week, when Bradley gave them the week off despite that record. It didn't show up in the record as much as would be ideal, but the direction of this franchise is set. Players believe in it, and that's a huge accomplishment for a head coach in his first season.
9. The run offense must still improve.After a flurry of improvement, the run offense struggled to end the season. On Sunday, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries and the Jaguars as a team rushed for 42 yards on 16 carries. That will be a huge focus of the offseason, likely with an emphasis on the interior of the offensive line.
10. As for Jones-Drew …Well, on that front we don't know. And won't for a while. The eight-year veteran is a free agent. Caldwell wants Jones-Drew to return. Jones-Drew wants to return. Can the sides agree to a deal? That's the main storyline of the first two months of the offseason.
11. Kerry Taylor could be worth a look.Taylor joined the team at midseason and started the three games after Shorts' injury. He won't push Blackmon or Shorts, but he was productive at times as a starter. He caught a team-high 75 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Some of the players who played late in the season in place of injured players may not be around come next regular season, but Taylor looks like he'll have a chance to make the team.
12. Brad Meester is all class. We knew that already, too, but with the center's 14-year career officially over, we'll address it a final time – and it's a fitting way to close the final 2013 What We Learned. Meester was to the end a class act and while Sunday was an emotional day, he said after the game he knew it was time. He's gone, but he won't be forgotten and the way he carried himself and approached his profession every day will have an impact for a long time. He will be missed.