What we learned: Jaguars 27, Bengals 17

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday

1. The Jaguars are still in it. This was in doubt for a while Sunday, because a loss would have left the Jaguars 2-5 and needing a lot – maybe too much – to happen to salvage the season. Instead, the Jaguars can get back to .500 with a victory over a one-victory New York Jets team at home Sunday. Sunday’s victory saved the season. For now.

2. Gardner Minshew II is a rookie quarterback. We began learning this in last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, but the lesson continued in spots on Sunday. Minshew continues to look more uncertain in the pocket than he did early in his time as a starter, and inexperienced hesitation appears to be causing him to miss a few opportunities. That’s normal rookie stuff, but it’s there.

3. … but that doesn’t mean he’s playing poorly. Minshew won for a third time in six NFL starts Sunday. Most teams would take that from a rookie quarterback or a backup quarterback. The Jaguars sure would have taken it when starter Nick Foles sustained a broken clavicle in Week 1. His time as a starter has been an unqualified success.

4. Foles likely will start when he returns. Minshew could well have a bright future as a starting quarterback, but Foles’ command of the pocket – and of the offense – and his experience is something the Jaguars need in the lineup. Foles is expected to return November 17, and it would be surprising at this point if he doesn’t start against Indianapolis that day.

5. Leonard Fournette is what the Jaguars hoped. Fournette somewhat quietly rushed for 131 yards on 29 carries Sunday. The third-year running back has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the past four games and leads the AFC in rushing. For whatever Fournette wasn’t at times in his first two seasons, he’s playing at a high level now.

6. The Jaguars can win without cornerback Jalen Ramsey … The Jaguars’ record in their last 15 games with Ramsey: 3-10; their record in four games without him: 2-2.

7. … and they can force turnovers without him, too. The Jaguars’ defense forced one takeaway in the season’s first six game, none in the three games Ramsey played. They forced four Sunday in the first game after he was traded. The Jaguars probably didn’t force more takeaways because Ramsey wasn’t around any longer, but it’s fun to think that might be the case.

8. The demise of the defense may have been exaggerated. Much has changed in the last season or so for the Jaguars’ defense; many of the players who made this an elite defense are gone. But while the defense struggled against Carolina and Kansas City, remember: It also has held four of seven opponents to 17 points or less. This defense is still playing at a winning level more than it’s not.

9. Josh Allen was worth the No. 7 overall selection in the draft. Five sacks in the last five games … the rookie edge rusher is showing serious signs of being a force.

10. Yannick Ngakoue has a lot of value. The fourth-year defensive end still isn’t happy he didn’t sign a contract extension in the offseason. But after being slowed by a hamstring injury early in the season, he is back to making plays in the opponent’s backfield. He scored his second career touchdown Sunday and deserves credit for a professional approach in a tricky situation.

11. D.J. Hayden is good. The nickel back changed the game’s momentum Sunday when he forced a third-quarter fumble. He also made a clean tackle on a screen pass to help set up Ngakoue’s late-game interception for a touchdown. Those plays weren’t outliers. Hayden is playing as well as any player on the Jaguars’ defense.

12. Chris Conley was signed for a reason. The veteran receiver’s 47-yard catch-and-run reception early in the fourth quarter Sunday shouldn’t be overlooked. The Jaguars’ receivers needed to start winning in the middle of the field for Minshew. Conley won in a big way, and the Jaguars never really lost control of the game after that go-ahead drive.

13. The Jaguars’ receivers are good. Remember when this was an offseason concern? No more. Second-year veteran DJ Chark Jr. is in the process of learning how to deal with defenses focusing on him, but the team is getting production from different players at this spot each week. Conley. Keelan Cole. Dede Westbrook. Chark. All made huge plays Sunday. That’s a balanced group that feels like it’s continuing to improve

14. Kicker Josh Lambo is good. Your weekly reminder.

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