JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 27-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's 2020 regular-season opener at TIAA Bank Field…
1.The Jaguars aren't tanking. The idea that the Jaguars would lose intentionally for draft positioning was always silly. Players gain nothing from it. Nor do coaches. Remember just before the regular season? When General Manager David Caldwell said to let this team play before judging it? The Jaguars played Sunday, and they showed the silliness of the whole "tanking" theory.
2.The Mania is back. Is he a franchise quarterback? That will be determined over the course of the season. But Jaguars second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II was impressive Sunday, completing 19 of 20 passes for 173 three touchdowns and no interceptions. He still must improve his vision downfield. You still wonder about arm strength. But that's nitpicking. He's 1-0 this season and 7-6 as a starter. He also is cool and clutch in the fourth quarter. He has something.
3.James Robinson is an upgrade … The rookie running back showed why the Jaguars made him the fourth collegiate free agent in NFL history to start at running back in Week 1. He rushed for 62 yards on 16 carries and hurdled a defender on a 28-yard reception that keyed the Jaguars' go-ahead drive. He showed vision and made good decisions. He appeared to get the most out of his blocking. Robinson is not only a starter; he appears to be an upgrade at the position.
4. … and he's fun. Let's not overlook the hurdle. How cool was that?
5.CJ Henderson looks ready – really ready. Henderson, the No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, had about as good an NFL debut as is possible for a cornerback. He registered three passes defensed and his first NFL interception. The interception led to a touchdown, and one of the passes defensed came against wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and secured the victory. He also had two impressive tackles that prevented first downs. An impressive start.
6.The rookies were ready. The Jaguars kept 16 rookies on the initial 53-man roster, and at least five – Henderson, Robinson, defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson – impacted the game Sunday. It's hard to depend on rookies for consistent impact for 16 games, but considering this start …. who knows?
7.The Jaguars appear better against the run. There were hiccups early, and this area was far from perfect. But the Jaguars held the Colts to 88 yards rushing and improved as the game continued. There is still some wait-and-see on this critical area, but the second half was encouraging.
8.The Jaguars' wide receivers are good. Three different receivers caught touchdowns. All five had receptions. Credit Minshew for spreading his passes around, but this group – particularly Keelan Cole, DJ Chark Jr. and Shenault – showed the same flashes Sunday they showed throughout 2020 Training Camp.
9.The offense is better. We saw signs in camp. We saw more Sunday, and those mattered because they came in a game. The offensive line is improved. The receivers are improved. Running back is improved. Quarterback looks improved. Good stuff.
10.Thor came up big … Talk about "Next Man Up." Second-year safety Andrew Wingard's interception off quarterback Philip Rivers set up a fourth-quarter field goal that pushed the lead to 27-20. Wingard was playing for the injured Jarrod Wilson. Head Coach Doug Marrone calls Wingard "Thor" because of his long, blond hair. On Sunday, the Jaguars were calling him a game-saver.
11. … and so did Abry Jones. The veteran nose tackle is the most-tenured Jaguars player – and he was one of the most important on Sunday. Jones and Wilson stuffed Colts running back Nyheim Hines on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 3 late in the first quarter. That kept the Colts' lead at 7-0 and stopped what to that point was serious Colts momentum. Without that play, Sunday's outcome might have been very different.
12.Josh Lambo is still good. Your weekly reminder.
13.This team is resilient. Marrone talked all offseason about liking the makeup of the team. He talked about it even more in the week leading to the game. A primary reason he gave was the resilient nature of a young team. The Jaguars rallied from four different deficits on Sunday, finally taking the lead permanently with 5:56 remaining. They then made two huge defensive plays to extend and secure the lead. Resilient? The Jaguars absolutely were on Sunday.
14.Turnovers and efficiency matter. The Jaguars were plus-two in turnover margin, two-of-two in the red zone and had a goal-line stand. That's how you win when you're outgained 445-241.
15. Myles Jack may be in the right position. The fifth-year linebacker made his first career start at weak-side linebacker. He had 11 tackles, one for loss with a sack and three quarterback hurries. That's a good start for a player who took too much criticism last season.
16.The Jaguars are in first place. The Houston Texans lost to the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday. The Jaguars beat the Colts. The Tennessee Titans play Monday. So, guess what? The Jaguars after Sunday's games are in first place in the AFC South.