JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned from the Jaguars' 33-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego Sunday …
1.Blake Bortles was ready …or as ready as he could possibly be, anyway. The rookie quarterback made his first NFL start, and while the Jaguars didn't win, Bortles did all of the things you wanted to see. He played with poise. He showed pocket presence. He didn't give the impression that the moment was too big. All good signs. At the same time …
2.Bortles is a rookie. It's safe to assume this will be a theme until … well, until Bortles isn't a rookie. He showed all of the things that make you believe he will be very good in the long run. At the same time, he showed the things that made you concerned about starting him in the short run. He made a few rookie mistakes, two of which became interceptions.
3.Blake Bortles can really avoid pressure.Of all the strengths he has shown, this may be the most advanced. Bortles seems to sense pressure at a level some veteran quarterbacks never reach. He has the ability to buy time in the pocket and make something happen with that time. His game sense shows maturity well beyond his years. That's an unbelievably good sign.
4.Bortles isn't the problem with this team.That became pretty clear Sunday. No, he wasn't perfect. Yes, he made some mistakes. But put a better team around him and Bortles' performance would have probably been a winning one. That's the Jaguars' charge now: to get better around the rookie quarterback. At times early this season, that's seemed like a very difficult charge. Which brings us to …
5.The defense may not be an easy fix …The Jaguars have allowed 38 points and more than 450 yards a game. Through four games, that's not a blip. It's a trend – and one that will make winning tough until it's stopped.
6.The secondary is an issue.If it seems we're learning this every week, it's because we are. The Jaguars allowed Jeremy Maclin to run wide open for a touchdown in the opener, and the same thing happened against the Colts in Week 3. On Sunday, it happened twice more. It's a combination of issues – blown assignments, wrong coverages at the wrong time – but whatever it is, it's not giving the defense or the team a chance to win.
7.Philip Rivers is good.Yes, Jaguars' secondary made things easy on Rivers at times. But the Chargers quarterback finds little mistakes and makes them enormous. He's a quarterback in his prime, and those guys are a pleasure to watch – except, of course, for the opponent.
8.The run defense is solid. We can't say the area has been stellar all year. It was porous against Washington, and has had rough spots elsewhere. But the run defense for the most part has played well enough and it did so again Sunday, allowing 42 yards on 20 carries. It doesn't matter much when Rivers is throwing for 377 yards, but the front has been solid nonetheless.
9.Cecil Shorts III is down again.The hamstring issues that plagued him early in preseason and early in the regular season are back. The veteran wide receiver missed much of the second half with the issue, and evaluation will continue Monday.
10.Dwayne Gratz is down, too.Gratz, who has struggled at times in the early season, sustained a concussion in the first half. He, too, will be evaluated throughout the week. Demetrius McCray replaced him and though he got beat for a touchdown by Malcom Floyd in the third quarter, he had good coverage on the play and Rivers needed to make a perfect throw to complete the pass.
11.The offensive line needs to get better push.Again, this has been pretty evident all season, but the Jaguars had three different third- or fourth-and-1 plays they couldn't convert. You need to convert third-and-short in reliable fashion and right now, this line hasn't shown it can do that.
12.Denard Robinson is continuing to push for time.The second-year veteran has given the running game some signs of life in recent weeks, and he appears close to breaking a long one or two. Head Coach Gus Bradley said after the game more Robinson in the running game is something the Jaguars want to see.
13.Toby Gerhart is still the starting running back. Bradley was asked specifically in his post-game press conference if Robinson's increased time meant Gerhart had been demoted. He said it did not.
14. Bortles is for real.We started here this morning and will finish here, too. Bortles looks like he's going to be really good. Nothing more important to learn than that.