JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned from the Jaguars' 23-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Sunday …
1. The offense has issues.We'll start there because to start anywhere else would be to ignore the obvious. The Jaguars lost 12 yards in the third quarter on Sunday and had just 194 yards overall. Most harmful was they had too many scoring opportunities when they came up empty. There are a lot of reasons the Jaguars are struggling offensively. A lot of legitimate reasons. But no question it's happening.
2. Youth is still a reason for those issues.A rookie quarterback. Rookie wide receivers. Rookie offensive linemen. No doubt people are tired of hearing and reading about those reasons. There's also no doubt those reasons are real.
3. Blake Bortles is struggling.It's easy to call it a regression. That may or may not accurate. What is accurate is he's a young player with rampant inexperience around him right now. He also doesn't appear as confident as he was early in the season. Right now, it's not pretty – and the interception Bortles threw early Sunday was a bad, bad throw. You wanted to see games in these final six games where Bortles made more big plays than bad ones. Sunday wasn't it.
4. Bortles' teammates still believe.Said wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, "You don't want him to get too high or too down. It's rough times right now and he's showing poise and competing. That's something you want to see from your franchise guy."
5. The Jaguars are hesitant to go downfield.This is about more than Bortles. More likely it's a combination of a struggling offensive line, inexperienced receivers struggling to get open and a rookie quarterback, but whatever the reason, the ball didn't go downfield much Sunday. That makes it very difficult to run.
6. Chris Clemons can still rush the passer.Free agents don't always work out, but the Jaguars' free-agent signings on the defensive line? Well, they have worked out in a big way. The group as a whole is better than last season and all Clemons did on Sunday was dominate the game early. Three sacks in one quarter and two forced fumbles. That's AFC-Player-of-the-Week stuff if the Jaguars win.
7. Marqise Lee is taking steps.They may be small steps, and overall he has struggled as a rookie. But Lee had an increased role Sunday and caught three passes for 52 yards. He also had a 37-yard reception on which he looked quick and explosive. He may need an offseason to develop, but the talent is clearly there.
8. Denard Robinson is the Jaguars' best offensive player.The Colts took away the running game, particularly when Robinson was involved. But he caught four passes for 47 yards and still is the team's most dangerous offensive weapon.
9. The Jaguars still lack playmakers.That has been a glaring need for a few years, and it's still the case. You need players who consistently make plays above the Xs and Os, and the Jaguars don't really have those guys. Not yet. It's hard for young players to do that, but boy does this team need it.
10. Consistency may not come this season.We're talking about offense here, but considering the youth and inexperience, this season may be about learning and gaining that experience. That's not to say improvement can't happen in the last five weeks, but Sunday looked a long way from offensive efficiency.
11. Telvin Smith has starting ability.The rookie started on the weak side for the first time on Sunday. He was active and making plays in the first half, and although he said he didn't play as well in the second half, he still showed special ability. At some point now or in the near future you figure he's going to be in the lineup permanently.
12. When the defense is good … it's very, very good. We've seen this most of the season. While there have been exceptions, the defense overall has played well enough to keep the Jaguars in games for the most part – if the offense had played well. Too often this season the offense hasn't played well. That's true, but it's also true that the defense has been pretty much what was hoped in the offseason.
13. … but there are still too many lapses. The Jaguars have been plagued at times this season by missed tackles and big plays. As well as the unit played in the first half those areas were concerning again in the second half Sunday.
14. The Jaguars need a home game. It's been a lo-o-o-ng time since the Jaguars played at home. On Sunday, the Jaguars played like a team that needs a home game. They shouldn't have played that way after a bye week, but they did. How much will being at home help next week? Stay tuned.