JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned from the Jaguars' 34-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 regular-season opener at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sunday …
1. The Jaguars are improved.We'll throw that out there, and then duck out of the way because after losing a 17-point halftime lead few want to hear or read how a team has improved. But the team is improved by any measure. Really.
2. The offensive line still must gel.Well, obviously …
3. The gelling needs to happen quickly.Gelling on the offensive line usually can't be rushed. It takes time, because it takes players such as Zane Beadles and Luke Joeckel and Jacques McClendon playing next to one another for a while. The gelling also may take more lineup tweaks. The interior line struggled at times, and McClendon was the starter by a nose coming out of the preseason over rookie Luke Bowanko. Starting right tackle Austin Pasztor also is out until at least Week 3, so there's another week to wait there, too.
4. The running game must improve.That goes along with the offensive line gelling, and in fact, it's mostly about the offensive line. Toby Gerhart ran hard Sunday and played through an early injury. He averaged 2.3 yards a carry, but had some tough runs in the second half; considering the blocking, Gerhart probably gained more yards than he should have gained for the game.
Images from the first half of the Jaguars Week 1 game against the Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field.
5. Allen Hurns can play in the NFL …There were a ton of "Wow" moments for Hurns early Sunday. The undrafted free-agent rookie wide receiver caught four passes for 110 yards with two touchdowns and he and Chad Henne helped the Jaguars take a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
6. … but he's not a yet a go-to guy …This is no knock on Hurns. Rookie wide receivers, free agents or otherwise, aren't supposed to be go-to guys. But after catching four passes for 110 yards in the first half he didn't have a catch after that. He also had what technically was a drop late in the game, but the play would have been a really difficult reception.
7. … and the Jaguars don't really have a go-to guy.That was evident in the second half Sunday. The Jaguars have three very talented rookie receivers, and when Cecil Shorts III is healthy, they have four receivers with potential to develop into reliable players. But particularly without Shorts, the Jaguars don't really have a receiver that you know is going to make a play on third-and-intermediate. That's the bad news. The good news is they have some guys who might be go-to guys sometime soon.
8. Chad Henne is going to take heat …The outcry over Henne's second-half performance was loud and angry. That happens. Fans hate to lose. But there's no sense around the Jaguars that a quarterback change is pending. Henne put the Jaguars in position to lead 17-14 early in the fourth quarter. He had some clunker passes in the second half and he had some decent passes that were dropped. Fans' frustration aside, he's not moving into a backup role because of Sunday.
9. The defensive line can rush the passer …If anything really good came from Sunday, it was that. The defensive line was dominant in the first half. Ideally, that would have lasted the whole game, of course. The Eagles got back into the game too quickly in the second half to allow the line to completely focus on pass rush every play. But there was energy and penetration early. Now, it's matter of doing it in the second half.
10… and Chris Clemons can really rush the passer.You see a lot of unrestricted free agents on a lot of NFL teams in a lot of seasons who do nothing the following season. Clemons looks like the very opposite of that.
11. Sen'Derrick Marks was no one-year wonder.Marks surprised many early last season by consistently getting penetration and making big plays. We're still seeing it and we saw it a lot early Sunday. It may be time to stop being surprised. Actually, it's well past that time.
12. The offense must take better advantage of opportunities. The Jaguars led 17-0 entering the half, and could have led by 23-0 or more. This wasn't expected to be a high-octane offense early. And we knew with young receivers and a young offensive line there was going be some early sputtering. All of that is expected. Still, the Jaguars are the sort of team that must convert opportunities to points. There were some misses there Sunday.
13. The Eagles do strain you.That was a pregame theme, and it was real. The Jaguars talked throughout the week leading to the game about being sharp mentally against the Eagles' up-tempo offense. For much of the game, they were – and for much of the game, they penetrated and contained the Eagles' cutback running. Take away a 49-yard run by Darren Sproles and the Jaguars allowed less than 100 yards rushing. But you have to count that run, and you have to count the 68-yard pass that Eagles quarterback Nick Foles completed to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin for a touchdown, too. Those were two mental errors. They both hurt quite a bit.
14. The team is improved. /Ducks.
Images from the 2nd half of the Jaguars Week 1 game against the Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles bested the Jaguars 34 - 17.