JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser takes a look at What We Learned Saturday from the Jaguars' 22-12 loss to the New York Giants in the second game of the 2015 preseason …
1.Blake Bortles' progress is real …We'll keep clarifying this with "It's only the preseason," and that's a fair clarification. But it wouldn't be fair not to acknowledge the progress. In his second season as the Jaguars' starting quarterback, Bortles looks better in all of the ways he needed to look better. Accuracy. Footwork. Field vision. Command of the offense. Good start.
2…. and he still has a ways to go.Well, of course, he does. He blamed himself for missing Denard Robinson on a possible early touchdown. He also blamed himself for the one sack allowed when he was in the game. But don't get bogged down in the details of a play here or there. Bortles' making progress was the major offseason storyline, and he has done that early in preseason.
Here are some player thoughts after Saturday's matchup against the New York Giants.
3.The receivers must reduce the drops.This was a topic during and after the game. With reason: dropped passes by Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns kept a good night for the first-team offense from being really good. Drops were an issue in the preseason opener, too. It's too early to panic, but it's not too early to say the area needs to improve.
4.Allen Robinson has a chance to be good.Maybe really good. Forget the drops for a minute. For a second consecutive week the second-year wide receiver showed he has potential to be very productive. He caught a short pass across the middle and turned it a 36-yard gain and also continued to show he can use his size and athleticism to get open. He'll kick himself for a drop that could have been a 20-yard gain, but he's open consistently and that's important right now.
5.This Tyson-Alualu-at-fullback-thing may work.The Jaguars have been experimenting with defensive end Tyson Alualu as a blocking fullback. It looks like it's going to be more than an experiment. Alualu cleared the way for Toby Gerhart to pick up first downs on three different third-and-short situations Saturday. For a team that wants to run effectively and control clock, that's huge.
Check out second half images from the Jaguars preseason game against the New York Giants.
6.Toby Gerhart is going to have a role on this team.Few, if any, inside EverBank Field questioned this, but some observers wondered if Gerhart would make the team this season. The way he's running in short yardage, the answer is an absolute yes. So far in preseason he looks a lot like the player the Jaguars thought they were signing as an unrestricted free agent in the 2014 offseason.
7.The Jaguars are getting beat up.It's not an emergency yet, because the injuries to wide receiver Marqise Lee, tight end Julius Thomas, running back T.J. Yeldon and safety Johnathan Cyprien aren't long-term injuries. The knee injury sustained by Demetrius McCray Saturday also doesn't appear to be serious. It's huge that those injuries aren't long term. The Jaguars can't afford injuries at many positions. They're not deep enough in enough areas for that yet.
8.The offensive line is improving …This area looked improved in the preseason opener, but you wondered, "Can they play well again?" Well, against the Giants Saturday the line may have looked even better. Bortles had time to throw on most plays; he was sacked just once and said later that sack was his fault. Left tackle Luke Joeckel also appeared at first glance to play a much cleaner game than in the preseason opener.
9. … the run offense may be improving, too.This was a huge offseason emphasis for Bradley, and it remains so. His happiness with the Jaguars able to run for first downs on multiple third-and-short situations was evident in the post-game press conference. The rushing yards weren't eye-popping Saturday, but the Jaguars ran effectively enough to be in second- and third-and manageable situations –and that's the first sign of a functioning run offense.
Check out first half images from the Jaguars second preseason game against the New York Giants
10.We still don't know a starting center.Bradley didn't announce a starter after the game Saturday, but a decision between Luke Bowanko and Stefen Wisniewski likely will be made soon. Bowanko started the first preseason game and Wisniewski started Saturday. The pair alternated repetitions throughout training camp. There hasn't been much of a difference between the two. This is close. Stay tuned.
11.The Jaguars may miss Dante Fowler Jr.The first-team defense overall improved from its Preseason Week 1 performance. But as was the case with Ben Roethlisberger the week before, Giants quarterback Eli Manning had too much time to throw. Bradley afterward said he is confident the team can find ways to create pressure on obvious passing situations, but there needs to be more pressure in base packages. With Leo Chris Clemons possibly returning this week, that will be an area to watch Friday against the Detroit Lions.
12.This team is better.Worry over the red-zone offense, the drops and the pass rush if you must. The two things that most needed to be better – Bortles and the offensive line – appear better. That's a start. A good start.