JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned from the Jaguars' 16-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday …
1. Close hurts.The Jaguars' post-game locker room was a quiet, disconsolate place Sunday. This is a team that feels like its close and it is indeed getting closer. The Jaguars have been competitive for a half in one of Blake Bortles' starts and were competitive for the entire game in his other two starts. That's better than before. But this is also fast becoming a team that knows close isn't enough. On Sunday, it was again a team that came close and this time, close really hurt.
2. Blake Bortles is developing …It appears we're going to keep learning this the rest of the year, and that's a good thing for the Jaguars. Bortles led a productive opening drive Sunday and stayed poised late. He threw for 336 yards despite being sacked six times. He continues to look the part and is remarkably in control and comfortable for a player making his third NFL starts. Those are good things…
3. … and he's not yet perfect.It was difficult to tell at first look what happened on Bortles' lone interception Sunday, a third-quarter pass to wide receiver Allen Hurns. The rookie receiver either slipped or tripped on the play, but cornerback Blidi Wreh Wilson also appeared to have a read on the pass and made a pretty easy interception. That play tilted the game's momentum, with the Titans turning the opportunity into a field goal and a 16-7 lead.
4. But the arrow is way, way up on the quarterback.We can analyze the interception all we want – and some absolutely want. But Bortles completed 32 of 46 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He looked in control in the pocket and was poised at the end of the game with the Jaguars trying to rally. Those are all very, very good signs.
5. Stats aren't everything.The Jaguars had 27 first downs to 14 for the Titans and they outgained Tennessee 379-290, but they never led in the second half and needed an unlikely onside kick recovery to have a chance at a miracle at the end. A good sign for the Jaguars to dominate statistically; a better sign would be eliminating the mistakes that prevented them from taking advantage of the statistics.
6. The offensive line's work in progress … remains in progress.The line allowed 10 sacks against Washington in Week 2. This game wasn't that, but the line allowed six sacks and there were spurts in the middle of the game – particularly the second quarter – where the pressure put the Jaguars in too many difficult down-and-distance situations. The pass blocking took a step forward the last couple of weeks. This was not a step forward.
7. The work in progress isn't just pass protection.The Jaguars wanted to establish the run Sunday. Early on, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch called plays to do so, but by game's end the Jaguars had 82 yards on 23 carries with Bortles rushing for 38 yards on five carries. That's not enough production from the backs, and too often Sunday, the holes just weren't there.
8. It wasn't all Gerhart's fault after all.Jaguar's running back Toby Gerhart had taken a lot of heat the last two weeks. Well, Storm Johnson started for an injury Gerhart on Sunday and rushed for 21 yards on 10 carries. In the NFL, the running game usually is line-centric and the Jaguars' line is still searching for the experience and continuity needed for consistency.
9. Cecil Shorts III could be back.He'll be doing some knocking on wood if you say that around him, but after missing three of the first five games with a hamstring injury, he was targeted 16 times Sunday, catching 10 passes for 103 yards. He had a late-game fumble that you just can't have, but his presence overall helped the offense.
10. Clay Harbor helps.The Jaguars have been looking for a quality receiving tight end for a while. They had to wait a while this season while Harbor recovered from a preseason calf injury, but now that he has returned, they may have found it. He had three receptions for 91 yards Sunday and the athleticism he showed on a 59-yard reception on the game's first series was big-time stuff.
11. The tackling still must improve.This wasn't the overwhelming problem Sunday that it was early in the season, but there were enough instances of shoddy tackling that it hurt. The Jaguars aren't a team that can play poorly and win and they sure can't let potential one-yard gains turn into first downs for the opponents.
12. The coverage must improve, too. The Jaguars only allowed 16 points, so this game really wasn't on the defense. At the same time, receivers ran open – too open at key times – and covering the tight end remains an issue. It's a multitude of plays and reasons, but if you can't cover the middle of the field it's tough to win.
13. The pass rush is improved.The Jaguars had three more sacks. After six games, it's no accident. This team can rush the passer. Now, it's time to turn those sacks into momentum and into turnovers.
14. The mistakes must stop.This has been an entry on What We Learned all season. There are too many missed tackles, too many penalties at key times, too many timeouts lost by failed challenges, too many mishandled situations, too many sacks, and too many receivers running open. This team doesn't have the raw talent to win games with that many mistakes.* *The Jaguars have to be on point to win, and they must be a lot more on point than they were Sunday.