JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 27-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the 2016 regular-season opener at EverBank Field Sunday
1. The Jaguars are improved.Be disappointed. Be angry. Hate the late call on fourth-and-1. Bemoan the lack of pass rush. Do all of those things all you want, but don't think the Jaguars aren't much better than they were in recent seasons. They're better. Whatever else we learned Sunday, we learned that.
2. The Jaguars are resilient.That was maybe the most impressive thing about the Jaguars Sunday. The Packers looked like they were about to pull away at times in the second half. But the Jaguars' defense got a couple of red-zone stops. And the offense did just enough to stay in the game. And suddenly the Jaguars looked very capable of winning in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars went toe to toe with a good team with an elite quarterback. That didn't mean a victory, but it did show resiliency.
*3. The pass rush is an issue … *OK, we started with a couple of Jaguars goods. Now, a not-so-good: the Jaguars' pass rush struggled at times Sunday. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a lot of time on a few plays, and the Jaguars registered just one sack for zero yards.
4. …but not as big of an issue as you might think.Rodgers has the ability to make a defense look worse than it actually is. This was the case at times Sunday. His ability to get the ball out of his hands and move in the pocket negated a lot of Jaguars rushes. The Jaguars' pass rush wasn't great. But it wasn't awful, either.
5 .Penalties are still an issue, too.This was a preseason issue that's bleeding into the regular season. In the preseason, it's a worry. Now, it's a problem. The Jaguars committed nine penalties Sunday, and a few were just plain bad. An unnecessary roughness penalty on defensive tackle Malik Jackson in the third quarter was particularly harmful. This has to get cleaned up.
6. The run blocking must improve.The Jaguars' running game flashed early, and there was a brief flurry in which it looked like T.J. Yeldon was going to have a productive day. Those flashes faded in the second half and Yeldon finished with 39 yards on 21 carries. But don't blame Yeldon. Even had Chris Ivory not missed the game after being admitted to the hospital Sunday, the Jaguars would have struggled to run. The line needs to get better push.
7. Johnathan Cyprien's consistency issues remain.The fourth-year strong safety did some good things early, and there were a couple of flash moments throughout. But his failure to finish a tackle on Packers running back Eddie Lacy allowed a 17-yard pass reception that led to a touchdown. Still, don't overblow Cyprien's "bad day." The second-quarter interference penalty that led to a touchdown? Yeah, it was technically a penalty, but it was a tough, tough call.
8. Brad Nortman was a good signing.Nortman had two first-half punts. They went for 58 and 67 yards. They were both downed at the Packers 3-yard line. They both led to Jaguars points. This was Nortman's first game with the Jaguars since signing as an unrestricted free agent from Carolina. It's hard to have a better debut with a new team than that.
9. Allen Robinson isn't getting Pro Bowl respect.Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson set a franchise record with 14 touchdowns last season. He made the Pro Bowl. He appears to be on his way to being an elite receiver. Still, there were at least three plays Sunday on which Packers defenders could have been called for interference while defending Robinson. None were penalties.
10. It's hot in Jacksonville in September.That heat Sunday at the 'Bank was no joke. The sun was no joke, either – with punt returners from both teams losing punts in the sun as they peered into the skies above the South end zone. Guess what? It's hot in Jacksonville this time of year.
11. Blake Bortles is going to be OK.Worry all you want about his "elongated motion," and worry about whether or not he's a good practice player. But don't worry about Bortles being a good NFL quarterback. His 22-yard touchdown to tight end Julius Thomas was a big-time NFL throw and he showed a lot of calm, poise and savvy Sunday. He has a lot improvement to make, but he's making it.
12. The tight ends are going to show in this offense.Marcedes Lewis had a huge 37-yard gain early. Thomas had five receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. Wondering where the tight ends were in the preseason? Wonder no more. They're going to play a big role.
13. Kelvin Beachum is a capable tackle.Beachum wasn't perfect, but he appeared to hold up well against Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. That's a good sign for a player in his second start after knee surgery.
14. Gus Bradley has guts.It's vogue these days to criticize the Jaguars' head coach, but three-for-four on fourth downs? The Jaguars made a conscious, pre-game decision to be aggressive. That aggressiveness gave them a chance to be in the game.
15. Close isn't enough anymore.There was a time not long ago the Jaguars just wanted to compete against an elite team. Now, anything less than a victory is a real disappoint. The post-game disappointment was palpable – and that's a good sign for this young team.