JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 20-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 regular-season opener at EverBank Field Sunday
1.The regular season is different.Not to say all of the Jaguars' preseason improvement wasn't real. But the NFL regular season is a different beast than the preseason. The Jaguars' first-team offense scored on 8-of-11 preseason drives; on Sunday, the unit managed a touchdown and a field goal. Big difference.
2.The drops remain an issue.This was a topic early in preseason, and quieted a bit after a better effort in Preseason Week 3. It's not quiet anymore. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Rashad Greene all dropped catchable passes Sunday and they all hurt. Hurns' second-quarter red-zone fumble hurt, too. This team isn't good enough to make things easy on the opponent. Few teams are.
3.You can't miss chances and win.OK, we didn't exactly learn this, but the Jaguars squandered four easy points when Jason Myers missed a 44-yard field goal and an extra point. They squandered at least three more when Hurns fumbled in the second quarter. That's seven points in a game that was 17-9 much of the second half. Big difference.
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4.T.J. Yeldon is going to be OK.A lot went wrong for the Jaguars, but for a brief spurt in the first quarter the Jaguars' rookie second-running back looked very much for real. He was key on a drive late in the first quarter and looked the part of a go-to back. For a couple of plays, he looked dazzling. It appears the best in this vein is still to come.
5.Luke Joeckel matters.The difference in the offensive line with Joeckel during much of the first half and without him for pretty much the entire second half was noticeable. The third-year veteran needs to improve. No question about that. But the Jaguars also definitely need him on the field.
6.The offensive line still needs to improve …That was evident in the second half, when the Jaguars struggled to run and struggled more in protection than it had in the first half. Particularly in terms of the running game, this unit – which features two new starters in tackle Jermey Parnell and center Stefen Wisniewski and a new coach in Doug Marrone -- is not a finished product.
7. … but it is better.Yes, the Jaguars allowed five sacks, so on paper it looks a bit like more of the same for an offensive line that struggled much of last season. But before Joeckel's injury, the issues on offense were far more about drops and errors than the offensive line. The running game also showed signs early. It may be tough to see in the wake of a disappointing loss, but there are areas on which to build up front.
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8.Blake Bortles still hasn't arrived … In a very real sense, this loss was in large part on Bortles. This was a one-point game until an interception for a touchdown off a throw a quarterback simply can't make. As Head Coach Gus Bradley said he heard in his headset after the play, it was a mistake of a young quarterback. There were times Bortles looked in control, but other times he looked young and developing. Which, of course, he is.
9. … but he's better, too.Bortles turned in an impressive drive at the end of the first half. The three aforementioned drops cost him at least 60 yards passing. This wasn't a great performance by Bortles, but it still felt on first glance like an improvement from last season.
10.Chris Clemons is a pro.Remember when people were wondering why the Jaguars didn't release the veteran when he skipped the voluntary offseason conditioning program? Because he's a veteran who makes plays in the regular season. His sack in the first quarter kept Carolina out of the end zone and he blocked a field goal at the end of the game.
11. … and so is Paul Posluszny.If the offense had performed better, this might be remembered as one Posluszny's best games with the Jaguars. He had an impressive pass breakup early and his second-quarter interception should have given the Jaguars significant momentum.
12.The Jaguars miss Julius Thomas and Marqise Lee.Make no mistake: the absence of the two skill-position players wasn't why the Jaguars lost Sunday. But the Jaguars certainly could have used Thomas' red-zone presence in the first half Sunday – not to mention his experience. And while the Jaguars moved effectively at times in the first half, the Jaguars don't have anyone else offensively with Lee's speed and playmaking ability on the outside.
13.The season's not over yet.OK, we didn't learn this Sunday, either, but it's certainly worth remembering.
14.The road up isn't easy.This team's roster is better. The quarterback and offensive line do appear to be better. A lot of things are better. But you still have to make plays, perform and beat the opponent. The Jaguars had early chances to get control of the game Sunday and missed those opportunities. Winning in the NFL is difficult and mistakes make it even more so.