What we learned: Panthers 34, Jaguars 27

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunday …

1.Minshew is for real. We’ll start here because while plenty went wrong for the Jaguars Sunday, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II continues to go oh-so-right. We’ll get to Minshew’s imperfections later in this story, but the reality is he has played at a remarkably high level for four games. There are areas on which he must improve. The big picture is he is very good and rapidly getting better.

2.The Jaguars will have a tough decision in November. We’re four games into the Minshew story now, which means we’re four games until starter Nick Foles’ scheduled return from a broken clavicle. Bottom line: Starting Foles ahead of Minshew won’t be easy. That’s not to say the Jaguars won’t do it, but it won’t be easy.

3.Ball security is an issue. Minshew has shown few flaws, but this is one. It was an issue in the preseason that appeared again Sunday. Minshew fumbled three times; the Jaguars lost all three. There were weird circumstances involved, but the quarterback must hold the ball. You don’t win in the NFL losing three fumbles in a game.

Images of the Jaguars week 5 matchup with the Carolina Panthers.

4.The Jaguars’ defense isn’t elite … Until the defense plays in a manner deserving this status, it’s time to stop using the term. Part of the problem is cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s absence. A major problem Sunday was poor run fits and missed assignments by linebackers. Whatever the specifics, this area has been too inconsistent this season to be elite.

5. … but it’s not bad, either. Don’t confuse a bad game with a bad defense. The Jaguars held Tennessee to seven points and Houston to 13 points a week before that. The secondary struggled with Ramsey’s absence last week in Denver, and the linebackers really struggled Sunday. Still, the issues ailing the Jaguars Sunday – run fits and gap control – are fixable.

6.Takeaways – or lack thereof – remain an issue. As much as the defense is struggling, it would feel much different if it was creating turnovers. The Jaguars through five games have one defensive takeaway: safety Ronnie Harrison’s first-half interception against Denver. We saw Sunday what takeaways do for a team; it was the main reason Carolina beat the Jaguars. The Jaguars’ defense must start doing the same.

7.DJ Chark Jr. is going to be big-time. The second-year wide receiver has five touchdown receptions in five games, and he continues to make impressive receptions look easy. He has looked the part all season of a second-year player making a big jump. He more and more looks like he has a chance to be the No. 1 receiver the Jaguars haven’t had in a decade and a half.

8.Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is in Houston and is friends with Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson … Ramsey flew to Houston at the Jaguars’ request to see a back specialist, and he had dinner with Watson Sunday night. Watson posted a photo of him and Ramsey on Instagram, a photo that sent Twitter into a frenzy. This is a bad look for Ramsey considering all that has gone on in recent weeks, but it’s otherwise relatively meaningless. Watson and Ramsey are friends and have been for a long time. The photo doesn’t mean Ramsey is being traded to the Texans. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just another chapter in what at this point is a meandering, tiresome story.

9.Guard Andrew Norwell is struggling. It’s usually true that offensive linemen get more blame for bad plays then they get credit when they make good ones. Such is the nature of the unforgiving position. Still, Norwell got pushed back into Minshew with remarkable ease and force by Panthers defensive end Mario Addison Sunday. The resulting 56-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Brian Burns brought again into extreme focus Norwell’s struggles of late. When your back makes your quarterback fumble and leads to points, your bad plays are going to stand out more than your good ones.

10.Leonard Fournette continues to impress on the field … The third-year running back rushed for more than 100 yards for a second consecutive game. That’s the first time he had done that since his rookie season and the second time he has done that in his career.

11. … and off. Fournette spoke to the team after Sunday’s game with a message of not getting down after the loss. He set a positive tone, one teammates echoed in the postgame locker room afterward. If this doesn’t sound important, remember that Fournette wasn’t setting anywhere near a positive tone last season. Credit to him for a remarkable change. He’s a different guy.

12.The Jaguars really need Josh Oliver now. The rookie tight end missed the entire preseason and first five regular-season games with a hamstring issue. With tight end James O’Shaughnessy sustaining a knee injury Sunday, Oliver’s return got significantly more urgent.

13.Kicker Josh Lambo is still good. Consider this your weekly reminder.

14.The Jaguars remain resilient. No, the Jaguars didn’t win Sunday. But they rallied from a double-digit deficit to give themselves a legitimate chance to win for a third time in four games. This team is resilient and continues to play as one. This isn’t your 2018 Jaguars. This group still has a chance.

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