JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 27-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at EverBank Field Sunday
1.The Jaguars aren't great …The Jaguars are 3-3 – and that record is probably deserved. The Cliff's Notes version of the season is this: They've played devastating defense three times and won; they've made enough mistakes to lose three times – and mistakes and special-teams lapses cost in a big way Sunday.
2. … but they're not bad, either.Remember how we said the Jaguars deserve to be 3-3? Well, just as they deserved their three losses, they deserved the three victories – and Sunday showed why. The Jaguars are a good defensive team and a good running team. Those two things are beyond question. What is a question is whether those two things can overcome mistakes/struggles in other areas.
3.The Jaguars are a really good defense.The Jaguars allowed 27 points Sunday. Two touchdowns came on special teams and three points came on a field goal that came immediately after a 16-yard punt. That means the defense essentially allowed 10 points. That's winning football.
4.The defense may not yet be elite.The defense wasn't remotely the most troubling area for the Jaguars Sunday, but the run defense had a third tough day in as many losses. The unit also had a chance to get the Rams stopped late in the game trailing by only a touchdown – and didn't. Instead, they allowed a 57-yard drive that consumed 5:08 and ended with a 29-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. Elite defenses get stops in those situations. This defense is good – really good – but not quite elite. Yet.
5.The Jaguars' defense must improve against the run.This defense is as good as there is in the NFL forcing turnovers. And rushing the passer. But it still is giving up gashing, cutback runs too consistently. To get in situations to create turnovers and sacks, you must stop the run.
6.Kicker …This is tricky, but kicker Jason Myers remains an issue. Why is it tricky? Myers on Sunday missed two field goals of 54 yards and also missed a 41-yarder early before taking advantage of a second chance created by penalty; he appears to be struggling and is 11-of-15 on field goals this season. At the same time, three of his misses have come from 50 yards and also has leg strength the Jaguars clearly like. The Jaguars tried out kickers when Myers struggled in the preseason. Stay tuned.
Images of the Week 6 matchup between the Jaguars and the Rams.
7. … but kicker isn't the only problem.Punter Brad Nortman had been good in recent weeks, particularly downing punts inside the opponents' 10-yard line. But his 16-yard first-quarter punt Sunday led directly to a 56-yard field goal by Zuerlein that gave the Rams a 10-7 lead. At a time when momentum was going back and forth, Nortman's punt hurt big-time.
8.Special teams …It's not fair to paint special teams as a season-long issue, but the area was a killer Sunday. A 103-yard touchdown allowed on the opening kickoff. A six-yard return with a blocked punt late in the first half. It's difficult to win allowing one special teams touchdown. It's nearly impossible to win allowing two. The Jaguars gave away 17 points on special teams Sunday; add in Myers' two misses and the total reaches 23. When you're built to run and play defense, special teams must be a winning part of the equation.
9.Leonard Fournette is fast …Just ask the Rams.
10. … and yeah, he's pretty much elite.Maybe it's too soon to call a rookie six games into his NFL career elite. Then again, why not? He has a 75-yard-plus run in each of his last two games and he has 596 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns in six games this season. He's doing all of this against defenses stacked to stop him. He's tough, fast, instinctive, plays hard on every play … yeah, he's elite.
11.The passing offense must create downfield opportunities.The Rams allowed Fournette 100 yards rushing in the first quarter, but just 30 yards after that. They limited him with four down linemen and eight or nine defenders in the box. Quarterback Blake Bortles and the receivers weren't consistent enough to get the Rams out of the box, and the result was a Jaguars offense that scored just three points after the first quarter.
12.The Jaguars' formula works …The good news for the Jaguars is they have shown they can play well defensively consistently – and they have shown that that defense can win and keep them in games.
13. … but it can't withstand everything. The bad news for the Jaguars is the defense and running game isn't always enough to win game. That's particularly true when another area is deficient. Seventeen points allowed by the special teams is something this formula can't overcome.
14.The Jaguars are still in first place in the AFC South.The Jaguars are 3-3 are tied for first place in the AFC South with the Houston Texans. Sure, they probably should be a game or two ahead, but everything lies ahead of this team. Stay tuned and buckle up.