JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 38-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday
1.The Jaguars are out of it.Yes, the playoffs were a very long shot entering Sunday. And no, the Jaguars didn't exactly play like a playoff team the last few weeks. But whatever chance they had at the postseason officially and finally ended with a 34-6 Houston Texans victory over the Tennessee Titans early Sunday. The Jaguars had their chances this season to win a weak AFC South; they had more than their share of chances, actually. They didn't take advantage. Too bad, too. That playoff talk? It was fun while it lasted.
2.The defense is … unprecise.Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley talked about this a lot after the loss Sunday – that when playing a quarterback such as Drew Brees of New Orleans, players must be precise, must be on the details, and must make plays when they are there. That's true. The Jaguars also need better players in some of those areas to make better plays. Bradley doesn't want to say that publicly, but it's true.
3.There's a lot of work ahead on defense in the offseason.Pass rusher, pass rusher, free safety … and the Jaguars need to get faster all over the defense. That's a good start on the offseason defensive wish list.
4.There's a little work ahead on offense, too.The interior of the line must improve. The lack of a consistent run offense has hurt all season.
5.The Jaguars struggle to rush the passer …OK, we've known this for a lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong time. You pretty much knew the lack of pass rush would hurt against Drew Brees and the Saints. It did.
6. … really, really struggle.It just seems silly not to mention it more than once.
7.Brees is good.True, the Jaguars' defense never pressured Brees enough to make him move on his injured right foot. Still, torn plantar fascia or no torn plantar fascia, Brees is elite. He has been for a long time and he sure was Sunday.
8.Blake Bortles must reduce interceptions …We've known this for a long time, and it's no secret. Bortles threw two first-half interceptions, and both hurt as the Saints pulled away in the first half. The first one wasn't his fault and should have been pass interference because cornerback Brandon Browner blew through wide receiver Allen Robinson before the ball arrived. Bortles' second interception was just a bad throw – and there was no way it wasn't going to be intercepted. Bortles' interceptions should reduce next season. They must.
9. … and Bortles must be more efficient.The Jaguars have become a big-play offense this season, hitting "chunk" plays with striking efficiency. That's great, but to become more consistent on offense, they also need to get better on timing routes and shorter passes. It's tough to live on chunks alone.
10.The slow starts are damaging.The Jaguars scored no offensive touchdowns against the Colts two weeks ago, and scored none against Atlanta last week. It didn't hurt against the Colts, but it sure hurt against the Falcons. On Sunday, the offense didn't score until 1:23 remained in the first half. By then, they trailed 24-0 and Marqise Lee's touchdown reception from Bortles made it 24-6. You can't finish halves with single digits and win often in the NFL these days.
11.Allen Hurns is the real deal.He surpassed 1,000 yards receiving this season. He also has 10 touchdown receptions. Good for him on both counts. He's a good player who has earned every accolade he receives.
12.Allen Robinson is the real deal, too.Remember when the knock on Robinson was he didn't have deep speed? Maybe he does and maybe he doesn't, but he set a franchise regular-season record for longest play with a 90-yard touchdown reception Sunday and he is averaging 17.2 yards per reception. That's a huge number in today's NFL. He also has 75 receptions for 1,292 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Them's Pro Bowl numbers, folks.
13.Marqise Lee is improving.He caught three passes for 26 yards and had his first touchdown reception of the season Sunday. He has stayed healthy the second half of the season. He must be utilized more. He has too much talent to go unused.
14.The Jaguars miss T.J. Yeldon.The Jaguars rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries and were ineffective in the area in the first half. They did get movement with Jonas Gray in the second half, so …
15.Gray probably needs to play next week.Yeldon, the Jaguars' rookie starting running back, has missed the last two games with a knee injury. If he doesn't return for the regular-season finale, the Jaguars may need to give Gray – who signed off the Dolphins' practice squad two weeks ago – some work. He rushed for 31 yards on five carries Sunday, outrushing Denard Robinson (six carries, 20 yards).
16.The Jaguars miss Telvin Smith, too.The second-year weak-side linebacker missed Sunday with a shoulder injury. He's the fastest – and probably the best – player on defense, and his absence was felt all over.
17.Jared Odrick matters.The strong-side defensive end left the game with a knee injury on the final play of the Saints' first drive. The Saints rushed for 135 yards on 35 carries, and Odrick's stoutness against the run not unexpectedly was missed.
18.The Jaguars are out of it.On a morning like this, this seems as good a place to close as any.