JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 13-12 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday
1.The season is not lost. Yes, this felt like a must-win situation entering the game. That may prove to be the case. But considering the play of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II and the play of the Jaguars’ defense against a capable offense … well, 0-2 doesn’t look as bad as it might otherwise.
2.Minshew is going to have a long career … This isn’t to say Minshew is the Jaguars’ quarterback of the present or future. We’re not close to there yet. But Minshew has shown enough in two games to show he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback and he’s going to play some role in the NFL for a long time.
3. … and he’s still a rookie … Minshew had a slow start Sunday, as did the Jaguars’ offense. He also had the ball-security issues that showed during the preseason and one fumble cost the Jaguars dearly in the second half. He’s good, but he’s a long way from perfect.
Take a look at images of the Jaguars at Texans during Week 2 of the regular season.
4. … but he’s got something. Minshew and the Jaguars’ offense was mostly average Sunday – then suddenly, they weren’t. Minshew led two fourth-quarter scoring drives and fell inches short of a remarkable come-from-behind road victory in his first start – a road start. This wasn’t in mop-up time. It mattered, and Minshew played well – legitimately well – when it mattered the most. Maybe it’s Minshew Magic. Maybe it’s not. But it’s something.
5.DJ Chark Jr. is definitely taking a step. We saw the first signs of this in Week 1. We saw more signs on Sunday. Chark, a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, in the first two games of this season consistently has shown more and more signs he can make big plays in big situation. A future No. 1 go-to receiver? It’s looking more possible. “He’s someone who’s going to keep getting better and better,” Head Coach Doug Marrone said. “The better he becomes, it’s going to open up things for everybody else. He’s a key player in what we’re trying to get done and he’s worked extremely hard.”
6.Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is as elite as it gets when at his best. Yes, the sideline antics in the first quarter were bad – bad enough that Ramsey must not to repeat anything close to his behavior. And discipline may be necessary. But Ramsey also on Sunday held Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins – perhaps the NFL’s best receiver – to 40 yards receiving on five receptions. That’s a remarkable effort that made a really good offense look ordinary.
7.Self-control remains an issue. Ramsey’s behavior Sunday was a bad look. It comes in the wake of linebacker Myles Jack being ejected for throwing a punch in Week 1 – and in the wake of safety Ronnie Harrison being called for taunting in Week 1. Where does Ramsey’s incident rank in comparison to other attention-drawing incidents? Worse? Better? No matter. They keep happening – and until they stop, they’re going to continue to define and hurt the franchise.
8.The offensive line is still a work in progress. The group played that played so well Week 1 against Kansas City struggled Sunday. Costly penalties on the offensive line took away multiple big plays and first downs. The good news: The young starting tackles – Jawaan Taylor and Will Richardson – are showing they belong and will improve.
9.The defense is still good … The Jaguars’ defense needed a big-time effort – not only because of the importance of Sunday’s game, but because of the horrible performance in a Week 1 loss to Kansas City. They got it, and that helps provide hope moving forward.
10. … maybe really good. Let’s not gloss over Sunday’s defensive effort. The Texans are a very good offense. Their 16 points came on three field goals and an 11-yard touchdown drive. The 16 points were also the fewest the Texans have scored with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. If this defense is close to what we saw Sunday, it will keep the Jaguars in most games this season.
11.Second-guessers are always right. Trailing by one, the Jaguars went for a two-point conversion with :30 remaining Sunday. If the play fails, the coach is an idiot. If it works, he’s a genius. The Jaguars ran a run-pass option with Minshew handing to running back Leonard Fournette because the Texans were in man coverage. Fournette was stopped an inch short of the goal line. There was nothing wrong with going for it. There was nothing wrong with calling a play that ended up with the ball in the hand of a player who has been very effective in goal-line situations throughout his career. Sometimes, plays work. Sometimes, they don’t. This one didn’t.
12.Thursday is critical. NFL margins for error get thin in a hurry. The Jaguars season isn’t over, and there are more reasons for optimism – defense, Minshew’s play – than you usually would see from an 0-2 team. Still, the Jaguars need a victory against the Tennessee Titans at home Thursday. Winless teams don’t have hope forever. Every loss hurts.