JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday …
1.The division title is far away … The Jaguars entered Sunday a game and a half out of the AFC South lead. They exited two games behind the division-leading Texans, but the deficit is larger because the Texans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Sunday felt like a must-win situation. That was why.
2. … but hope is not lost. Yes, 4-5 feels much worse than 5-4. But here’s the Jaguars’ schedule over the next month: at Indianapolis, at Tennessee, home against Tampa Bay, home against San Diego. The toughest task of that group may be Indianapolis on November 17, but Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett sustained a knee injury Sunday. That doesn’t guarantee victory, and the Jaguars aren’t playing well enough to be certain of anything. But beating any or all those teams isn’t out of the question.
3.Gardner Minshew II no longer is the hot hand … It felt as if the rookie quarterback needed a good game and a victory Sunday to ensure the starting job going forward. He got neither.
4. … Minshew is still a rookie … This is the second time we’ve been reminded of this in the last month, but this was the harshest reminder. Minshew struggled to see the field Sunday and moved uncertainly in the pocket to escape phantom pressure. This is normal rookie stuff, but it showed itself in a big way again Sunday.
5.The quarterback decision is still pending. Head Coach Doug Marrone was asked after the game about how he will handle deciding between Minshew and Nick Foles, the Week 1 starter who sustained a broken clavicle against Kansas City that week. Marrone essentially said he will take a couple of days to not think about it before considering it for a few days and informing the quarterbacks of the decision Sunday – the day before the team returns from this weekend’s bye week.
6.Cover 2 with single-high safety help gives Minshew and this offense trouble. That’s the defensive scheme New Orleans used to negate Minshew a couple of weeks back with great success. The Cincinnati Bengals used it a week later with less success. Houston used it in a big way Sunday. Partly because of injuries at tight end, partly because of injuries at receiver and partly because the receivers who are playing aren’t winning in the middle of the field, the scheme is working against the Jaguars.
7.The receivers didn’t help Minshew Sunday. Don’t get the idea Minshew was the only Jaguars offensive player struggling Sunday. Receivers failed to create adequate separation much of the game and didn’t make plays on the ball when Minshew found them open.
8.The offensive line continues to improve. The offensive line has taken some criticism this season, a lot of it warranted. This game wasn’t about that; the line played one of its better games of the season. It kept Minshew clean for the most part, and he scrambled without reason too often.
9.The Jaguars have work to do on the homefield-advantage thing. London needs to be a big edge for this team. It’s going to play there at least once a year for the foreseeable future. But after winning three consecutive games there from 2015-2017, the Jaguars have lost their last two at Wembley. They didn’t look fresher or more accustomed to the atmosphere Sunday. If the Jaguars are to have a London advantage, they must look better early – and throughout – than they did Sunday.
10.Deshaun Watson is as elusive as any quarterback in the NFL. The Texans’ third-year quarterback not only evades pressure as well as any quarterback in the NFL, he also makes big plays after evading pressure as well as any quarterback in the NFL. That combination was devastating for the Jaguars Sunday.
11.A.J. Bouye can be a No. 1 corner. Much was made of former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s ability to negate Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins at times. Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye held Hopkins to eight receptions for 48 yards Sunday and played Hopkins as well as Ramsey ever did.
12.Josh Lambo is good. Your weekly reminder.
13.A play or two can change a game. We learned this yet again Sunday. The Jaguars were driving and appeared to have first-and-goal at the 4 after Minshew passed to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. early in the third quarter. Chark was called for a questionable offensive pass interference. Jaguars punter Logan Cooke couldn’t handle a field-goal snap cleanly several plays later, and the Texans recovered the resulting fumble. The ensuing drive finished with a Texans field goal that gave Houston a 12-3 lead. The Texans pulled away after that, but that sequence changed momentum in a big way.
14.The bye week is here. At last.