JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 30-14 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday…
1.The good feeling is gone. Remember? Early-to-mid-September? When the Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts and played AFC South favorite Tennessee toe-to-toe in a narrow loss? Since that Week 2 loss at Tennessee, the Jaguars have lost three games by a combined 94-52 to teams that entered their game against the Jaguars without a victory. September seems long ago.
2.Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II is capable of very hot streaks … Minshew looked very good on a second-quarter drive Sunday that gave the Jaguars their only lead of the game, completing eight of eight passes on the Jaguars' best possession of the game. He completed 31 of 49 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for the game.
3. … but he can't be throwing 40 times a game … The Jaguars are 0-6 when Minshew throws 40 or more passes, including an 0-4 record in the last four games. They are 7-4 when he throws less than 40 times.
4. … and checkdowns remain a concern. The primary issues with Minshew entering the season were seeing the field in the pocket and arm strength to drive the ball down the field into tight windows. Those questions haven't been answered yet.
5.James Robinson's not a quarterback. The Jaguars' rookie running back has rushed well, protected well and caught passes out of the backfield well this season. But the Jaguars in the third quarter asked him to take a direct snap from center, drift right and throw on fourth-and-1 from the Texans 8. Robinson lost possession as he ran, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt recovered, and the Jaguars lost an opportunity to take a 14-13 lead.
6.The Jaguars' receivers are good, and that still includes DJ Chark Jr. … Chark was quieter than usual Sunday, but he had a big-time move in the first half that drew a key holding penalty. Don't worry about Chark's three-reception, 16-yard game Sunday. He's still getting open. He has turned into a No. 1 receiver.
7. … and Laviska Shenault Jr. … Receivers often struggle as rookies because they need time to learn the NFL. Shenault, the Jaguars' second-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, is still learning the nuances of the receiver position – but he's finding a way to be productive as he learns. He had a second consecutive impressive receiver day Sunday with a team-high seven receptions for 79 yards. This guy looks like a future star.
8. … and wide receiver Keelan Cole. Give Cole credit. He looked lost at times in 2018 and early 2019, but he has recovered and developed into a very good third receiving option. His 13-yard touchdown reception Sunday gave the Jaguars a lead. It was his third touchdown reception of the season and a big-time display of awareness and footwork.
9.Sidney Jones IV could be a find. A second-round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft, injuries limited Jones to 25 games in three seasons there – and the Eagles released him shortly before the 2020 regular season. Jones was the Jaguars' best corner Sunday, intercepting a pass late in the first half and defensing three others – including one that turned into an interception by safety Jarrod Wilson.
10.Jawaan Taylor is on his way. The Jaguars' entire offensive line has been impressive this season, and the group mostly played at a high level Sunday. Taylor – a second-year right tackle who the Jaguars believe is a future Pro Bowl player – handled Watt efficiently, limiting Watt to two assists and a pass defensed.
11.The red-zone matters. Improving in the red zone was a major offseason focus. Scoring touchdowns on both red-zone trips was key to the Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. Failing to get points on two of their four red-zone trips was equally key in Houston Sunday.
12.All hope for pressure is not lost. The Jaguars' pass rush struggled through the first four games of the season registering just four sacks in that span. The defense got just one more sack Sunday – by defensive end Dawuane Smoot – but the front pressured quarterback Deshaun Watson consistently. This was a bit of a step forward in this area.
13.Taking the ball still isn't the end all. Remember DeferGate? Well, the Jaguars took the ball to start the game for a second consecutive week Sunday. And for a second consecutive week, they did not score on the opening drive – and allowed points to start the second half. It doesn't matter all that much if you take the ball or kick to start the game. It matters what happens once the ball is kicked.
14.The Jaguars miss Josh Lambo. Boy, do they. Kicker Stephen Hauschka missed from 24 yards late in the first half – then was short from 49 yards. Hauschka's misses didn't cost the Jaguars the game. And as Minshew said afterward, the field-goal opportunities came after the Jaguars had squandered red-zone opportunities. But the misses cost a chance to tie and have halftime momentum. Head Coach Doug Marrone said after the game Hauschka told him "he just didn't have any pop in his leg."