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Monday, 29 December 2014

Jaguars Recap: What We Learned From Sunday

After a season that he was clearly the best player on an underachieving team, the Jacksonville Jaguars learned on Monday that Sen’Derrick Marks tore his ACL in the 23-17 loss to Houston.

Marks, who led the Jaguars with eight and a half sacks this season, will go through the “prehab process” before undergoing surgery, the team announced.

Marks has started all 16 games in each of his two seasons with the team since signing as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

He also led the Jaguars with 15 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hurries and three passes defensed.

His injury is a definite blow to the franchise, and may have forced the Jaguars hand in who will be their top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Jacksonville owns the third overall pick and could land USC defensive tackle, Leonard Williams.

The defensive line was the biggest bright spot on an otherwise lackluster roster for a 3-13 team. Marks was the catalyst for the unit and the leader both on and off the field. He and Roy Miller were one of the better tackle combinations in the NFL this season.

The Jaguars tried to rally on Sunday and come from behind in the loss to the Texans. The offense sputtered and quarterback Blake Bortles was harassed all day by not only JJ Watt, but entire Texans front line. Here is what this team learned from the loss, according to

The Jaguars improved this season

This is a tough one for many to grasp, and these words likely will inspire eye-rolling, violent reactions or worse. Still, what’s true is true. The Jaguars last season were uncompetitive in most games. In the regular-season finale last season, they traveled to Indianapolis and the game was never close. On Sunday, against a team playing to get into the postseason, they had first-and-goal at the 10 with a chance to win in the final two minutes. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t enough. It’s all still very, very frustrating and there’s still a long way to go. But considering where this team was in the 2012 offseason – and even this time last year – it’s still moving in the right direction. /ducks.

The offense remains an issue

This is pretty broad-brushed and obvious, but while there were plenty of legitimate reasons for the offensive struggles, the fact remained that the unit just couldn’t score enough – or move consistently enough – late in the season. That remained true Sunday. That doesn’t mean quick-trigger reactions, but identifying why has to be a focus early in the offseason.

Third downs matter

A lot. Third-down offense was an issue early in the season, and while the Jaguars improved at times throughout the season, they entered Sunday’s game 28th in the league in the area. They went 0-for-11 on third downs Sunday. When you can’t sustain drives or hit big plays, the offense is limited.

Blake Bortles is a fighter

The rookie quarterback was a long way from perfect Sunday and he struggled much of the season. But on a day when not a lot went right offensively, he figured out a way late in the game to give the Jaguars a chance to win. He did it with his legs, which isn’t what you want in the long run … still, he did it.

He must improve in the pocket

We’ll get to the offensive line in a minute, and it was a long way from perfect, but Bortles moved out of the pocket too soon at times Sunday and didn’t throw the ball away when he could have at other times. As Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said earlier this season, it’s hard to blame him when the pocket collapses quickly, but this area must improve.

He does have a long way to go

OK, we didn’t learn this Sunday. The Jaguars knew it before the season and observers saw it more as the season continued. Bortles has a lot of developing to do. He’s young. He’s raw. His techniques and his footwork must improve, as must his knowledge of the offense. That’s what makes this offseason crucial. He knows it, and soon enough he’ll start working on it.

Luke Joeckel must get stronger

This has become more obvious as the season has continued and the second-year left tackle has come under more scrutiny. He said immediately after the game Sunday that strength and size will be his offseason focus. That’s the theme. That’s his storyline. We’ll see how it plays out.

Right tackle must improve

The Jaguars’ offensive line won’t undergo the overhaul many observers and fans want – even with five sacks allowed Sunday and a franchise-record 71 for the season – but there will be change. That could mean a free agent or rookie to compete and add depth on the interior. It could mean evaluating coaching. And it almost certainly will mean drafting or signing a right tackle.

Jordan Todman makes plays

There weren’t too many bright spots offensively Sunday, but Todman – as he has been several times late in the season – was one. He rushed for 52 yards on seven carries and caught five passes for 46 yards.

The defense remained strong

OK, it was a long way from perfect Sunday, but without Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller and Paul Posluszny the Jaguars held the Texans to 3.2 yards per carry Sunday. That’s passable. And even though the Texans weren’t anything close to aggressive, the defense kept the game close enough for the offense to have a chance at the end. The hope for this defense at the beginning of the season was it could play well enough to keep a young offense in games. It did so, and kept doing it through the end of the season.


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