The Jacksonville Jaguars – despite having just eight wins on the season, being injury plagued and having a severe lack of talent and depth – showed Sunday they still have something left in the tank and that they haven’t given up yet.
Despite being written off by the media, and to be honest myself, the Jaguars showed some grit Sunday in the face of the vaunting Houston Texans.
All season long I have stood on the sidelines and seen a bunch with long faces, hung heads and unmotivated play -- but their play was different this week.
The Jaguars were throttled by the Texans in their first meeting – and on their own turf no less. But they weren’t about to let that happen a second time, instead the Jaguars dug deep and played like a team with something to prove.
Even though they lost in overtime, they showed me several things:
Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon looked like the No. 5 overall pick (despite not having breakaway speed on several catches). Still, he showed why the Jaguars drafted him so high – snagging seven receptions for a career high 236 yards and one touchdown.
More importantly he held on to the football this week, as drops have plagued him and the team all season long.
He still has a long way to go, but his arrow is pointing up.
Henne plays more than respectable
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was injured early on, with what looked like a bruised elbow (or possibly a contusion), and Chad Henne took over. It seemed all but over, yet Henne somehow managed to not only keep the Jaguars in the game, but give them a multi-score lead.
He isn't the best quarterback, and I have been told by several Miami Dolphins fans that he is the worst quarterback in history, but he played solid Sunday.
Still this is Gabbert's team, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Running games does need MJD
The loss of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, out indefinitely with a foot injury, has proved to hamper an already anemic offense. The Jaguars want to be a balanced team, but Rashard Jennings doesn’t seem to be as good as we thought he was in the preseason.
He is a good player, and very may well be a starter some day, but he just doesn’t have that same spark as Jones-Drew.
Passing game is better without MJD
As he impacts the run game, he equally affects the pass game.
Without Jones-Drew on the field, the passing attack is much more prevalent. That is because the team isn’t being forced to feed the best player on the field and because of that the Jaguars passing attack is much better with him out of the picture entirely.
When you don’t have a player who demands touches, because he is that dynamic, you are no longer hamstrung and are free to spread the ball around.
Defensive talent needs a major upgrade
The backups on the team are simply atrocious – hence the reason they are backups. This problem falls solely on the shoulders on General Manager Gene Smith, and will likely cost him his job at season’s end.
Smith’s job is to bring talent into the locker room; talent that the coaches them mold and fit into their scheme to produce a winning product. It is a simple process, which unfortunately Smith has shown the inability to grasp. Instead he seems to fall in love with players who simply don't have the talent necessary to make an impact at this leve.
Free agent acquisitions, such as Aaron Ross, have also been less than adequate this year. The team hit gold in 2011, improving one of the worst defensive units to being one of the best - injuries have changed that this year, but the secondary has regressed significantly.
The season isn’t over yet, and the team’s book isn’t completely written. We may know what the overall ending may be, but the details along the way are what will determine if it is a book worth reading or not.
If the team can show progress and develop into something somewhat resembling a competitive team (like they did Sunday) they will have the building blocks for the next rebuilding of a franchise that has been in a rebuilding mode for the better part of a decade.
The Jaguars next face the up-and-down Tennessee Titans (unfortunately at home). I will be on the sideline taking pictures, expect a blog that night breaking down what I saw on the field and sidelines.