- 1. In retrospect, the MNF matchup with the Ravens was more of a Must-Win than we ever realized. Had the Jaguars lost, the national media wouldn’t have made much fuss about it or been surprised at all – we were expected to be crushed. But if you’ve had your finger on the pulse of the Jaguars’ locker room, you could hear a desperation lingering just below the layers of coachspeak and cookie-cutter upbeat responses. We’ve heard for a few years now about the positive momentum and good vibes in the lockerroom, that this is a team that works hard and stays optimistic. After five tough-luck losses, it’s human nature to get down and to question what you’re doing. I wondered if the Jaguars were in jeopardy of turning on themselves if the losses kept stacking up. But that curse has been broken – our guys received a tremendous dose of validation for their hard work and grind-it-out attitude and on the national stage, no less. They physically dominated a team that was supposed to come into Everbank and wax our asses while Jaws, Chucky, and the Gang all piled it on from the booth. I’m with Jason – the national opinion be damned. This team is closer than they realize and maybe even than we realize. Good things are happening, but there’s still work to be done.
- 2. You saw the good and the bad of Blaine Gabbert on Monday. We’ll start with the bad news – Blaine’s mechanics are suffering big time in the face of the pass rush and there’s a trend developing of him breaking down too early. He is not standing up in the pocket with the same confidence I saw versus Carolina and New Orleans. He’s throwing off his back foot a lot. He seems to brace himself while throwing when a rusher is bearing down on him, resulting in some weak, awkward throws. These flaws look pretty ugly, but the good thing is he can be taught to correct these. At the same time, Gabbert looks comfortable running this offense – his offense (for better or worse, right now). He has command of his team and is showing a growing ability to diagnose defenses both at the line and during the play. When his mechanics are good, he is throwing frozen ropes that are more often than not right on target. But the most important quality Blaine Gabbert’s shown is a healthy respect for securing the football. He may hold onto it too long, he may be off target at times, but he’s not making risky, careless throws or letting the ball get stripped out when he’s sacked. That’s how rookie quarterbacks can really hurt their team and as Blaine develops and starts making more and more positive plays, it’s encouraging to know he won’t be holding the team back with ugly turnovers.
- 3. Help is not on the way in the passing game. The Mike Sims-Walker signing proved relatively fruitless in its’ first test – netting only one catch for 11 yards. We all know good and well that Blaine Gabbert is not consistently making all of his throws, but that should be the receivers’ cue to step it up. Mike Thomas hasn’t been impressive, Cecil Shorts continues to look on a completely different page, and Jarrett Dillard was inactive. Jason Hill is looking more and more dependable and capable of making big plays, but still had at least one drop. Marcedes Lewis is beyond aggrevating right now – I’m sick to think that he could have fleeced everyone by putting on the “team player” act and slapping together a Pro Bowl campaign in his payday year. There’s a difference between bad luck or a slump and whatever affliction Marcedes is taking the field with, but his body language suggests that this guy got paid and he doesn’t give a damn if he bobbles a touchdown catch or not. I hope he proves me wrong and returns to form, because a lot of people were counting on him being special this year.
- 4. The RUSHMEN Rotation is firing on all cylinders. Before the game, the pre-game show took note of how the Ravens had stabilized their offensive line and especially how impressive free agent left tackle Bryant Mckinnie had been. Well, he was absolutely terrorized by the Jeremy Mincey & Co and the RUSHMEN were living out the vision of what we’ve been told to expect from them – a constant rotation of fresh bodies, all relentlessly penetrating the backfield with unwavering effectiveness. Mincey, much like he’s done all season, played like a total madman and was constantly in Flacco’s face and flushing him from the pocket and chopping at the ball trying to jar it loose. John Chick continues to generate pressure on his snaps and the DT’s were a brick wall that limited Ray Rice to 27 yards on the ground. Maybe the Ravens’ O-line is more dysfunctional than advertised, but these guys played some inspired football and set the tone for the defense.
- 5. It might be time to get off the defensive backs’ backs. Every time ESPN showed their Field Cam, each Baltimore receiver was completely blanked by the Jaguars defender responsible for covering. Derek Cox’s return to the lineup meant the Jaguars could dial up far more man-to-man coverage and this greatly aided the effectiveness of the pass rush. Cox might just be coming into his own – his coverage left Joe Flacco no room to take shots and on the one deep route they threw his way, he stayed step-for-step with deep threat Torrey Smith, who was one of the fastest players taken in last year’s draft. Rashean Mathis also made what I think should be the final case for people getting off his back – he was all over his man throughout the night and made a lot of savvy veteran plays, using just enough of his hands and body downfield to keep the receiver out of contention for the ball without drawing the flag. Kudos as well to Dawan Landry, who made some big tackles, and Drew Coleman, who continues to be a playmaker and got the game-winning interception.
– Andrew Hofheimer