With the Jaguars’ 27-10 loss the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4, everyone seems to be proclaiming this as the team’s “the sky is falling” moment. Most of the criticisms are warranted, but let’s not overreact quite yet. The Jaguars are bad; we knew this going into the season. As far as our overall performance through these four weeks, I see us as one play in Minnesota away from being 2-2 and right where we need to be. The losses in Weeks 2 and 4 were games that we weren’t favored in and the Texans and Bengals are ascending teams that made the playoffs in 2011. We look bad on the stat sheet and our two home games have been really bad, but we can’t lose focus on who we are and what our capabilities were coming into the season. Week 4 was the Jags’ version of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Here is what we saw in the Jaguars’ Week 4 loss to the Bengals 27-10.
-The Good – It might not be easy to see, but it’s there I promise. First of all, Derek Cox looks really good. Rashean is past his prime so that makes our corners seem a little weaker, but Cox had two very impressive pass breakups against Armon Binns and Andy Dalton stayed away from him for most of the game. Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis can make some plays for us on offense and we need to feed them the rock more often. Lewis had two solid receptions on our touchdown drive and MoJo seems to give 110% on every play regardless of how far out of it the Jags are and that is great to see in a superstar player.
-The Bad – When we are celebrating Cameron Bradfield coming back from injury you know things are bad up front. The Jaguars offensive and defensive lines are officially horrible. The Bengals defensive front was occupying the Jags’ backfield for most of the game, a place that our defensive front apparently doesn’t know exists. Eben Britton got benched in the second half and may not start next week against the Bears. Blaine Gabbert’s progress took a step back against the Bengals in part because of the defunct offensive line. While he can’t really control the defensive pass rush, his biggest weakness was exposed because of it. He has “cement feet.” Every quarterback gets pressured, but good ones figure out a way to extend a few plays when protection breaks down. Blaine can’t. When he drops back, his feet plant firmly in the ground and stay there until he either passes the ball or gets sacked. I want to see him occasionally roll out, step up, or just scramble around in the backfield a few times when the heat is on. The constant checkdowns to Greg Jones aren’t going to get the job done. By the way, if things keep going like this Greg Jones will be a threat to lead the league in receptions and we will finish 1-15.
-The Ugly – Big plays. The Bengals made them, we did not. The Kyle Bosworth interception fumble was heartbreaking and Rashean Mathis dropped an easy pick six, a play that he used to always make. Then the Bengals had the fake punt and big pass to AJ Green that swung momentum their way for the rest of the game. Had one of those plays gone in the Jaguars’ favor, things might have turned out differently. Also, what was up with the play calls to Justin Blackmon? Could it be more obvious that offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was forcing Gabbert to pass it to Blackmon on every play? Don’t get me wrong, I am the biggest supporter of #14, but let’s be realistic. If it’s not there it’s not there. Cecil Shorts has made plays for us this season and Marcedes Lewis is playing well too. Maybe a pass or two towards Jerry Porter part deux (Laurent Robinson) would help justify giving $50 million to him instead of our franchise player in MoJo. Blackmon will have a breakout game at some point and will be a producer, but let’s not force the issue. It makes the Gabbert and Blackmon look bad. Just let them go out and play.