Jaguars Quarter of the Season Outlook: What have we learned?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 23: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars waits on the field before the start of their game against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field on September 23, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 23: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars waits on the field before the start of their game against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field on September 23, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been impressive so far but there’s still room for improvement. Before heading into Kansas City, what have we learned about our team.

If you have read any of my previous articles, you know that I am wildly confident (mostly cocky) about the Jacksonville Jaguars chance of success against any team.  There’s a good reason for that. Coming off a season where they were minutes from going to the Super Bowl, the Jaguars have once again shown they can be utterly dominant.

Through the first four games of the season, the Jaguars are 3-1 with two of those wins against the New England Patriots and New York Jets being spectacular performances (R.I.P. to the AFC East so far).  And, though this impressive start is something that all Jaguars fans should be proud of, there are definitely some things that are a cause for concern.

Let’s look at what we have learned so far.

We’ve Learned the Jaguars are Inconsistent

Relying on an incredibly great defense, Jacksonville has shown even early on last season they could beat the brakes off teams (see wins over Texans, Ravens, and Steelers) and that certainly has continued this season.

After the Patriots win, I was convinced the Jaguars wouldn’t lose more than three games this season.

It felt like quarterback Blake Bortles had finally turned the corner and the national media was praising the Jaguars as I had never seen before.

Then came the game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3 where we saw a familiar story: an offense incapable of moving the ball down the field.

I had the same thought about the Jaguars last season when they lost to the Titans in Week 2 and the Jets in Week 4. Like this year’s Titans loss, both of these losses followed impressive wins. It’s just mind-boggling how the Jaguars can look so good some weeks and so bad others.

Is there no middle ground? We don’t quite know which Jaguars team is going show up week in and week out.

We’ve Learned the Jaguars Live and Die by Blake Bortles

Much of the reason for the inconsistency discussed above is directly attributed to how Number 5 plays. After his impressive play against the Patriots in which he threw for 376 yards and 4 touchdowns, Bortles looked utterly lost against the Titans.

His missed throws to wide open receivers weren’t even close. In that game, he threw for only 155 yards and no scores on 34 attempts.

The problem with Bortles is that it’s rare to see Bortles string together consecutive good games. Blake Bortles needs to be able to follow good performances with good performances.

This is especially true with running back Leonard Fournette out for the foreseeable future. If not, the Jaguars will continue to have head-scratching losses against bad teams.

We’ve Learned that Blake Bortles has Improved

Enough negativity. Despite his inconsistency, quarterback Blake Bortles is actually pretty good Y’all.  At this time last year, Bortles had completed only 55 percent of his passes for 732 yards with a quarterback rating of 82. 6 (7:3 TD to interception ratio).

Despite throwing the same amount of touchdowns and interceptions this year, Bortles has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,095 yards with a QB rating 93.6.

When Blake and the offense are firing on all cylinders, it’s explosive. 10 different players caught receptions against the Jets. Not having a true No. 1 receiver has benefited the Jaguars because they are able to spread the ball out to multiple receivers which makes it hard for any team to game plan against.

The best part about Bortles’ improvement is that the team has full faith in him and so do I. Bortles is here to stay so it’s time for everyone in Jacksonville to fully support him.

Like linebacker Telvin Smith said, “That’s my quarterback.”

We’ve Learned the Jaguars Defense is Good….Great Even

Make no mistake, no matter how good the Jaguars offense plays, this team is built around its defense. As expected, the Jaguars defense has continued to be a dominant force on that side of the ball.

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Somehow, the Jacksonville defense has gotten better from last year in some respects. According to NFL statistics, the Jaguars defense currently ranks 1st in total yards allowed (259.2 yards), 1st in passing yards allowed (164.2 yards), and 1st in points allowed per game (14.0 points). The biggest improvement is in the run game where the Jaguars currently rank 10th in rushing yards allowed (95 yards).

The Jaguars defense has what it takes to go down with the likes of the 1985 Chicago Bears and 2000 Baltimore Ravens as one of the historically great defenses.

We’ve Learned the Jaguars Defense Can be Even Better

Despite the above-referenced statistics, the Jaguars defense is still missing something: takeaways and sacks. For that reason, the Jaguars defense hasn’t been as fun to watch this year. Through this time last year, the Jaguars had sacked the quarterback 18 times (tied for 1st) and intercepted the ball 5 times.

This year, Jacksonville has sacked the quarterback 10 times (tied for 12th) and only have a single interception (tied for 27th). Linebacker Myles Jack was responsible for that lone interception. As great as the Jaguars secondary is, they have zero picks which is insane.

This should be seen as a positive though because it shows the secondary hasn’t reached its full potential yet. Regarding sacks, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has only one sack so far. While he is doing plenty to pressure the quarterback, he must play better and act like the premier pass rushing specialist he is.

But again, this is just another sign that the Jaguars defense has a lot left in store for opponents …*cough, cough* … Patrick Mahomes.

Final Thought

Jacksonville is now going into an extremely difficult 4 game stretch of the season where they play the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys away, Houston Texans at home, and the reigning Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles at home (I mean London).

If Jacksonville can manage to go 3-1 against in the second quarter of the season, expect this team to go all the way. But to do that, Good Blake must show up and the defense will need more takeaways.