Ouch. Whether you believed the Jaguars could go into New Jersey and win this game or not, it was a tough game to watch. There were certainly some bright spots that can be taken away from this game. Everyone circled this game on the calendar as an early test to see what this team is made of, and some parts really crumbled under that pressure. Make no mistake, the Jets are a very good football team, despite taking the high road and signing mostly free agents to their roster rather than drafting a young core. Here's my take on this game:
Here's a telling stat to start things off: When Luke McCown threw the ball at least six yards downfield, he had more interceptions (4) than he did completions (3).
1. Luke, please learn something from this game. Whether you are the starting quarterback next week of the Jaguars or not, there are some things you just can't do. Don't throw a short pass in the middle of the field between 4 defenders-odds are one is going to get their hands on that ball. Don't stare down a receiver with Revis or Cromartie starting you down and blanketing our receivers. Missing Marcedes Lewis is a big blow to a team that can't cover a tight end well, but no excuses here. Take what the defense gives you. That's enough, let's not blow up here.
2. There is a fundamental problem with the Jaguars receiving group. Yes, there was Cromartie and Revis shutting down the flankers. I don't care. Truthfully, Jason Hill, Cecil Shorts, and Mike Thomas are all slot receivers. You can't win too many games with a group like that. Will Gene go the way of Shack Harris and draft a weapon in the first round for our franchise quarterback of the future? He may not have to in the first round, but there aren't any big physical receivers on this team that you can throw to in the clutch and have them make a big grab.
3. Offensive Line did some good things. I'm seeing Will Rackley mature well and understand his fit on the line. Some holes open up quite often for Maurice Jones-Drew, who had a pretty quality day for the team being so one-dimensional on offense. Pass protection was pretty good, actually. Luke had time to throw, and when there's a casino blitz (usually 8 guys on 5-6 blockers) you have to throw it hot and he was too indecisive to throw the ball or when he did, threw a terrible pass. Plays like that don't fall on the offensive line for giving up the pressure. That goes on the quarterback to make a decision and get rid of it.
4. Defensive Line had some good and some bad. An occasional pass rush was helpful, though more could have been had there. Their penetration on run plays is still the heart and soul of this defense. And they do it well. No matter who's in the game, penetration is the first priority. 78 rushing yards from a run-first team is a good day, following holding Chris Johnson to 24 rushing yards the week before. Matt Roth still licks his chops on those play-action bootlegs; he reads them in an instant and almost had another sack on such a play this week.
5. The right linebackers need to be in the right packages. Paul Posluzny is a great player, he had two plays on passing downs where he was inches away from a batted ball, but both turned into huge gains, one for a touchdown to Dustin Keller. You think the offensive coordinator doesn't look for mismatches? Paul Posluzny in coverage is a mismatch, Daryl Smith is not. It still baffles me that you wouldn't leave Smith on the field in Dime packages instead of Posluzny. Smith is quick enough and instinctual enough in open field to cover running backs (LT had the early 3rd down conversion split out wide against Poz) and can cover those nimble tight ends so many offensive coordinators like to split out wide or in flex against the Jaguars. This doesn't seem like a hard fix, but no body wants to make it.
6. Defensive backs had a pretty good day despite the injuries. Rashean Mathis had an interception I've been waiting for him to get for a long time. Any good offensive coordinator knows the Jaguars on 3rd and long will give up hitch routes right at the first down marker. Brian Schottenheimer went one step forward and had 3 receivers on one side all running hitch routes at the marker. Rashean baited Sanchez, and played the underneath coverage he's so sneaky with when he has reliable safety help, and made a big interception in front of the receiver. Middleton also had a lucky pick where Sanchez didn't see him trailing a receiver, but it didn't make up for the triple move Santonio Holmes put on him in the end zone for a touchdown.