The Jacksonville Jaguars are 1-8 for the second-straight season and while the running game was good for the third week in a row, rookie quarterback Blake Bortles looked, well, like a rookie for most of the team's 33-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
On offense, the Jaguars were stale for most of the first three quarters. But then, with little time left and nothing much to lose, Bortles looked better, started making more confident throws, and took chances downfield. Like this one in the third quarter...
On defense, it was very apparent the Jaguars were missing veteran cornerbacks Alan Ball and Will Blackmon. While they made stops, and J.T. Thomas got an interception off an awful Andy Dalton throw, they allowed two passing touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The young guys ran out of gas, as young guys usually do.
Four things we learned:
1. Blake Bortles finally shook off his nerves. But it took the better part of three quarters. In the early part of the game, Bortles was unconfident, and as a result he didn't take many chances downfield. He didn't have any pick-sixes (hell, his first interception wasn't until there were four minutes left) but it led to an anemic offense in the first half.
2. The offense needs to find a balance between YOLO and draw-screen-screen-punt. This game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Jaguars dialed back their offense and saw almost zero success. Then in the second half, with the Jaguars down by two possessions the entire time, they spread it out and took shots downfield. There's got to be a middle ground. Head coach Gus Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch need to figure out how to use Bortles going forward, and they need to figure it out quick.
3. Alan Ball and Will Blackmon are missed. In the first half, the Jaguars stopped the run and limited the Bengals to just 10 points. But Dalton, with the help of receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, took advantage of a young secondary that just couldn't hold on for all 60 minutes.
4. Special teams is anything but special. You can blame a lot of things on youth, but bad blocking isn't one of them. Bryan Anger suffered two blocks today (yes, I'm calling that "tipped" kick a block) and one of them turned into a safety. Josh Scobee has three blocked field goals on the season. These are simple things that need to be corrected immediately.
5. The running game is getting going. Denard Robinson finished with 94 yards on 17 carries, and the team gained 132 yards on a 5.3 yards per carry average. Along with a more-than-competent receiving corps at his disposal, the ever-improving Jaguars running game will be Bortles' best friend through the final seven games.