Heading into the bye week at 2-5 doesn't feel great, but coming off a big win in London against the Buffalo Bills does feel good, even with some of the underlying issues the Jacksonville Jaguars still have with their team. One of the biggest takeaways from the game on Sunday is the players who made the majority of the plays were within their first three years of being in the NFL.
On the defensive side of the ball, Telvin Smith has always looked to be a play maker like he was at Florida State in college. Sunday, that finally materialized on the field. Smith sat in a zone and easily caught the pass EJ Manuel threw and showed his speed making a b-line for the endzone. It wasn't just the pick six that Smith flashed, as he seemed to be all over the field disrupting plays. He nearly had another big interception in the end zone, but couldn't come down with it. Going forward, Smith looks to be one of the cornerstones on the defense.
Another defensive cornerstone appears to be Aaron Colvin, who has a knack for making big plays. He flashed it as a rookie late last season and a few times this year, but like Smith, it stood out on Sunday. Colvin picked up his third sack of the year, which leads the team, and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The Jaguars corner have struggled to force turnovers because of the issues rushing the passer, but Colvin at the least has proven himself to be a good blitzer and someone who can cause plays.
Now, the real juice is on the offensive side of the ball. The past three weeks the Jaguars offense has shown it can make explosive plays, especially in the passing game, and score points. Blake Bortles specifically has shown himself to be an aggressive play maker in the passing game. Yeah, he's going to throw some bad interceptions still, but that comes with the territory when you're an aggressive down field passer. Bortles leads the NFL in deep passing attempts and completions of passes over 20 yards in the air. He's got the most drops there, too. A big reason for Bortles being tied for third in the NFL in touchdowns passes, with 15, is because of this aggressiveness throwing the ball. He's clearly taken big strides from where he was last season as a rookie and he still has issues to work out, but quarterback play should now be fairly low on the totem poll of worries.
One thing that can help a quarterback like Bortles is a strong running game, and while the Jaguars don't quite have that yet, rookie T.J. Yeldon continues to show flashes of being a work horse going forward. He had his best game, statistically, against the Bills and that was while still nursing a groin injury. Yeldon consistently shows the ability to make the first guy miss and pick up positive yards even when the line gets blown up. He's not the explosive athlete Fred Taylor was, but he does have that jump cut that gives me visions of No. 28 sometimes.
Then, you've got the Allens. The duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns that had people so worried headed into the season are the most productive wideout duo in the NFL. Through seven games they've combined for 65 receptions, 1,099 yards and 11 touchdowns. Robinson has the 8th most receiving yards in the league and is tied for the most touchdown receptions. Hurns has proven to be a reliable chain mover who can pick up chunks of yardage and Robinson has the look of being a No. 1 guy going forward. He's seemed to become a confident target for Bortles, in that he can throw it up to him and know he'll come down with the catch. Robinson also has shown big play ability, getting open deep down the field multiple times, leading the league in 20+ yard receptions. Remember when people demanded they draft Amari Cooper because their receivers weren't good enough?
Oh yeah, and that Julius Thomas guy.
I don't know how many wins it's going to manifest itself to this season, but going forward the Jaguars offense has the makings of being one of the better ones in the NFL if things continue to progress how they've done so far. Hopefully during the bye week, Bortles can develop more of a rapport with guys like Thomas, who've been out, and the team can continue with their 20+ point scoring days.