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3 things we learned about the Jaguars

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When you lose your best defensive player, you would figure your defense may not put forth its best effort.

That wasn’t the case with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday when they used two interceptions, including a pick-six, and five sacks of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles to record a 20-9 win over the Jaguars on Sunday afternoon at EverBank Field.

Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered a concussion late in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the game. But his injury, a concussion, did not diminish the effort of the Panthers defense. They inserted A.J. Klein in the middle and with a ball-hawking secondary and a lot of pressure from the front four, the Panthers kept the Jaguars offense at bay much of the game.

It was still a tight game early in the fourth quarter when the Panthers took over on their own 6-yard line following a Jaguars punt and Carolina penalty on the play. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton directed a 15-play march that advanced to the 29-yard line. It stalled there however, forcing Graham Gano to come in and convert a 47-yard field goal to hike the margin to 11 points with just over two minutes left in the game.

“That was extremely important especially in an away game, to take the crowd out of it,” Newton said. “Just finding a way to win it, that’s all we wanted.”

Jacksonville had the ball for just eight plays in the fourth quarter prior to getting the ball back and trailing 20-9. They had a seven-play drive that netted 24 yards and ended when Bortles was sacked for a 2-yard loss. On their possession, Bortles had his arm hit as he attempted to pass and linebacker Thomas Davis grabbed the wobbly ball for an interception just inside the 20-yard line.

What we learned about the Jaguars:

1. The offensive line is not as good as advertised. All throughout training camp and the preseason, the talk was how the Jaguars offensive line will be better than it was last year. The addition of veteran free agents Stefen Wisniewski and Jermey Parnell at center and right tackle, respectively, was considered a big improvement over what the Jaguars put out there in 2014. But five sacks of quarterback Blake Bortles on Sunday and now the uncertainty of the injury status of left tackle Luke Joeckell leaves some questions about how good this group can be.

2. The Jaguars are still looking for a running game. The hope had been that rookie T.J. Yeldon would be the answer. That hasn’t panned out. Yeldon played in only one preseason game due to injuries, and in his first regular season game he gained but 51 yards in 12 carries. Take away two carries for 25 yards in one series and the Alabama rookie netted just 26 yards in his other 10 carries. Last year’s rushing leader, Denard Robinson, finished with 19 yards on five carries. Part of the problem has to do with the blocking up front, but right now, the Jaguars running game is not very good.

3. The Jaguars need to get more production from the tight end spot. That should certainly change once the injured Julius Thomas returns to the lineup. But in Sunday’s game, the tight ends were almost invisible. Marcedes Lewis, who had looked so good in the preseason, did not have a ball thrown his direction. Backups Clay Harbor and Nic Jacobs each had one pass directed at them that they couldn’t haul in. So zero receptions from the tight end position in this game.

Etc.

–C Stefen Wisniewski didn’t mince words. “We didn’t execute today like we had been in the preseason. We just kind of didn’t get into a rhythm. There were too many three-and-outs and a lack of execution,” said the veteran center, playing in his first regular season game for the Jaguars after starting 61 games for the Oakland Raiders the last four years. “You can’t afford to do that to win games in the NFL. Those things will cost you.”

–LB Paul Posluszny showed he hasn’t missed a beat after playing in his first regular season game since missing the last nine games in 2014 with a torn pectoral muscle. Posluszny was credited with a game-high nine tackles, including eight solo tackles, and had the Jaguars’ first interception of 2015 after the team went through all four preseason games without a pick. It was Posluszny’s 12th career interception and first since the 2013 season when he picked off a Peyton Manning pass and returned it for a 59-yard touchdown.

–TE Marcedes Lewis did not have a pass thrown in his direction in Sunday’s game. But the veteran tight end resisted the opportunity to question why that was so. “I’m not here to talk about play-calling, but we have to go out there and execute regardless of if we get targets or not,” he said. “Whatever, we have to do our job because there are definitely some things we have to learn from.” The Jaguars had eight plays in the red zone in the game in which they threw five passes and ran the ball three times. But none of the five passes was directed to the 6-6, 275 pound Lewis, who had a decided height and weight advantage over the defender covering him.


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