JACKSONVILLE - Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 31-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Thursday ...
1. Again? What was a concern is now a trend - and make no mistake: The slow starts that continued Thursday for the Jaguars now are a major issue. The Jaguars, who have led just 5:56 this season - the final minutes of their Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts - again fell behind big early Thursday. The issue again was a defense that never came close to getting the Dolphins off the field for the first quarter and a half. The Jaguars for a third consecutive game allowed an easy touchdown on the game's opening drive - and therefore trailed in the game's first minutes for a third consecutive week. They allowed an easy touchdown on the second drive again - and therefore trailed 14-0 in the first quarter for a second consecutive week. The Jaguars had been remarkably scrappy in the first two weeks, rallying four times for a victory in Week 1 and rallying three times from 14 points down to tie Tennessee in a Week 2 loss at Tennessee. That's a dangerous game, one you knew the Jaguars couldn't win all season. It finally cost them Thursday - and will continue to cost them if they don't fix the issue.
2. James Robinson still looks for real. This admittedly doesn't feel like much consolation in the short-term if you're a Jaguars fan; what happened Thursday was disheartening, and it was difficult to find positives. But Robinson indeed was a positive Thursday, rushing for 46 yards and catching six passes for 83 yards. The rookie free agent through three games has shown the Jaguars made the right decision waiving two-time 1,000-yard rusher Leonard Fournette and moving Robinson into the starting lineup. A hit tip here, too, to rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. - who also very much like a future star but who didn't get enough opportunities Thursday to show it. For this game, we'll stick with Robinson when searching for positives. The future looks bright for the rookie and he continued to show it Thursday in front of a prime-time audience.
3.This was a concerning game for Minshew.Let's start this thought with this: While Thursday's game will cause many to doubt whether Gardner Minshew II is the Jaguars' quarterback of the future, one game doesn't decide such a thing. But here's the reality, too: While Minshew was very good through two games this season, his struggles Thursday were just as pronounced. Without go-to receiver DJ Chark Jr. in the lineup, Minshew looked confused much of the game. After throwing three touchdown passes in each of the first two games, he threw none Thursday - and he threw his third interception in the last two games.
1. Missed their chance in prime time. A young team that was riding high after an upset victory in Week 1 and a strong showing in Nashville never showed itself on Thursday night against Miami. Instead of youthful exuberance, it was youthful inexperience - and it showed across the roster with missed tackles, penalties, turnovers and even a missed extra point. That's the way it's going to go with this team in 2020, though they fooled us last week with their calm and purposeful come-from-behind attempt against the Titans. The Dolphins' coaching staff saw a young team and went right at it. The Jaguars will bounce back from this, but most NFL fans won't see it. This was the Jaguars' only prime-time game this season.
2. It didn't help that Magic's man was missing. There's no denying the Jaguars missed Chark Thursday night. Chris Conley can't stretch the field nor draw the kind of coverage that Chark does - and the same is true for Keelan Cole. LaViska Shenault Jr. will someday but Thursday was his NFL third game. Chark's absence left Minshew off-balance and trying to force the ball to Conley, which didn't work. Chark is Minshew's guy and would have caught that ball on the final play of the third quarter for a touchdown; Conley couldn't get there. He also wouldn't have dropped the potential first down on the first series of the game. The receivers' numbers tell the story; young quarterbacks need to have a guy they can count on and it rattled Minshew a bit when the other receivers couldn't make the same kinds of plays that Chark routinely does.
3. The defense is going to take time. I think the pressure will come; they have a Pro Bowl player in Josh Allen and a young K'Lavon Chaisson who has flashed big play ability. What might not come around is the coverage. Cornerback Tre Herndon has struggled this year without a dependable pass rush and rookie CJ Henderson had a tough go with DeVante Parker, though he is going to be very good once he figures out the game at this level. D.J. Hayden is a good nickel but if the guys outside can't hold up their end, it doesn't matter as much. The safeties are hard-hat, lunch-pail guys but they're the kind of players you're desperate to replace next spring because they're not fast enough to close the gaps in the defense - or athletic enough to run in man coverage with tight ends and receivers. The Jaguars are going to ask this unit to make a few stops a game and try to keep up on offense, but can they do that?