The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off a 41-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, in a game that probably wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Falcons were up 27-0 at halftime and 41-0 in the middle of the third quarter, before the Jaguars made the scoreboard on a blocked punt return for a touchdown.
What I did see that game, and what else I’ve seen from the Jaguars of late, after the jump.
1. Blaine Gabbert’s struggles in the pocket, especially his lack of pocket presence, have been well-chronicled, but he’s been playing a little better the past two weeks. He’s bad, yes, won’t make many good throws, but especially with Caleb Hanie (and now maybe Josh McCown) taking snaps, he no longer looks like the worst quarterback in the NFL.
2. That post I wrote about the Titans’ overall offensives struggles this week? The Jaguars’ passing game is worse. Mike Thomas is their best wideout; he’ll present some threats, but is more of an inside slot receiver. The other wideouts are hot garbage who have trouble catching. Tight end Marcedes Lewis has had a very disappointing season; I haven’t noticed him much.
3. If you think the Titans have trouble in pass protection, try watching the Jaguars’ offensive line. Rookie LG Will Rackley had absolute fits with Falcons DT Corey Peters, and I could see Klug’s quickness giving him troubles. As FO colleague J.J. Coopoer just wrote about, RT Guy Whimper is awful. Whimper is injured, and if he doesn’t play the RT may be rookie UDFA Bradfield, who also played in relief last week. He’s not clearly better than Whimper. The Titans got two sacks in the first Colts game because of sub-NFL-quality offensive line play. I’d expect at least that many this week from similar causes.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew is still putting up yards and doing his thing. He’ll turn -2 yards into 2, 0 yards into 4, and 4 yards into 8. The Titans had spot issues with him way back in Week 1, and they were enough to let the Jaguars put up enough points to win. The same thing could happen this week.
5. Unrelated to the tape, but the Jaguars played Thursday. Especially with a Saturday game, the extra days off probably give them somewhat of a physical readiness edge.
6. The Jaguars’ defense has been pretty good this year, but they’re now dealing with a ton of injuries. They’ve put 27 players on IR.
7. A position hard-hit by injuries is defensive end. Aaron Kampmann and John Chick are both on IR, and apparently DE Matt Roth is out for the year. The best DE they have healthy is probably Jeremy Mincey, who I see as more of a Dave Ball-like secondary rusher who will get effort sacks.
8. The other defensive position that’s been destroyed by injuries is cornerback, where last week’s starters were rookie Kevin Rutland and street free agent Ashton Youboty. Judging by his performance in the Falcons game, Ashton Youboty is currently the single worst player seeing regular time in the NFL. Period. As I wrote earlier this week, I think Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins have played more or less like hot garbage, but I’d take either of them in a heartbeat over Youboty. The Titans’ passing game has a good shot of being functional this week if they don’t shoot themselves in the foot.
9. [Insert verbiage re DTs Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu.] Alualu’s quickness and Knighton’s bulk may create issues for the mediocre Titans’ interior offensive line.
10. I normally don’t discuss special teams in these, just because it’s hard to say something useful off watching four punt returns, but the Jaguars have been awful returning punts this year. Even catching the ball has given them issues. The FO Special Teams rankings have them 31st in the league on punt returns.
Overall, if the Jaguars were healthier, I’d say this was a very good matchup between two similar teams, except that the Titans have a better and more reliable quarterback, and that’s true with either Hasselbeck or Locker, while the Jaguars have a better defensive front seven. With the Jaguars injuries, though, I think the Titans are clearly the better team and should win. If I were setting a line, I’d put the Titans at home as something like eight point favorites, and the current line is apparently TEN -7.5. I don’t expect a particularly pretty or well-played game from either team, but I expect the Titans to win something like 20-10. In fact, I am less worried about this game than I was about the Colts game last week, and don’t really see circumstances where I could see myself saying in the first quarter of a scoreless game that I think the Titans will lose.