Despite loss, Jags' opener gives hope for playoffs

Jaguars show much improvement, stay competitive with Green Bay Packers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite the tough loss Sunday at EverBank Field, we learned something: The Jaguars are a much-improved football team. Yes, we had our chances to win, but we were facing one of the best teams in the NFL and arguably the best quarterback in the game right now.

This game should give every Jaguars fan confidence in our hopes of getting to the playoffs. Yep, I said it! The playoffs. Of course, it's very early in the season, but our team showed they can compete with one of the best.

We have to remember that we are still a very young football team -- a team that has yet to develop in a lot of areas. And there were moments in this ball game that exposed some of those areas that need improvement.

We must run the football better. Chris Ivory not playing hurt our run game immensely. And if you can't run the football against a team like the Packers, you're in trouble. You can't be one dimensional in the NFL and expect to win a lot of games. Balance is key. And it will be for our team.

Also, we need to do a better job of getting to the quarterback. We did put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. We forced him to get off his spot in the pocket and get away from pressure. Unfortunately, that is when No. 12 for the Packers is at his best. Facing most quarterbacks in the league, our pressure and pass rush would've led to a number of sacks and incomplete passes. But not Sunday. I'm confident that we can expect getting to the QB won't be in issue in the future.

We did some very good things as well. Blake Bortles played well. I thought he made some very good decisions, which for a young quarterback is absolutely the most important. He took care of the ball. The interception in the first series was unfortunate, but when balls get tipped, they usually get picked off. This was a good start to the season for Blake. He competed and gave us a chance to win in the end. My money is on Blake going forward in those situations as the season progresses.

We also did well in our pass protection. I watched Luke Joeckel closely, and I was impressed. I believe the Jaguars have found a home for Luke at left guard. For most of the day, Blake had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and get through his progression.

Another part of our game that I really like was the aggressiveness of Gus Bradley. Some will second guess, but I for one love it when a head coach has confidence enough in his offense to "go for it" on fourth down. And for the most part, we converted. The Panthers have "Riverboat Ron" and we have "Gutsy Gus." I hope we see more of this going forward.

Fans, we will will only get better! This game was an unfortunate loss, but we have every reason to feel good about our football team. San Diego is next, and I fully expect us to once again compete, execute and win.

Go Jags!

Former NFL QB Mark Brunell answers your questions about the game:

Are the Jaguars finally respectable?
--ImranQ from Los Angeles

Brunell: Respectable? Absolutely! That was an easy one. This game with one of the best teams in the NFL came down to the last drive.

Which looked least improved from last season, the Jags’ pass rush or the Jags’ secondary?

-- David from Jacksonville

Brunell: The Jags' secondary was the biggest improvement. Aaron Rodgers: 199 yards passing! Impressive.

How did the absence of Chris Ivory affect the offense?

-- Tim from Jacksonville

Brunell: The absence of Chris Ivory was huge. I believe the one-two punch of Ivory and T.J. Yeldon will pay off big time going forward. We rushed for 48 yards. Not good enough. More importantly, I hope Chris is OK and his medical issue is nothing serious.

Who had the best day of the new additions?

-- Darren from Jacksonville

Brunell: I'm going to count Luke Joeckel as a new addition, considering he played a new position. He held his own. It wasn't perfect, but it rarely is for any lineman.

Would you have gone for it on fourth and 5 near midfield early in the second quarter with the game tied at 7?

-- Danielle from Jacksonville

Brunell: I love it when head coaches go for it on fourth down. Sometimes it backfires, but not Sunday. Gus knew he needed to be aggressive, and for the most part his decisions were spot on.

What's up with the play calling at the end of the game? Wide receiver screen? Really?

-- Victor from Jacksonville

Brunell: I will never second-guess Greg Olson's play calling. Sometimes it's a great call but just not executed properly. He has proven himself as a play-caller time and time again, and I believe he's one of the best in the business.