JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In recent years the breakdown of every Jaguars loss included some form of “We’re getting better, we’re getting closer” when you talked to the players and coaching staff.
Not so after Sunday’s game against Green Bay. If there was one overriding emotion in the locker room it was anger. Even Head Coach Gus Bradley’s press conference was a little flat. He’s usually upbeat about “lessons learned” but Sunday he was just down because they lost. He confirmed that today after reviewing video of the game.
“Yeah, when we we’re planning for this game, I expected our best,” he explained of his pre and post game emotions. “I felt that we were going to play really well. I am shocked that we didn’t play well. I think that what I am surprised is that I really felt that we are going to win this game. That is a good sign. It is a good sign for our team, too.”
He’s exactly right about that. Perhaps the best thing to come out of the opener is the fact that the team was angry that they didn’t get the job done. If you’ve ever played in any game at any level and lost, you know exactly how they felt.
“There is a difference between you expecting to win and you knowing you are going to win.” Bradley added. “When you know you are going to win, you are shocked if you lost and that is what this team is feeling now. I think that is a good step for our team. We do not accept the loss. We do not accept it. How they are handling it now shows me a lot about them.”
Through training camp and the preseason games the Jaguars had the look and feel of a legitimate NFL team. It wasn’t guys trying to figure out how to play in the NFL. The free-agent additions gave the team the feel of a competitive group. That carried over to the regular season opener and while the significance of this game won’t be revealed until the end of the season, it looked like a matchup of two good teams. We expected that of Green Bay. We didn’t know that about the Jaguars. Even their reaction to the turnover and touchdown by the Packers in the first quarter showed a different Jaguars mindset.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, here it comes, what’s going to happen?’ Bradley said today referring to what had happened to his teams in the last three years after adversity struck. “There was none of that. The tension on the sideline, their focus on the sideline, it was great.”
In fact the Jaguars scored themselves and even took the lead, all done early on without involving their two top receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Neither apparently said a word and were eventually very productive with quarterback Blake Bortles.
“One of our rules is no whining, no complaining and no excuses. No one wants to hear it anyway. Let’s move on,” Gus said when asked if Robinson had asked for the ball more.
Seeing him in person it might be hard to dispute that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game right now. Put a different quarterback on the Packers on Sunday and the Jaguars win that game. With a strong arm and accurate, Rodgers can still run and moves in the pocket just enough to frustrate defenders. Bradley said part of the game plan was to try and limit his mobility. He says that’s why the sack number was low. It was part of the plan.
“It is tough on the defensive line,” he said of the scheme. “They are going after it. We did not turn them loose. It was not a game like that. It was more of a detailed pass rush to really try to constrict him and force him to stay in the pocket.”
It generally worked, limiting the Green Bay offense to just 199 yards passing. And maybe the same kind of rush this week turns into a few sacks of Phillip Rivers in San Diego. But there’s still that “Where’s that guy coming from?” factor that the Jaguars don’t have. Strong and sturdy up front, they need a high speed, occasionally dominating pass rusher to compliment what they have. They’re hoping that Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue turn into those players.
The sooner the better.