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Sam: Jaguars 2017 look like Jaguars 2016 vs. Titans

Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (81) crosses the goal line past Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny for a touchdown on a 32-yard pass play during the second half, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (81) crosses the goal line past Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny for a touchdown on a 32-yard pass play during the second half, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a week where they didn’t commit a single turnover, the Jaguars gave up two in the first half and one at the start of the third quarter against Tennessee in the home opener on Sunday. After playing only his second game as a professional without turning the ball over last week, Blake Bortles was sacked and fumbled the ball and a pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and picked off. Bortles threw it behind Marqis Lee to start the second half and the batted ball was easily grabbed by Tennessee. The first two could be considered not his fault, but turnovers are turnovers. And the third was just a bad throw.

“At the end of the day, just like I said before after the first week, I wasn’t too high. This week I’m not too low,” Head Coach Doug Marrone said in his post-game press conference. “I’ve got to do a better job making sure the penalties, not putting us in those poor situations, and then at the end I talked to the team about obviously there is a frustration and those things need to be pointed to things that are going to make us better.”

When you turn it over on three consecutive possessions in the NFL, bad things start to happen. Your defense is on the field too much. The opponent starts to run through their playbook because they are staying on the field. And eventually, they score, which is what Tennessee did after a long punt return, Derek Henry running through some Jaguars and around others inside the 20 to give the Titans a 16-3 lead.

After another series where the offense didn’t get the job done, the Titans scored again taking advantage of a long throw from Marcus Mariota to Taywan Taylor to make it 23-3. And to add insult to injury, Jalen Ramsey hit Delaney Walker out of bounds after the TD for a 15-yard penalty.

And it’s not just the penalty; it’s that kind of undisciplined play that has earned the Jaguars a reputation as a sloppy team.

“It had nothing to do with physicality with what they were doing” Malik Jackson said in the locker room. “It was just stuff we weren’t doing and that is all that really matters. That can play anyway they want to if we come out and do what we are supposed to do, then it doesn’t matter how they are taught to do. We just have to go back to the drawing board and fix the things that we can control.”

It would be easy to dump it all on Bortles after he appeared to revert to the Blake of 2016. Perhaps that’s the case, but the Jaguars wide receivers didn’t get much separation against the Titans DB’s and had a couple of drops as well. The offensive line did a decent job and was at least serviceable, but falling behind and relying on the passing game to keep you in it is not how the Jaguars are built nor is it how they want to play.

“We will have to figure out how we can continue to run the ball and create plays there,” is how Blake Bortles described it. “But, like I said, when everything is first-and-22 and first-and-20 like it seemed it was in the second half, it’s hard to get anything going.”

With ten carries for 33 yards in the first half, Leonard Fournette wasn’t a factor once the Titans took the lead. And without the fear of the running game, Tennessee was able to sit back and manage the game on defense.

It was pretty clear the Jaguars defense was out of gas, giving up a screen pass touchdown mid-third quarter to make it 30-3, Don’t you know Mike Mularkey had a sly smile on his face when all this was happening.

A couple of other touchdowns were scored, but they just padded the stats of both Titans and Jaguars players. Fantasy owners were happier, but the rest of the game was played in front of a virtually empty stadium, and rightfully so. Kind of a shame after the week we had that the Jaguars would put up this kind of performance in the only game in Jacksonville before October 15. They’ll play in London next week, then at the Jets and Pittsburgh before coming home.

In a very matter-of-fact, professional way, Calais Campbell said don’t put too much into it. “We’ll grade the tape and figure out what happened. Same as always, never get too high after a win, never too low after a loss. Grade the tape and move on to next week.

And perhaps regrettably, outside of the opening couple of drives on offense and defense, they looked like the same team as last year.