JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Start a list of the best players on the Jaguars offense and it probably looks something like this: Leonard Fournette, Allen Robinson, Brandon Linder, and Cam Robinson.
Those four players, the consensus four best players on the Jaguars offense, either didn't dress for the game, or in Cam Robinson's case, left the game during the first drive with an injury and did not return.
Despite that, the Jaguars offense enjoyed their most balanced day. As a team the Jaguars ran for 188 yards and threw for 330. They had a 100-yard receiver, Allen Hurns, who caught five passes for 101 yards. They had a 100-yard rusher, T.J. Yeldon, who ran nine times for 122 yards, including a 58 yard touchdown run. Eight Jaguars caught at least one pass. It was, in a word, clinical.
In every NFL locker room, the phrase "next man up" is uttered when a key player goes down with an injury. Most of the time, it's just coach speak. Of course, the team is going to have a let down when a starter is hurt. If the backup was better, he wouldn't be the backup. But in the Jaguars case, despite missing their four best players on offense, the team did just fine, racing out to a 20-0 halftime lead on the Colts then cruising to a victory.
"Everybody thought it was a big deal," wide receiver Marqise Lee said of Cam Robinson's ankle injury on the second offensive snap of the game. "Wells did a great job coming in and taking over. The past few years, we would have been panicking. We didn't panic."
With Fournette out, Yeldon's running, Chirs Ivory's tough yards and Corey Grant's change of pace, including a 28-yard gain on a screen pass, helped make up for the rookie's absence. The players talked about it during the week and knew what they had to do to ensure that Fournette's absence didn't derail their chances at a win.
"At the end of the day, you know that you have confidence in the starter and for the second string guys, you have to be ready, you have confidence in him in practice, but you never know how that guy is going to do until you get into the game."
Wide receiver Keelan Cole was another who stepped up. Cole, an undrafted rookie from Kentucky Wesleyan, came into the game with 47 yards receiving on the year. Sunday, he caught a pair of passes for 64 yards, including an early deep ball that gained 52 yards.
That the Jaguars had success with players living up to the "next man up" mantra can only help as the season continues.
"It looks bright when those who are injured do come back," Lee said. "It's big, especially for this team and what we've been through. To have the opportunity for people to step up and for us to have a great victory is very important."
The Jaguars now have a bye week to rest injuries and enjoy life atop the AFC South.