CHARLOTTE, NC – The Jaguars had their chances to come from behind to win but couldn't finish in Charlotte against the Panthers in a 34-27 Carolina win. The Jaguars had a 100-yard rusher (Leonard Fournette) and a 300-yard passer (Gardner Minshew), but they couldn't stop the Carolina running game. Here are my four biggest takeaways from the game:
Christian McCaffrey deserves more credit. Yes, he's the NFC's offensive player of the month in September, but McCaffrey might be the best athlete on offense in the NFL. He did everything well against the Jaguars (except throw the ball on an ill-conceived halfback pass play). Right now, I can't name a better running back in the NFL. He is impressive.
The Jaguars aren't getting enough from Andrew Norwell. Each player in the NFL is judged against the amount of the salary cap that they take up. Andrew Norwell counts $16 million against the cap this year. That's 8.5% of the entire salary cap this year. His contract is the biggest chunk of the salary cap this year for the Jaguars. If every player were paid an equal share of the cap, each player would take up under 2%. When you have a player taking up that much of the cap, he has to play better than just winning football. Norwell isn't delivering that on a weekly basis. He cost the Jaguars seven points when he was pushed back into Minshew, causing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Panthers' Brian Burns.
Fournette is finding his identity. As a rookie, we saw Fournette look like a speed back on several breakaway runs, but over the past season-and a half, he has become a rhythm runner. In other words, he needs to get into the rhythm of the game and as his touches build, his effectiveness improves. Late in the game, Fournette came out of the game for a few plays.
October has started with a loss. This is going to be the defining month for the Jaguars season. If they can keep pace in the AFC South, the final two months of the season can be memorable. They would have liked to have started the month with a win, but instead, they'll have to work from behind once again. Next up, the Saints come to town and we'll be waiting to learn if Drew Brees will return to the lineup for New Orleans.