The Jaguars struggled early, then struggled late as they lost the season opener 28-22 in Washington to the Commanders. Carson Wentz threw four touchdown passes to spoil Doug Pederson’s head coaching debut. Here are my four biggest takeaways from the game:
Pass protection has to be better
The Jaguars offensive line didn’t do enough to protect Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence threw too many passes while backing up or being hit. The line was also unable to get the hands of the Washington defensive linemen down, creating far too many tipped passes. Ben Bartch appeared to struggle more than the rest of the line, but we also saw Jawaan Taylor taken out of the game in the fourth quarter, replaced by Walker Little. The Jaguars must protect Lawrence better if they are going to be successful.
In the first half, in particular, the Jaguars missed out on too many opportunities. In the first quarter, Lawrence missed a wide-open Travis Etienne. It would have been a touchdown. In the second quarter, Lawrence missed an open Marvin Jones on a play that could have been a long touchdown. Then on a fourth-down play near the goal line, Etienne dropped a pass that would have likely been a touchdown. To cap the half, kicker Riley Patterson doinked a field goal attempt off the right upright. The Jaguars must find a way to convert on the opportunities if they are going to be a contending team this season.
Travon Walker … oh my
After the Jaguars took a 15-14 lead in the fourth quarter, rookie Travon Walker made one of those plays that just leaves you shaking your head. On a third-down play, the Commanders called a screen pass. Wentz looked to his right, then turned and delivered a short pass to his left. He didn’t see Walker, who snatched the ball out of the air, just feet away from where Wentz released it. It was Walker’s first NFL interception. One play later, James Robinson ran it in for a touchdown to give the Jaguars a 22-14 lead. Walker also recorded his first NFL sack in the first half. A very good debut for the number one overall pick.
The Jaguars return home to host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. It’s way too early to be talking about “must” wins but beating the divisional favorites and making a statement in the first month of the season would be huge. But there is a lot of work to be done to get to that point.