Sam Kouvaris: Big step back for Jaguars

Home opener offered few positives

By Sam Kouvaris - Sports Director
Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - When you’re searching for good things to talk about and the only things that come to mind are the punter and a free-agent wide receiver/punt returner who also dropped a sure TD pass, it’s not good.

In a game where the Jaguars needed to take a big step forward, they did just the opposite. Instead of building on what they were able to do last week in New England, their inconsistency was on full display against the Bucs.

Looking for more leadership and production from Blake Bortles, they didn’t get it from their starting quarterback. Bortles was 8-of-13 passing for 65 yards with no TDs or INTs. A 74.2 QB rating. But none of it was meaningful. A couple of bad throws, staring down receivers from the snap and bad decisions were more of the same on a muggy night at the stadium. But it wasn’t all Bortles.

After all of the talk of how the defense was going to carry the Jaguars this year the Bucs did whatever they pleased against the hometown’s first teamers. Jameis Winston showed off his arm strength and accuracy as well as his decision-making and coordination with his receivers throughout the first half. The Bucs scored 12 points and it easily could have been more.  No pass rush and no run stuffing is a bad combination for a defense that has tried to make that a priority. 

Granted A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey didn’t play. Calais Campbell only played the first series. But it didn’t look like the quick, coordinated kind of defense that gets things done. Moving Paul Posluszny back to middle linebacker is the right move as he was making tackles from his natural spot. Problem was he had to do that 5 yards down the field.

Earlier in the week, head coach Doug Marrone said he was surprised with how many roster spots remained open at this point in training camp. Wide Receiver Keelan Cole stepped in as a punt returner and brought one back 31- yards, the lone highlight of the first half. But of course on the first play of the drive, Chad Henne hit him right in the hands on a simple slant in the end zone, and he dropped it. Henne did the same with Allen Robinson on third down, and he dropped it. So a 12-0 halftime score was about right for the preseason.

Why?

Coaches always say you play like you practice and the Jaguars didn’t have a very good week of practice.  You could say all of these hard workouts in a row, in pads, against other teams took their toll. No question the Jaguars looked like a slow, plodding team. Tampa Bay looked like they were playing at a different speed.

So if I’m Doug Marrone, and Tom Coughlin for that matter, I don’t make much of it. If it was the second week of the regular season, I’d have a lot to say.  But the second week of the preseason doesn’t mean much. When they look at the video of this game, there will be a lot of “teachable moments.” And to paraphrase Marrone, you couldn’t make this team tonight, but you could get cut from it. 

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