It might be only one win for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it was the most important win of the early NFL season.
The 27-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts was special for many reasons. More than anything, the 1-0 start gives this franchise a little bit of breathing room while it prepares for the Sunday showdown with the Tennessee Titans. With a division win already under their belt, somehow beating the Titans on the road would send the fan base into lunar altitude it has not felt in two seasons.
First, the team must move past the upset from Sunday and lock in on what I see is a tougher task Sept. 20.
Here are a few observations from Sunday.
The Offense Will Be Good
The game plan was simple and masterfully executed by Gardner Minshew. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden used Gardner Minshew’s strengths and drew up a balanced attack that can only get better.
James Robinson was able move through the front line of the Colts defense and find small holes on the outside as well. I like the combination of his size and running style – much like Maurice Jones-Drew. And it looked good for Minshew to be able to play with a real running game on Sunday.
Kudos to the offensive line in run blocking. The biggest challenge this coming week with be with pas protection as Minshew was sacked four times on Sunday.
C.J. Henderson Is Going To Be Special
I have voiced my displeasure for the Jaguars selection of rookie cornerback C.J. Henderson in the past, but it might be time for me to admit I was wrong.
The knock on Henderson from his days at Florida was his open-field tackling. Henderson put on a clinic on Sunday.
The Jaguars defense spent a lot of time on the field in the second half. The secondary was fractured at times. However, when needed, it did not break, With veterans D.J. Hayden, Tre Herndon and Jarod Wilson missing assignments at times, Henderson stepped up when needed.
The Titans are a better run team than the Colts, so the game plan changes. I still cannot wait to see Henderson and A.J. Brown this coming Sunday.
There Must Be More Pass Rush
The Colts have the best offensive line in the NFL. The Jaguars have a building pass rush. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash must design schemes to get to Ryan Tannehill early. The run defense was good yesterday and DaVon Hamilton played better than I expected.
If there is a design for both Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson to play on both ends and apply pressure, that might be the best way to force the Tennessee offense to become more one-dimensional.
The Jaguars also must not defend out of fear.
More to Build On
As head coach Doug Marrone said when he met with the local media this afternoon, there are things that this roster can be proud of, but there are other things the players can work on. This was by no means a work of art. The Jaguars came from behind to win, which was even more impressive, but playing this week against another division rival means a chance to go up 2-0 in the division takes on more meaning and more pressure.
He spoke about a run defense that looked better than last season, but it is still early in the season.
“I thought we did some things well and I thought we did some things not so well. A couple of runs got outside; we have to clean up some things we’re doing. I thought we tackled well as the game went along,” he said via Jaguars.com.
Of course, that part of the defense will be tested against Derrick Henry this coming week. Henry, the Yulee native, has owned the Jaguars the past two seasons.
More Minshew, Please
The stat-line for Gardner Minshew was impressive with three touchdowns, but he did get sacked four times. He did not lose the football, however, which is an improvement over last season. The game plan was balanced, which makes me wonder if we will see more carries by James Robinson next week.
The Jaguars are essentially playing with house money this week. A road game provides another test for the roster and coaching staff. A win is huge and sets the team up nicely for the Thursday night game with Miami. A potential 2-0 start to the season wasn’t even a discussion a week ago.
A 3-0 start would send the fan base into hyper-overdrive about a potentially special season like the one in 2017.