The Jaguars season opener didn't go as planned. That might be the understatement of the year. The vaunted Jaguars' defense gave up 40 points at home, and Nick Foles suffered a fractured clavicle, an injury that will likely keep him out for 2-3 months. Jacksonville's 40-26 defeat at the hands of Andy Reid and the Chiefs has left a sour taste in the mouths of the Big Cats. But all is not lost. The first week of the NFL regular season is often not indicative of what will happen over the course of the next sixteen weeks.
There was certainly some good that came from this game, primarily on the offensive side of the ball. Let's take a look at five reasons for encouragement moving forward.
The Jaguars' rookie sixth-round pick was faced with an impossible task: lead the Jaguars back against one of the most talented offensive teams in recent memory. He didn't get the win for the Jaguars, but he did look fantastic, especially for a guy who couldn't guide the Jaguars to a single touchdown during the preseason. Minshew completed his first 13 passes and finished 22/25 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He had the best debut of any Jaguars' QB in franchise history, by a long shot. It won't always be that easy for Minshew. The Chiefs didn't prepare for him throughout the week, and they don't boast an upper-echelon defense. Traveling to Houston in week two will be a test, but early indications are that he'll be just fine.
The offensive line
The Jaguars' offensive line performed very well against a talented defensive front that features Chris Jones and Frank Clark. In 34 dropbacks, the Jaguars O-Line surrendered just one sack. Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew had plenty of time to stand and deliver. The Chiefs don't have great linebackers, and their secondary certainly isn't elite, but their front four is explosive. Jawaan Taylor — despite picking up two penalties — and Will Richardson both played well in their first career starts. The offensive line also did very well in the running game. The Jaguars only picked up 81 yards on the ground, but that's because they were playing catch up the entire game. The Jags averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
Jaguars' wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell appears to have a group that he can work with finally. DJ Chark exploded for 146 yards on four catches, including a massively impressive catch in tight coverage on a bomb from Nick Foles in the back of the endzone. Chris Conley was a reliable target as well, hauling in six catches for 97 yards and a score. Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs' best defensive backs, shadowed Dede Westbrook, but Easy Dede was still able to make an impact. He caught five passes for 30 yards, including a touchdown grab.
The game script didn't allow the Jaguars to feature Leonard Fournette as much as they would have liked, but he played at a high level throughout the game. He carried the ball 13 times for 66 yards, averaging over five yards per attempt. He was also a contributor in the passing game, catching four passes for 28 yards. He should be commended for his work in pass protection as well. His lone blemish on an otherwise reliable performance was a third-quarter fumble that led to a Chiefs score. Leonard Fournette looks like the player the Jaguars drafted to be their bell-cow back in 2017. Moving forward, his health will be essential.
The seventh-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Josh Allen looked the part. The monstrous defensive end picked up a sack in the second quarter, but it was ultimately negated by Myles Jack losing his mind on the field. He picked up two more tackles on the day. Allen has been everything you would expect and more from a top ten edge rusher. He'll continue to make an impact for the Jags in his rookie year and beyond.
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