Week one is in the books, Duval, and I have never been happier to be wrong in my entire life. I have been a merciless critic of the team throughout camp and of the many, self-perceived, senseless transactions made by the front office. Dare I say; I may have been wrong. I am not ready to jump on the playoff train just yet, but with what this team showed Sunday, coupled with the shaky performances by two AFC South rivals, leaves plenty of room for optimism. We knew it would be important for the Jaguars to put themselves in a good position with the manageable games they have early on, and what they showed on Sunday made it look possible. A tough matchup in week two could vault the Jaguars to 2-0, with two divisional wins. But let's not get ahead of ourselves too much.
Offensively, there is not a single thing I can complain about. Well, maybe there is. I would have liked to have seen a better push from the offensive line at times, but regardless, the team was able to consistently move the ball against what I believed to be a vastly improved Colts' defense. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden called one hell of a game, and the team responded. Gruden was able to keep the offense ahead of the sticks for most of the game, and the offensive line refrained from shooting themselves in the foot with dumb penalties. This was an area in which the team needed to improve in 2020. The biggest offensive takeaway from week one is the way that second year quarterback Gardner Minshew controlled the game. He didn't put up godly numbers from a volume standpoint, but he was more efficient than any other quarterback in the league on Sunday, and he played his role in the offense. Realistically, Minshew will most likely never be a player who can single handedly change the course of the game like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. What he can do, however, is read a defense and make smart decisions. That's exactly what we saw from him Sunday. Finishing 19-20, with three touchdowns and no turnovers, Minshew was able to keep the Jaguars' defense on the sideline and did not give the Colts' offense a short field. The Jaguars' offense never had to play from behind with a deficit larger than 7 points Sunday. That allowed Jay Gruden to keep the playbook wide open all game. The Jaguars offensive line will need improvement in pass protection going forward after giving up four sacks on Sunday, but overall it looked to be a much-improved group from last season.
When we look at the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars were by no means shutting down the Colts offense, but they were making plays in big situations. I was impressed by the youthful pieces on this unit. K'Lavon Chaisson was flying around all day, making plays, including an interception that was negated by a DJ Hayden holding. CJ Henderson also showed he has the true potential to be a lockdown defender if he can stay focused and stay in games. Henderson came up with his first career interception off of Phillip Rivers and also came up with a big stop on 4th down to seal the Colts' fate late in the 4th quarter. The Jaguars did something that they very rarely did last year: hold an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing. This was by far the biggest surprise of the day. I was impressed by the defensive line. I watched Tim Jernigan absolutely walk the right guard into the backfield, forcing the back outside where the linebackers were able to force a tackle for loss. The defense played fast and made plays when it mattered, forcing two interceptions by Rivers.
There is room for improvement, and if there is anything that the team must improve on before they head to Nashville next week, it's tackling. There were too many missed tackles, especially inside the tackles and in the backfield. I know I am nitpicking here, but Derrick Henry will make you pay with the second chances he gets. If you get hands on him in the backfield, you have to bring him down. I expect more from guys like Schobert next week. The defense improved as the game progressed, and the team seemed to settle in, but there will need to be more improvement as a unit if the Jaguars are going to compete with some of the teams they have on the schedule down the stretch. The defense also needs to come up bigger on third down and omit the stupid penalties. All in all, 1-0 feels great, and being wrong feels even greater.
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