JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The weather was sunny with not the slightest threat of rain. And no one got struck by an errant tee shot at halftime in a contest between mascot Jaxson de Ville and Players Championship runner-up David Lingmerth.
That was pretty the extent of what went right Sunday in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ opener as the Gus Bradley era began much like the short-lived Mike Mularkey one ended.
Here are some observations from the 28-2 drubbing at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, who left no doubt that they are the more-improved 2-14 team from a year ago:
1. Blaine Gabbert’s 9-for-18 performance in the first half wasn’t helped by passes which should have been held on to by tight end Allen Reisner and wide receivers Ace Sanders and Mike Brown.
But that doesn’t excuse the miscommunication between him and Cecil Shorts III that resulted in an interception by Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers that began to suck the life out of the Jaguars and the crowd.
And the interception that outside linebacker Tamba Hali returned 10 yards for a touchdown brought out an equal share of groans and boos.
With Justin Blackmon still having another three games to go on the suspension handed down by the NFL and Marcedes Lewis’ calf injury a lingering issue, the Jaguars lack a receiver to keep opposing teams honest. Former Miami Dolphin Sean Smith was particularly effective in holding Sanders in check by himself.
2. If you’re looking for anything close to good news, some of the recent pick-ups off waivers by general manager Dave Caldwell paid immediate dividends.
Foremost was linebacker J.T. Thomas, the Chicago Bears cast-off whose blocked punt with less than three minutes gone gave the Jaguars a 2-0 lead. Tight end Clay Harbor, late of the Philadelphia Eagles, had a 5-yard reception on their first play from scrimmage. For whatever it’s worth, he had more catches by halftime than Shorts, Reisner or Maurice Jones-Drew.
Will Blackmon continues to a valuable addition on special teams and at cornerback. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, he was pressed into fulltime duty at a corner because of an ankle injury to rookie Dwayne Gratz late in the second quarter.
3. So much for the improved pass rush.
Aside from when Alex Smith had to throw the ball away after defensive end Jason Babin was nipping at his ankles, the Jaguars didn’t generate any pressure up front when the outcome was still somewhat in doubt.
Babin was able to sack Smith for a loss of two yards early in the fourth quarter. By contrast, the Chiefs got to Gabbert six times through the first three quarters. On the first two, outside linebacker Justin Houston and defensive end Tyson Jackson came in all but untouched.
4. With one horrible exception, the Jaguars had no complaints about the play of their punt team.
The problem was that Bryan Anger had to boot the ball away 11 times in all, breaking the team record of 10 set in 2008 against the Tennessee Titans. His only subpar kick proved to be costly, as Dexter McCluster ripped off a 36-yard return to give the Chiefs excellent field position.
Three plays later, they scored their first touchdown on a pass from Smith to wide receiver Donnie Avery.
5. There’s an open competition going on for kick returners, and it apparently doesn’t involve Denard Robinson.
Stephen Burton, another waiver claim from a week ago, handled kickoff return duties. The only time Sanders lined up deep came when he returned the free kick following the safety caused by Thomas’ blocked punt.
Will Blackmon could be the fulltime punt returner for as long as Justin Blackmon remains unavailable.
Next up: at Oakland. The Raiders were projected to be even worse than the Jaguars, but they gave the Indianapolis Colts all they could handle before falling 21-17.