JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — If the season opener is any indication, the Jacksonville Jaguars might want to brace for another long season.
Between Blaine Gabbert’s injured throwing hand, several dropped passes and a woeful offensive line, the Jaguars face plenty of issues following a 28-2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
It was the worst opener in Jacksonville’s 19 seasons — and not even close to any of the others.
Gabbert completed 16 of 35 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions, including one that Tamba Hali returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and was sacked six times.
Gabbert, who played with a hairline fracture in his right thumb, ended up cutting the back of his right hand on a defender’s face mask in the closing minutes and needed 15 stitches.
Maurice Jones-Drew, playing his first real game since injuring his left foot last October, found little room to run. He finished with 45 yards on 15 carries.
And rookie receiver Ace Sanders and backup tight end Allen Reisner dropped passes early.
It was a stunning display of offensive futility for the rebuilding franchise.
The Jaguars finished with 178 yards, but for most of the game, challenged the team low of 117 yards set last year against Houston.
It wasn’t even close to the start coach Gus Bradley wanted, but it was a clear indication of how far the team has to go.
“Sometimes it takes time to find out our identity,” Bradley said. “I know as a staff we’re going to dig deep to find out the things that we do best and we’ll emphasize those.”
The Jaguars know the issues with Gabbert, who threw a couple errant passes off his back foot under pressure, and expected a learning curve with a young receiving group that played without suspended receiver Justin Blackmon and tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf).
Maybe the most eye-opening part of Sunday’s debacle was the offensive line’s play.
Kansas City dominated Jacksonville’s line from the start, shutting down holes, shooting gaps and getting pressure from every angle.
“We’ve just got to be better up front. I’m going to say that,” Jaguars center Brad Meester said. “We’ve got to do a better of creating holes and a better job of protecting for Blaine. We just didn’t give him enough time back there. If we don’t create holes and give him time, we’re just not able to get first downs.”
Jacksonville’s only points came off a blocked punt. And not even that went right since the ball bounced through the end zone instead of getting recovered for a touchdown.
The offense advanced beyond its 36-yard line just twice in 15 series, and both of those came in garbage time.
“We’ll see how this year turns out,” Jones-Drew said. “No year is the same. It’s a loss. We didn’t play well as an offense. I don’t know as an offense if you can do much worse than we did today.”
The most telling sign for Jacksonville: Bryan Anger set a franchise record with 11 punts.
“We can’t punt that many times. It’s too many,” receiver Cecil Shorts III said. “The whole offense didn’t do a good job and we need to improve on that.”
The line was a glaring weakness.
Sure, Kansas City has some talented pass rushers. But the one thing Jacksonville was supposed to be able to do this season was run the ball and give Gabbert time in the pocket.
The Jaguars drafted right tackle Luke Joeckel second overall and felt good about the health of guards Uche Nwaneri and Will Rackley. But Joeckel struggled in his debut, and the middle of the line allowed steady pressure.
The result was Jacksonville’s ninth loss by at least 16 points in its past 17 games.
“You’ve got to give them credit, but we caused a lot of it,” Nwaneri said. “We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds. We have to execute better. I don’t think any of us imagined we’d have a situation like this today. It’s the first game of the season. It’s not what we wanted by any means. But all is not lost. We’ve got to go back to work.”