Jaguars observations: A tale of two halves in season-opening loss

Chad Henne completed 24 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns.

Eric Hartline/Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For one half Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars were turning heads from coast to coast and turning the notoriously fickle fans of the Philadelphia Eagles into an unhappier bunch than usual.

But the final 30 minutes were a painful reminder of the importance of cashing in on early opportunities and finishing what they started.

Sure, the decision by the Jaguars to go on fourth down and less than a yard to go from their 29 in the fourth quarter will be second-guessed. By the time Chad Henne’s floater went off the fingertips of tight end Marcedes Lewis, however, the Eagles had seized control of a game which they were supposed to win with relative ease.

The phenomenal first quarter by rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns and several other positives from the early going were long forgotten as the Jaguars began to resemble the team which got off to an 0-8 start a year ago.

Here are five more takeaways and observations from the 34-17 loss to the Eagles:

1. For one half, this was a pass rush to be reckoned with.

The Jaguars forced a pair of turnovers in the first quarter with sacks of Nick Foles — one by Chris Clemons, the other by Andre Branch. By halftime, they had five sacks in all.

And with right guard Evan Mathis, the Eagles’ best offensive lineman, needing to be helped off the field in the second quarter with an injury to his left leg, it wasn’t unreasonable to wonder whether Foles would be able to hold up under the repeated pounding.

Jaguars vs. Eagles

Instead, Foles was able to buy time and find his receivers, particularly wideout Riley Cooper and tight end Zach Ertz. It was a 25-yard touchdown pass down the middle to Ertz a little more than midway through the third quarter which brought the Eagles within a single possession of the lead.

Ryan Davis had perhaps the best first half of anyone on the defensive line with two sacks and a fumble recovery. But the defense wore down from having to be on the field for so long during a second half in which it gave up 291 yards. An offense which failed to convert any of its first nine third-down opportunities helped contribute to that fatigue.

2. Johnathan Cyprien is a hard guy to replace.

A compelling argument can be made that the game changed with 2:21 to go before halftime and the Jaguars leading 17-0 and seemingly in full control.

After Foles’ long pass for Cooper fell incomplete, Cyprien fell backward and landed with the back of his helmet striking the turf. Although the second-year strong safety was able to get on his feet after a few minutes and walk off under his own power, he was diagnosed with a concussion and never returned to the game

Josh Evans, who spent the bulk of the preseason backing up free safety Winston Guy, took over for Cyprien and looked out of his element. Both Evans and Guy were among the defensive players who appeared confused prior to the snap on a fourth-and-1 play that the Eagles converted into a 49-yard touchdown run by Darren Sproles. Cornerback Alan Ball was the only Jaguar with a chance to catch him after Sproles broke through the first line of defense.

3. The problems along the offensive line have yet to be rectified.

When left guard Zane Beadles was beaten on a sack that the Eagles turned into an insurance TD by 300-pound defensive end Fletcher Cox, it was the capper on a lousy afternoon for perhaps the spottiest area of the Jaguars.

Cheerleader gallery

Henne was under repeated pressure well before that play, although the Jaguars caught a break when a fumble from an earlier sack rolled harmlessly out of bounds. In addition to the breakdowns in pass protection, the running game never got rolling. Toby Gerhart finished with only 42 yards on 18 carries with a long gain of 11.

And while no one should be clamoring for the return of Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon’s first start at center included several glitches. He was penalized for what was called "a snap infraction" during the first quarter, and Henne had to jump to keep a few snaps in the shotgun formation from going over his head.

4. Hurns has become their go-to receiver, largely out of necessity.

Not since Bobby Johnson of the New York Giants in 1984 had an undrafted rookie caught two touchdown passes in a Week 1 game. And both of Hurns’ scores came on his first two catches.

But after becoming the first Jaguars player to go over 100 yards in receptions since Justin Blackmon at Denver in Week 6 last year, Hurns had just one catch for nine yards in the final three quarters. That’s something which should be a concern to more than just people taking part in fantasy leagues.

Marqise Lee ended up tying Lewis for the team lead in receptions with six. The Jaguars’ other second-round pick, Allen Robinson, was thrown to just once in his first game after sitting out the entire preseason with a hamstring injury.

If Cecil Shorts III continues to miss time because of his hamstring problems, opposing secondaries will dare the Jaguars to beat them with their rookies.

5. Josh Scobee is no longer ailing, but no longer automatic.

Scobee’s 49-yard field goal early in the second quarter seemed to put an end to the worries about a sore quad in his kicking leg. But a kicker who missed only two field goals all of last season wasn’t so reliable before halftime.

The Jaguars squandered chances to pad their 17-point lead when Scobee was wide right on a 50-yard attempt and had a 36-yarder blocked.

Next up: Sunday at Washington.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.