Rams 34, Jaguars 20: Postgame takeaways & observations

Ken Hornack takes a look at another Jaguars loss at the Rams, with no relief in sight.

Offensive linemen tend to not be mentioned during the course of an NFL telecast unless they’re giving up a sack or getting called for a penalty.

But there are worse things that can happen to them, as the Jacksonville Jaguars found out Sunday.

Luke Joeckel, the rookie who was moved from right tackle to left tackle last week after Eugene Monroe was traded to the Baltimore Ravens, had to get carted off with 3:35 to go in the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams with an injury to his right ankle.

The second overall pick in the draft was blocking on a running play when he crumpled to the turf after a defender rolled into his leg, with coach Gus Bradley saying in his postgame press conference that Joeckel will miss the remainder of the season because of a high ankle fracture.

The Jaguars were leading 7-0 at the time of the injury. On the very next play, Blaine Gabbert air-mailed a pass that was returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Rams defensive back Matt Giordano.

It was largely downhill from that point forward as the Jaguars saw their record fall to 0-5 with no immediate relief in sight.

Here are five observations from the 34-20 loss:

1. With Joeckel out, the offensive line is a patchwork mess.

Cameron Bradfield was regarded as the weakest link on a line which gave up 50 sacks in 2012. Austin Pasztor was on the inactive list a week ago against Indianapolis. But with the departure of Monroe and the loss of Joeckel, those were their tackles for the bulk of the game.

Already having serious problems moving the ball on the ground, the Jaguars seem destined to take their chances on Gabbert's fragile nature. He was shaken up on a sack in the second quarter, and while he didn’t miss any time because of that, an injury to his left hamstring later on caused him to be pulled in favor of Chad Henne.

Maurice Jones-Drew went over the 10,000-yard mark in yards from scrimmage for his career with a 20-yard run late in the first quarter. Excluding that play, he had only 17 yards on 11 carries through three quarters.  

2. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon had a huge impact in his return from a four-game suspension.

The Jaguars managed only a safety and two field goals before halftime through the first four weeks. But after opening the game with their 24th three-and-out of the season, Gabbert found Blackmon open in blown coverage and let him do the rest on a 67-yard scoring play.

Blackmon finished with five receptions for 136 yards despite all but disappearing during the second quarter. Aside from a 28-yard completion from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts III in the shadow of their own end zone, the Jaguars accomplished nothing on offense during a quarter in which they were outscored 17-0. Shorts' status for the game was in question because of a groin injury, but he hauled in a 4-yard pass from Henne with 10:22 remaining to cut the Rams’ lead to 27-20.  

3. Tight ends continue to give the defense fits.

Jared Cook, perhaps the Rams' biggest free-agent signing, was supposed to become the latest player at this position to have a field day at the Jaguars’ expense. Instead, that distinction went to Lance Kendricks, who had four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown by halftime.

Kendricks scored one play after a fumble by Clay Harbor, who started because Marcedes Lewis was inactive for the fourth time in five games because of a lingering calf injury. It was the fourth TD catch by a tight end against the Jaguars.

4. It's not a good sign when defensive end Jason Babin has more penalties (7) than sacks (2).

Maybe this is an instance of his reputation preceding him. Babin, who received a letter from the league last week following his late hit on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, was flagged early in the second quarter for unnecessary roughness at the end of Sam Bradford's completion to Cook. The penalty extended a drive which ended with a field goal that enabled the Rams to tie the score.

Tackle Sen'Derrick Marks had a sack and a tipped pass in the same series early on. Andre Branch was credited with the only other sack for a defense which failed to force a takeaway in more than 35 minutes on the field.

5. Why wasn't Ace Sanders returning punts all along?

The fourth-round pick out of South Carolina had an 88-yard return for a touchdown wiped out because of a questionable penalty against LaRoy Reynolds. Bradley didn't utilize Sanders in that capacity until a week ago, due in large part to a depleted receiving corps in the wake of Blackmon’s suspension.

The Jaguars also recorded their second blocked punt of the season, with Chris Prosinski doing the honors this time. Now if the defense can only force more punting situations …

Next up: at Denver. If Bradford can throw for three touchdowns with no interceptions against the Jaguars, how big of a game can Peyton Manning be expected to enjoy? On second thought, don't ask.

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

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