Jaguars observations: Costly turnovers provide tough lesson for Blake Bortles
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars can’t say they didn’t have their chances early on against the Miami Dolphins.
But a whopping advantage in total yards and time of possession was negated by three costly turnovers by Blake Bortles, who absorbed his toughest education yet on how life in the NFL can be for a rookie quarterback.
Bortles had two interceptions returned for touchdowns and also lost a fumble on a scramble with the Jaguars in field-goal range. He got away with being picked off three times a week earlier in a win over the Cleveland Browns, but the Dolphins weren’t about to squander these gifts.
"The defense is playing lights out," wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said. "They can only hold them down so much. We’ve got to do our part."
The Jaguars held the Dolphins to 56 yards in the first half, but a streak of 28 consecutive possessions without allowing a touchdown came to an end on Ryan Tannehill’s 3-yard pass to Rishard Matthews. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the defense was worn down and chants of "Let’s go Dolphins" could be heard in a stadium where the Jaguars have won just twice since Gus Bradley became their head coach.
Here are five observations from the 27-13 loss Sunday:
1. A costly loss along the offensive line.
Tackle Luke Joeckel was diagnosed during the first quarter with a concussion after being taken to the locker room. That meant the Jaguars had to go with another rookie in Josh Wells, one of three undrafted first-year players who made their opening-day roster.
Having Wells fill in for Joeckel didn’t result in a noticeable dropoff in the quality of blocking. But once the Jaguars fell behind by 14, they had to largely abandon a running game where Denard Robinson had rushed for 90 yards in the first two quarters.
Despite the change in strategy, Robinson became the first Jaguar since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011 to post consecutive 100-yard games. The Jaguars did not have a run all season of longer than 20 yards before Robinson’s 41-yard dash up the right sideline where safety Reshad Jones had to make a touchdown-saving tackle.
"I should have scored on that one," Robinson said. "I’m down on myself about that. I shouldn’t have gotten caught."
If Wells is going to continue to be teamed with center Luke Bowanko and right guard Brandon Linder up front, opposing teams are bound to try finding ways of taking advantage of their collective inexperience.
"At first there were a little bit of jitters and stuff," Wells said. "I think that’s normal. But once you get out there, it’s just football, it’s technique and the guy across from you, and finishing and playing hard."
2. And the sacks just keep on coming.
For the eighth time in as many games, the defense recorded at least two sacks. That was accomplished in the first quarter, with Ryan Davis and then Sen’Derrick Marks hauling down Tannehill.
Davis had another sack in the third quarter as he filled in for the injured Andre Branch even better than anticipated. The Jaguars went into the game with 22, second in the NFL to only the Buffalo Bills. Of those sacks, 10 came on third-down plays.
"All of us up front pride ourselves on being able to get after the quarterback," Davis said. "All I did was try to come in today and fill that role for my brother."
Chris Clemons had registered a sack in three consecutive games. He batted down a pass in the second quarter but saw his streak halted.
3. Josh Scobee: Far from automatic.
The Jaguars’ longtime kicker endured a rough first quarter. He had a 48-yard field goal blocked by Olivier Vernon, and his successful 46-yarder was wiped out because of a holding penalty against Abry Jones.
Scobee was also wide right on a 45-yarder in the second quarter, although he and the Jaguars caught a break when Dion Jordan was penalized for being offsides. It was Jordan’s first game for the Dolphins this season after serving a suspension for multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.
By the time Scobee made a 30-yard field goal to cap a 14-play drive that lasted more than eight minutes, the Jaguars had outgained the Dolphins 199-3 but still trailed 7-3.
"We’ve got to keep working at it because it’s just frustrating right now," said Scobee, who has had three field goals blocked this season.
4. Thomas shows promise.
J.T. Thomas acquitted himself well in his first start at middle linebacker in place of Paul Posluszny, the heart and soul of their defense. Posluszny was placed on the injured reserve list after tearing a pectoral muscle against the Browns.
"We played energetic," said Thomas, who had three solo tackles and assisted on three others. "We were enthused. Guys were on it, and we maintained that throughout the game."
Thomas’ day was highlighted by his interception in the end zone in fourth quarter. Tannehill’s pass had been tipped by Telvin Smith, the rookie from Florida State who came up with the Jaguars’ first interception in almost 26 quarters a week earlier.
Dekoda Watson made his first start of the season, replacing LaRoy Reynolds at an outside linebacker spot. Cornerback Dwayne Gratz, whose availability had been in doubt because of a sore hip flexor, was in the starting lineup for the injured Alan Ball. Gratz was beaten on a 50-yard completion to Mike Wallace in the third quarter.
5. Eight games, and still no touchdowns in third quarter.
Bortles had a passer rating of 1.7 in a quarter where he completed just three of 11 passes for 32 yards. The Jaguars managed to get a 40-yard field goal from Scobee, although they had to settle for that after Bortles’ third-and-3 pass intended for Allen Robinson was short-hopped.
The Jaguars have now been outscored 44-12 in the third quarter this season, with all their points coming on field goals.
Next up: Sunday at Cincinnati.