Three things we learned in the Jags season opener

Myles Jack runs a pass interception for a touchdown in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ season opener against the New York Giants. Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

By Dustin Fletcher |

Leonard Fournette is the real dealYeldon fills in well

Leonard Fournette came into the pre-season in great shape and dropped nearly 20 pounds from last season. This showed in a solid season debut. After putting together a solid rookie season in which he totaled 1,040 yards rushing in just 13 games, Fournette picked up where he left off against the Giants defense. He carried the ball nine times in the first half for a total of 41 yards.

A common target for running backs is to average around four yards per carry, so Fournette was right on target. One cause for concern, however is the fact that he left in the first half with a hamstring injury. This has been a recurring injury, so fans will hold their breath and hope it’s not serious. After leaving, he did not return to the game. The injury report later in the week will provide updates, so fans will be holding their breath for the preliminary report on Wednesday.

T.J. Yeldon was effective in the backup role and had the lone offensive touchdown of the game for the Jaguars, which is a good thing to see for the former UCLA half back.  

Defense could win a championship 

After a fantastic 2017, the Jags’ defense picked up right where they left off and did what they do best. Win football games. This Jaguars team won 10 regular season games last year and came within plays and a bad call of a Super Bowl appearance last year. In Week 1 against a new and improved Giants offense, Jacksonville passed the test with flying colors. With a healthy Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. along with a second overall pick named Saquon Barkley in at running back, this unit looked very different than last year.

In front of the revamped skill position players was an improved offensive line with free agent signing Nate Solder from New England in the offseason and second-round pick Will Hernandez at guard, as well as returning star Evan Engram at tight end, this unit was potentially a lethal one. Saquon Barkley rushed for 108 yards, which at first glance does not look good. However, when you look at the box score, it does not show that one carry was for 68 yards and the other 17 combined for a total of 40. That works out to 2.35 yards per carry. Not such a bad run defense.

The strength of this defense is their ability to rush the passer and make throwing tough for any quarterback. This defense led the league in quarterback sacks and knockdowns just last year, and came through hitting Eli Manning six times, with two of them being sacks. The defense also scored a touchdown off of a 32-yard interception return by linebacker Myles Jack. If this defense can continue to pressure the quarterback, stop the run, score some points, and have All Pro corners A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey continue to do their jobs, this defense might just bring home a championship someday. 

Bortles shows minor improvement from 2017 

Let me start by saying this: Blake Bortles did not look bad in the season opener by any means. This is a quarterback with an average Quarterback Rating who is known for making bad decisions and being a proficient scrambler. He is 4th all time for a quarterback on the yards per rush list. He did make a few questionable throws such as the underthrown cross to Keelan Cole in the end zone in the 2nd quarter. He was lucky not to be intercepted there.

However, he also made some incredible throws such as the one to tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins in the 2nd quarter which was unfortunately called back for a penalty. This is a team that is going to hammer the ball up the middle on running plays and grind out physical wins, and just asks a quarterback like Bortles to not turn the ball over.

Earlier this week in a press conference, Head Coach Doug Marrone challenged Blake Bortles to not turn the ball over at all this season. While that is unreasonable, keeping turnovers at a minimum is a must. Receiving yards may be hard to come by this year. Bortles did not even break 200. The Giants do not have a great run defense, but better run defenses will force the ball to be thrown.

There were signs of life and bright spots such as the 37-yard crossing route to last year’s leading receiver Keelan Cole, but it was not quite the display we hoped to see after the preseason and strong camp from Bortles. One trap the Jags must not fall into is becoming too one dimensional and not throwing the ball often or effectively enough.

There was a point in the second half, after Fournette had left the game, where there were nine straight punts. While that can be expected for the Jags defense to do this to the Giants offense, a serious Super Bowl contender cannot play with that level of offense. The offense must do better in coming weeks, but a win is a win, and no one can complain about that. This is the first step of the hopeful road to the Super Bowl.  

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