Sunday, September 8, 2013
Jaguars' poor OL play a surprise
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For a while, it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars were headed for a record amount of offensive ineptitude. They had 49 yards in the first half and just 96 with fewer than three minutes remaining. They finished with 178.
They had only one trip past their own 36-yard line until their final drive.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed just 16-of-35 passes for 121 yards and threw two interceptions -- one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 45 yards on 10 carries and had only one run longer than 9 yards.
It was a horrible performance in the season opener and Gabbert will get much of the blame, but a good portion also should fall on the offensive line. That’s a surprise because the starting unit -- which includes 14-year veteran center Brad Meester and No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel -- was supposed to be a solid group. It’s the same group of starters (minus Joeckel) that paved the way for Jones-Drew’s NFL-leading 1,606 rushing yards in 2011.
But the group struggled to open holes and gave up six sacks, limiting the offense to just 2.5 yards per play. Granted, the Chiefs do have four Pro Bowlers on defense, including linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, who combined for 19 sacks last season, but Sunday’s performance was unacceptable.
"We’ve just got to better up front," Meester said. "I’m going to say that. We’ve got to do a better job of creating holes and we’ve just got to do a better job of protecting for Blaine and give him enough time back there. When we don’t create holes or give him the time we just aren’t able to get first downs.
"If we’re not able to run the ball, if we’re not able to create some holes, we’re getting ourselves in third-and-long and it gets tough. We’ve just got to do a better job up front. There’s no question about it."
It was a pretty rough debut for Joeckel, who twice got beat around the edge by Houston (three sacks). Head coach Gus Bradley said Joeckel may have gotten caught up in trying to do too much and missed assignments because of that. But Joeckel wasn’t the only one who struggled. Meester had some trouble with defensive tackle Dontari Poe (1.5 sacks) as well. In addition, guard Will Rackley sprained the same knee that he had injured during the Aug. 24 preseason game against Philadelphia.
Gabbert certainly didn’t play well. He threw short when Cecil Shorts was running a fly pattern on his first interception and the second came when he failed to get the ball over Hali, who picked it off and returned it 10 yards for the final touchdown.
He didn’t get much help from his receivers, either, who had five drops. The Chiefs also were able to take Shorts -- the team’s second-leading receiver last season and the No. 1 option now that Justin Blackmon is suspended for the first month -- out of the game until midway through the fourth quarter.
But the surprisingly uneven play up front was the biggest issue for the Jaguars, who had eight three-and-outs out of 15 possessions.
"I just never felt like we could get in a rhythm," Bradley said. "A lot of that credit goes to Kansas City. They have a good defense. We still have to find a way to execute. We had a couple of mishaps, a couple of dropped balls. Run game wasn’t as existent as we thought or hoped that it would be, so we just have to create a rhythm. We never really got in the flow of things."