- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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Defensive pressure: This isn’t about the team’s pass rush. It’s about the pressure the defense is under to keep the team in games. Until the offense gets healthy and receiver Justin Blackmon returns, the Jaguars are going to struggle to move the ball with any consistency. That means the defense has no margin for error. The unit can’t commit penalties that result in first downs. It can’t blow a coverage and give up a big play down the field. It has to play nearly flawless football, which is tough for even elite defenses. The Jaguars were unable to do that against the Raiders, mainly in the running game. Darren McFadden rushed for 129 yards, and three players had runs of at least 27 yards. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was able to get loose a few times, and his biggest gain of 27 yards came when defensive end Jason Babin got caught inside. This is an unfair burden for the defense to carry every week, and there’s no guarantee it won’t have to do it even when the offense is at full strength.
Concern about MJD: Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a left ankle sprain in the second quarter and did not return to the game. But he didn’t look great before his injury. Some of it was due to the Raiders keying on stopping the run, but Jones-Drew doesn’t look like the same player who led the league in rushing in 2011. He is coming off a foot injury that cost him the final 10 games of the 2012 season, but he has said he’s completely healthy. He just doesn’t seem to have the same burst. Jones-Drew has rushed for only 72 yards on 25 carries, and his 2.9 yards per carry is well below his career average of 4.6. The offensive line hasn’t played great, especially up the middle, so that’s a factor as well.
No Ace in the hole: The Jaguars drafted Ace Sanders to be the team’s punt returner, but he hasn’t fielded one in the first two regular-season games. Instead, it has been cornerback Will Blackmon. The reasoning for the first week was that Sanders was playing so much on offense that they didn’t want to burden him with return duties. But Blackmon started against the Raiders in place of Dwayne Gratz (high ankle sprain) and still went back to return all four of the Raiders’ punts. Sanders finally made an impact on offense (five catches for 64 yards, including a 30-yard reception) but the team obviously feels better with the experienced Blackmon as the returner.
Uneasy Joeckel: No. 2 overall draft pick Luke Joeckel had trouble for the second consecutive week. He committed two false-start penalties on the Jaguars’ lone touchdown drive in the fourth, and just doesn’t look comfortable. Twice he appeared to miss assignments on blitzes. It’s not easy playing tackle in the NFL, but the expectations are high for the player many thought would be the No. 1 overall pick.
An examination of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 19-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders:Defensive pressure: This isn’t about the team’s pass rush.