Close, but not close enough. The Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) showed tangible improvement in many areas in Sunday's 23-13 loss to the Denver Broncos, but it wasn't enough for the Jaguars to find a way to victory.
Even with the 10-point loss, though, the Jaguars still had a few individual performances worth praising. From Jamal Agnew and his electrifying kick return to James Robinson attempting to carry the Jaguars' offense on an otherwise miserable offensive day, we break it all down below.
Shipley: Marvin Jones gets the nod here, though it easily could go to James Robinson (despite the Jaguars' lack of commitment to giving him the ball). Instead, I give my offensive game ball to Marvin Jones Jr., who was the only Jaguars receiver who consistently produced on Sunday and provided a reliable target for Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence didn't do his receivers or tight ends any favors, but Laviska Shenault dropped two passes, Laquon Treadwell missed a deep shot, Tyron Johnson was partially to blame for an interception, and Luke Farrell dropped an easy three-yard pass. All in all, the Jaguars' skill group had a terrible day on Sunday ... outside of Jones.
Jones finished Sunday's game with six catches for 55 yards and one touchdown on 11 targets. That isn't a great yardage to targets ratio, but Jones was consistent and most of the incompletions that went his way were on Lawrence, whose accuracy worsened as the game dragged on. Jones did a good job of beating man coverage downfield and frequently offered Lawrence a safety blanket on a day in which little went right.
Hill: Through two games, James Robinson continues to be criminally underused. Part of that is because the Jaguars get in a hole and feel forced to throw. But when Robinson does get touches, he does nothing but produce. That was the case again on Sunday against the Broncos. On 11 carries, Robinson picked up 47 yards; 4.3 per carry, which are positive touches. He also proved himself valuable for quarterback Trevor Lawrence as a safety option. He posted three receptions for 17 yards. One was a designed throw out of the backfield, but Robinson also created separation in the middle of the field to get himself open for Lawrence as a last option.
Part of me feels like Sandra Bullock in the Blind Side watching this Jaguars offense the last two weeks—and especially versus the Broncos—asking for them to run the dang ball and do right by James Robinson. The reasoning for throwing makes sense. But it's hard to ignore how good things happen when the ball is in James Robinson's hands.
Shipley: Dawuane Smoot gets my nod here. Josh Allen and Shaquill Griffin were both considered, but Smoot was the Jaguars' best defender throughout the entire course of the game on Sunday. Smoot got the start at outside linebacker across from Allen and did his part to prove that the Jaguars made the right call in giving him expanded reps, with the veteran defensive lineman making several plays against both the run and the pass. On a day where the Broncos faced little resistance from the Jaguars, Smoot got legitimate penetration.
Smoot didn't record any tackles, but he was a dynamic pass-rusher who set a hard edge against the run. He recorded two quarterback hits and five pressures (per Pro Football Reference) in 23 pass-rush snaps, finishing the game as the Jaguars' most efficient and productive pass-rusher, even on a day where three other defenders recorded sacks.
Hill: Adam Gotsis was waiting for this day; the chance to tee off against his former team. And man did he do just that, finishing with two tackles, two quarterback hurries and a nine-yard sack. The sack set up a long second down and the Broncos eventually had to punt two plays later. He was a presence on the line as well, providing pressure to help others through.
Others, like Josh Allen. There are still strides to be made for Allen, the line and the defense as a whole. But we're seeing the defensive end hit a stride he really hasn't seen in a couple of years. The kind of play that made him a Top 10 pick out of Kentucky and a Pro-Bowler as a rookie. A lot of that has to do with the freedom he has in this 3-4 defense to play more on instinct on the edge. Against Denver, he finished with three tackles, a quarterback hurry and a 16-yard sack.
Shipley: Not to be captain obvious on this one, but is there anyone else who could get this ball outside of Jamal Agnew? Perhaps Logan Cooke, but Agnew's 102-yard kick return touchdown (the first Jaguars' kick return score since 2016) was simply electric and gave the Jaguars a small chance at making a comeback.
But the biggest reason that Agnew gets this game ball is because of the ineptness of the Jaguars' kicking game. Josh Lambo missed both of his field goal attempts to bring his season total to 0-for-3, and frankly neither kick was anywhere close to going through the uprights. Agnew turned his slow start to the season into a massive score that sent shockwaves throughout the stadium, but he gets some help from the Jaguars' other special teams failures.
Hill: After an offseason touting Jamal Agnew as the special teams superstar signing, I have been waiting to be dazzled. Through a game and a half, I had not been. So much so, that somewhere around the beginning of the fourth quarter, I made the comment to John Shipley that it'd be nice to see Agnew flash something. Just anything to prove why they signed him.
Within 10 minutes, be more than delivered. Special teams allow so few opportunities, so it's hard to remember at times that just three or four chances may come over a series of games, or at least halves. But late on Sunday, Agnew did in fact remind everyone why he's one of the best special teams returners in the league, bringing a kickoff out of the endzone and returning it 102 yards for a touchdown.
It wasn't just a special teams breakdown from Denver either, or a lucky break by Agnew. He read the coverage, made the right cut around midfield and turned on his speed to do the rest. It was a textbook return and an encouraging start to the Agnew era in Jacksonville.