When the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) dismantled the New York Jets (1-6) during a 29-15 victory at TIAA Bank Field during Week 8, the team created a good bit of momentum for itself on both sides of the ball.
On offense, they scored three touchdowns through the air as rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew made Jets safety Jamal Adams and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams look absolutely silly on more than a few occasions.
On defense, the Jaguars made Jets quarterback Sam Darnold miserable all day long. They recorded eight sacks and three interceptions and outside of two possessions the Jets scored touchdowns on, the Jaguars' defense stifled every single thing they were trying to do.
So on the day after the Jaguars got back to the .500 mark, what are some takeaways we can have from the game?
1) Gardner Minshew is getting better
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said it best himself during his postgame press conference: Gardner Minshew does not play like a sixth-round rookie. Against the Jets, he played like a seasoned veteran who has seen everything that Williams could possibly throw at him.
But most importantly, Minshew showed development. He struggled mightily in a loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 6 and then had an inconsistent game in a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. But on Sunday, he showed progression in a few of the areas he has struggled in, such as the ability to hang tough in the pocket and set his feet to make a throw against pressure and blitzes.
Minshew still has some things he has to work on, of course. He lost a fumble vs. the Jets, another instance of his issues at taking care of the ball in the pocket. But he also showed a giant step in his development en route to his first-ever three-touchdown performance. And for the Jaguars, that progress is nothing short of the most positive development possible.
2) Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen are already a special duo
Over the last six games, Jaguars defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen have combined for 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, 11 tackles for loss and an interception. Simply put, the fourth-year veteran and the rookie have been an unblockable duo.
This was extremely evident vs. the Jets on Sunday as the two combined for a staggering four sacks, half of the total sacks the Jaguars had on the day. From Ngakoue's quickness around the edge and ability to bend past the arc and get to the quarterback, to Allen's unreal combination of explosion and strength, there is nothing the two can't do to an offensive line.
It is unclear of Ngakoue will be on the Jaguars roster long-term, as he is in the last year of his rookie contract and thus far it appears there have been no progress in talks between him and the Jaguars. But the smart move would be to keep Ngakoue in the fold while Allen is on a rookie deal and let these two hunt down quarterbacks together for as long as possible.
3) Wide receiver group is running thin, but guys are stepping up
The Jaguars wide receiver group had question marks all over it coming into the season and through eight weeks, some of those questions still remain. The primary question at this point has to be depth, with the Jaguars seemingly landing one of their wide receivers on the injury report each week.
A good example of the lack of depth on the perimeter of Jacksonville's offense was during the second half of the game vs. the Jets. Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook each went down with injuries, leaving the Jaguars with only three active receivers. Amongst those receivers was Keelan Cole, who has only caught three passes all season.
But while the group took its bumps over the last two weeks (Lee missed the Bengals game with injury), players have stepped up. Cole has caught two of his passes in the last two games, each a touchdown. Veteran Chris Conley broke out of a three-week slump where he recorded only three passes and has now produced seven receptions for 186 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks.
The depth questions are going to remain throughout the second half of the season but in the last few weeks, players have answered the calls.
4) Leonard Fournette's frustration was understandable
Leonard Fournette was one-inch away from registering his second touchdown of the season yesterday. Frankly, he should have been given the score as it seemed like it was too quick of a whistle.
On the next play, the Jaguars called a toss play and Fournette lost seven yards. From a near score to a massive loss, it was a frustrating moment for Fournette and the whole team, as Marrone said after the game that he knew he should not have approved the play call.
After the play, Fournette could be seen walking off of the field with a great degree of frustration. He yelled toward the sideline and then proceeded to walk over to the bench while the offense remained on the field, scoring a touchdown via a eight-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark on the very next play.
While some criticized Fournette for becoming frustrated, it makes perfect sense that he was. He has had several touchdowns negated by referee decisions this season and only having one touchdown at the halfway mark can't sit well with him.
Combine that with the poor play call and the game situation (Jaguars leading only 22-15), and it makes sense why Fournette, who was routinely getting stuffed as a runner following his first carry going for 66 yards, got frustrated.
5) Todd Wash had some down moments, but he adjusted his scheme well
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash had two drives where he struggled to scheme against Darnold and Jets head coach Adam Gase. On each drive, he primarily rushed only four players and sat the rest of his defense back in soft zones.
Each drive led to touchdowns for the Jets and things looked far too easy for a quarterback who himself admitted he was "seeing ghosts," against the New England Patriots the week before.
But aside from those drives, Wash was in perhaps his best form of the season. He went outside of his comfort zone and called an abundance of blitzes, sending linebackers and defensive backs at Darnold from all angles. His ability to adapt during the game was the largest reason the Jaguars managed eight sacks and three turnovers, and despite his early struggles that deserves credit.