Through 30 minutes of play in Philly, Gus Bradley’s Jacksonville Jaguars looked ahead of schedule in terms of what seems to be the team’s perpetual rebuilding job.
Allen Hurns, the undrafted free agent wideout from UM who impressed like no one during the preseason, caught TDs on his first two regular-season receptions (the only other player to do that: former Detroit Lions washout wideout Charles Rogers, a high first-round pick who embodied that coded phrase “talented but troubled”). Chad Henne, meanwhile, threw those passes and looked sharp, finding holes in the Philly defense, and looking like the quarterback the Dolphins drafted a few years back. And the Jags’ defense? To quote Gomer Pyle: “Goooolllllllee.” Nick Foles came into the game on the heels of a regular season with four turnovers — two picks and two fumbles. The Jags got him to fumble twice in the first 30 minutes and also picked him off. They looked like the Seattle Seahawks.
But it wasn’t to last. It never really seems to when it comes to the Jags. They, of course, reverted to type in the second half.
Henne came out after halftime tentative, unable to adjust to overcome the Eagles’ halftime adjustments (which involved finding holes in that sieve the Jags call an offensive line and ensuring that Hurns was hit whenever Henne looked for him deep). The Jags had no defensive answer for Chip Kelly’s latest toy, the dangerous scatback Darren Sproles. Very quickly, that 17-0 halftime lead that had all of you hopeful was gone.
A 34-17 loss looks bad, yes. The Eagles covered, yes. And we are reminded, yet again, that the Jags’ roster is a work in progress and that Chad Henne is not the future of the franchise. But in terms of possible outcomes yesterday, it should be said that a solid half of football, in which the Jags dominated one of the best teams in the NFC on its own field, is a positive worthy of note.
Consider this: the Jags took the field with three rookie wideouts, a big question mark at center, and no real expectation of victory. At backup tailback (a position that mattered a lot more when Toby Gerhart got hurt in the first half), the Jags had Denard Robinson. A dynamic talent, yes, but as a running back, a definite work in progress.
Thus begins Year 2 of the Gus Bradley era. Another year of taking the long view — all the smart football people claim this will be a three-year rebuild for the Jags. The second half in Philly was not pretty at all, and it’s tempting for those sitting at home to want to throw Bortles out there and see what he can do. There will be time for that, soon enough — Henne won’t survive 16 games behind that line, especially with a tape of what Philly did in the second half. For now, though, we watch and wait. With the ragtag Washington Racistnames, who were bounced by Houston yesterday, next on the schedule, the Jags may be able to steal a victory and take a .500 record into their home opener in Week 3.