Instant analysis from Jacksonville’s Week 1 loss to the Houston Texans

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A new coat of paint, the same old Jaguars.

Jacksonville was favored in its season opener against the Houston Texans, but the team floundered and Houston soured the debut of coach Urban Meyer and first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence. On the road, the Jags lost 37-21.

It wasn’t a particularly sharp first start for Lawrence, and the defense doesn’t appear to have improved much from a year ago despite a lot of effort and money being put into shoring up that side of the ball this offseason. The Jaguars were thoroughly dominated in all aspects of the game, and they have a lot to figure out this week ahead of the home opener against the Denver Broncos.

If Jacksonville wants to avoid an early-season tilt, it will have to find a way to play much, much better than it did on Sunday. Here are some general thoughts on the performance and some specific notes.

A rookie quarterback playing like a rookie quarterback

Lawrence had about as up and down a debut as you could imagine from a rookie passer. His good moments were undeniably good, but mistakes marred the performance, and he finished 28 of 51 for 332 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.

A 27-yard pass to D.J. Chark Jr. set it up, and the drive was capped off with a 22-yard score through the air to Chris Manhertz. But Lawrence couldn’t avoid mistakes forever.

He threw three interceptions in the game, the first coming on an ill-advised pass toward the middle of the field while rolling to his left. The following two interceptions were much worse, as Lawrence didn’t see defenders and threw it right to them.

Lawrence was able to build some confidence in garbage time, throwing a 41-yard touchdown to Chark and a four-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones Jr. with less than 10 seconds remaining, but he has a lot of work to do moving forward.

However, he didn’t have a lot of help, either. There were several dropped passes, and the run support was almost non-existent. Carlos Hyde saw the most carries, and though he and James Robinson had good averages, they only totaled 44 and 25 yards, respectively, as the team ran the ball just 16 times.

The defense is still a problem

Many thought that Jacksonville’s litany of improvements to the defense this offseason would result in a stouter unit this year. Through one game, though, that appears to have been a miscalculation. This group is still struggling tremendously.

They were torched by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who had 291 yards (132 of which went to Brandin Cooks) and two scores through the air to go with 41 yards on the ground. Though he only ran the ball three times, he was able to extend a lot of plays with his legs as the Jaguars lost containment. K’Lavon Chaisson struggled particularly and missed several sack opportunities as he finished with just two tackles.

The Texans tried much harder to establish the run than the Jaguars did, attempting to run 41 times. Lead back Mark Ingram only had 85 yards on 26 carries, but he did find the end zone.

The run defense is an issue, and Jacksonville only had three tackles for loss (one each for Myles Jack, Josh Allen, and Jenkins). But the secondary seems to be a much bigger concern.

Houston had open receivers all game, Taylor took advantage. He was only sacked once, courtesy of Allen, giving him time to survey the field and exploit weaknesses in the defensive backfield. If Taylor can do that, it’s scary to imagine what the league’s top quarterbacks would do.

Other notes

  • Chark bounced back from some drops with his big touchdown, but it still was a disappointing game for him. Despite being targeted 12 times, he only came down with three catches for 86 yards. Jones was Lawrence’s favorite preseason target, and that seems to have carried over to the regular season, as he had five catches for 77 yards and the score. The team tried to involve Laviska Shenault Jr., but he was mostly targeted in the flat and had 50 yards on seven catches.

  • Manhertz proved why he impressed the staff this offseason when he caught the first touchdown of Lawrence’s career. Primarily a blocker to this point in his career, he could see a big role this season. James O’Shaughnessy, meanwhile, had six catches for 48 yards but had a couple of drops.

  • The offensive line was alright in pass protection, but it made a lot of mistakes, as well, getting called for four holding penalties. Jawaan Taylor had two, and he was penalized on the same play as his counterpart Cam Robinson. Jacksonville will need better play from its tackles moving forward.

  • The Jags’ athletic linebacker duo of Jack and Damien Wilson looked a bit slow in coverage. Jack led the team in tackles with nine while Wilson had seven, but they struggled in coverage at times and didn’t match up particularly well with Houston tight end Pharaoh Brown, who had four catches for 67 yards.

  • The decision to keep Andrew Wingard on the roster remains a bit puzzling. He’s the weak link in the secondary, and one would have to think Andre Cisco gives the unit more potential. Cisco made one tackle in comparison to Wingard’s five, but expect him to see more time next week, especially if Wingard continues to give up big plays. Jenkins and Shaquill Griffin didn’t play particularly well, either, and Tyson Campbell didn’t make much of an impact despite being active, so this unit has problems outside of Wingard, as well.

  • Jacksonville looked very sloppy and made a lot of mistakes, being penalized 10 times for 82 yards, including several illegal formation and substitution penalties. The Jags were slow to sub in players defensively, and they had to burn two early timeouts in the first half to save the team from delay of game penalties. Meyer’s first game as an NFL coach didn’t do much to silence criticism about his aptitude at the next level.