So now what?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are running out of options. It’s not that they haven’t tried different things to end their losing ways. A couple weeks ago, head coach Doug Marrone said the team was going back to the basics, the fundamentals in their daily practices, with the hope of improving their production. It didn’t help.
Last week, defensive captain Calais Campbell called a players-only meeting where players were given a chance to voice their displeasures, their concerns, their thoughts about how the team could get better. It didn’t help.
The latest fall-back measure that the Jaguars are hoping will work? Bye week. Jacksonville is off this week which means it can’t add to its current four-game losing streak.
Only time will tell if four days of rest will help this dysfunctional team, a group that is as perplexed as the coaching staff, as the front office personnel, as the fans are. It probably is in everyone’s best interest that the players scatter out of town for several days. The negativity that permeates throughout the city via radio talk shows, print media and TV analysis has been overwhelming and is growing with each loss.
As to the state of mind of the locker room, defensive tackle Malik Jackson said the bye week timing is good.
“We’re happy to have a bye week right now,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot going on around here, things have not been going our way. We need to get out of here mentally and just re-boot. I’m not worried about the team, I think everyone is responsible, everyone is a pro. I think everyone understands what we need to do, where we need to be. We just have to get it done.”
A year ago at the halfway point of the season, the Jaguars record was 5-3 and they were in the middle of a 4-game winning streak, on their way to a 10-6 season and berth in the playoffs. What has everyone mystified is that there have been relatively few changes in the starting lineup this year from the 2017 group. There were two changes on the offense – guard Andrew Norwell and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins are new starters this season. Defensively, the only change was to replace veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny with rookie Leon Jacobs. That means 19 of last year’s starters were back in the starting lineup this year.
But start factoring in injuries and this year’s Jaguars team takes on a whole different look. Four offensive starters – WR Marqise Lee, OT Cam Robinson, TE Seferian-Jenkins and RB Leonard Fournette – are either out for the season or have missed considerable playing time. Defensively, the Jaguars have escaped without serious injury problems. The only starter who has missed any games is cornerback A.J. Bouye who sat out last Sunday’s contest against Philadelphia. Otherwise, the Jaguars defense has stayed intact.
So where does the blame fall for the 4-game skid? Ask head coach Doug Marrone and he’ll point his finger at one person – himself.
“I’ve done a poor job communicating,” Marrone said Monday afternoon. “I think if anyone is going to look at the team and why the team is doing poorly, the first person they have to look at is me. I’m not trying to be a martyr, I’m not trying to be a shield or anything like that. I just really believe that I haven’t done a good enough job for whatever reason to get everyone’s mind in the right place. And that does start with me.
“I’m working on evaluating myself first. Where is this team that everyone believed in? Right now my thought process is I’m not getting the job done and it starts with me. So I’m looking at myself first before I start looking down the line, at the players, the coaches and everything else that’s going around.”
One phase of the Jaguars offense that has been perplexing is the team’s penchant to discard the running game and go heavy – real heavy in the second half of last week’s game – with a passing attack. The Jaguars called for a passing play on 39 of 41 second half plays from scrimmage. Certainly not all 41 plays warranted a pass. Six times, the Jaguars needed either 1 or 2 yards for a first down and on all six occasions, they called for a pass. The result? Quarterback Blake Bortles was 0-for-5 and on the sixth play, he couldn’t find a receiver and scrambled 4 yards for the first down.
“We thought the best way for us to move the football was to throw it,” the Jaguars coach said. “But those are things that you look back on at, and it’s ‘can we do a better job of that [calling plays]?’ Absolutely.”
What’s surprising, is that with power-running back Leonard Fournette having missed four straight games, the Jaguars went out and traded for the Cleveland Brown’s top running back, 240-pounder Carlos Hyde. Hyde had just six carries against the Eagles and gained but 11 yards. Marrone said the team has confidence in Hyde to be a strong runner and fit into the team’s offensive game plan.
“We’ve got to do a good job getting him involved, getting him comfortable with the system,” Marrone said. “I think Carlos is going to be able to give us a boost here in the second half.”
What would give the Jaguars a bigger boost is to get some of the injured players back on the field. Fournette continues to be plagued by a sore hamstring and has now played in just two quarters of two Jaguars games thus far. Bouye was missed in the secondary as Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz went after undrafted rookie free agents Quenton Meeks and Tre Herndon who alternated at Bouye’s cornerback spot or filled in as a nickel back. Marrone hesitated to declare that either player would be ready to go for the Jaguars next game at Indianapolis following their bye week this Sunday.
“I won’t know until we get later in the week,” Marrone said. “Until I see them [running around in practice], everything to me is questionable.”
And at the halfway point of the season, that also applies to the Jaguars season thus far and for the remaining eight games – questionable.
--CB Quenton Meeks who earned his first NFL start in the Philadelphis game, suffered a sprained knee and was seen with a brace on his leg and walking with crutches in the Jaguars locker room on Monday.
--PK Josh Lambo attempted his first field goal in four games on Sunday. After not attempting a FG try in the last three games, Lambo converted on all four of his field goal tries against the Eagles. He now holds the franchise record of 23 consecutive field goals made.
--CB Jalen Ramsey grabbed his first interception of the season with a first-quarter grab of a Carson Wentz pass in the end zone. Last year Ramsey had four INTs en route to a Pro Bowl season.
--QB Blake Bortles was 16-of-22 for 175 yards in the first three quarters, then hit on just 8-of-19 for 111 yards in the last 15 minutes. The 58.5 percent completion for the game marked the fourth straight game and the fifth this season that Bortles had failed to complete 60 percent of his passes.
--WR Dede Westbrook had the Jaguars’ longest punt return of the season with a return of 24 yards to set up one of Lambo’s four field goals.
--P Logan Cooke was strong on his two punts against the Eagles. His first kick traveled 51 yards and the second went 45 before rolling out of bounds on the 5-yard line.
--WR D.J. Chark had four receptions for the second week in a row and has gained 72 yards in those eight catches. In his first six games, Chark had four receptions for 87 yards.
--DE Lerentee McCray and captain of the special teams this year, suffered a hamstring injury in the game and did not return.