I’ve got to be honest with you, Duval Faithful: I feel like a fool for not seeing the letdown coming.
I was drawn in and impressed by what the offense had shown against the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, and I was confident that the Miami Dolphins just would not be able to keep the Jacksonville Jaguars offense from scoring with relative ease. But alas, that’s why they play the games.
Football is unpredictable. Impossible-to-quantify variables like momentum, confidence and rhythm have an enormous impact. It took me awhile to write this article; I’ll be better next week. Promise. Hopefully, the Jaguars can say the same?
Thursday night was a chance to make a statement. A statement to the league, the fans and the media that this team, albeit young and unheralded, is a team that expects to win.
Well, a statement was made; just not the one the team was hoping for.
So, let’s take a look at What Went Right, What Went Wrong and WTF in a crushing defeat in front of all of America.
What Went Right
UDFA James Robinson isn’t just a flash in the pan. He is a legitimate NFL caliber running back. On Thursday, he was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreadful offense. Despite only 11 carries in an offense that never really got remotely in sync, he still managed to average north of 4 yards per carry. With the receiver arsenal missing its alpha in DJ Chark, combined with Chris Conley having the roughest outing in his stint in Jacksonville, it was Robinson who proved to be the most effective pass catcher. His six receptions for 83 yards put him well over the century mark on the day. Three weeks into the season, the coaching staff has to be thrilled with consistency they are getting from Robinson.
And… That’s it. Nothing else is deserving of being praised. NOT GREAT, FOLKS. NOT GREAT.
What Went Wrong
Converting third downs had been instrumental in the offense’s ability to keep things close. That came to a grinding halt against a not-great Miami defense. Whether it was the quick turnaround, lack of preparation, the absence of the offense’s brightest star, or even primetime jitters, this offense, including quarterback Gardner Minshew, just didn’t find success on third downs. Converting at the rate they were in the first two weeks was always going to be unsustainable, but 30% simply isn’t going to get the job done.
Where was the balance on offense? As discussed above, the running game has been one of the bright spots for this Jaguars offense. Giving a very efficient and consistent back just 11 carries was a mistake. The game wasn’t out of hand early on. It got that way in a hurry, as the offense stalled in the passing game and the rushing attack was just abandoned. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has acknowledged the game plan wasn’t great and he didn’t do enough to help Minshew. The days of the Jaguars being a run-first team are in the past, but the ratio cannot be as lopsided as it was against the Dolphins.
Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash’s inability to prepare this defense to an even halfway-respectable level. The mark of a good coach is one who can adapt his scheme to the ever-changing personnel available. Wash hasn’t done that. Not even a little bit. Receivers are running wide open through the zones and getting chunk plays on uncontested catches. Despite the pass rush being one of the least effective in the NFL, Wash dials up less blitzes than the majority of the league. Three straight games have been started with opposing teams marching down the field for easy touchdowns. Also, why is Doug Marrone still choosing to defer? The definition of insanity has been summarized by trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Go Jaguars, I guess.
For all the talk about the receiver group being a strength on this offense, they sure looked pretty harmless sans DJ Chark. Chark is the Jaguars’ best offensive player. Honestly, he might be their best player, period. He draws a ton of attention from opposing defenses and helps open the field up for everyone else. Still, Chris Conley must be better than he was Thursday night to continue taking snaps away from either Laviska Shenault or Collin Johnson. Keelan Cole is having a bit of a resurgence this season, but he should never be the #1 guy in the pass game. This unit is better than they played Thursday, but many, myself included, underestimated just how large an impact Chark has on the overall game.
The collapse in primetime is just so… Jaguars. I don’t want to hear any Jaguars media, players or fans complaining about the Jaguars’ lack of primetime games anymore. The national narrative around this team is nearly always a jaded and misinformed opinion. To gain respect, and those primetime game slots, the Jaguars have to earn it in a big way. On paper, even without Chark, there is no reason for the game to be the dumpster fire it was. They were favored, and picked almost unanimously, for good reason. The Jaguars are a more talented team than the Miami Dolphins. All they did was reinforce negative beliefs around this team. In my Season Outlook, I stated this team had to get off to a fast start to stay in the hunt into the later stages of the season. Losing this game hurt those chances significantly.
The Jaguars play the Cincinnati Bengals, led by former Heisman Trophy winner and first-overall pick Joe Burrow on Sunday. Burrow was sacked EIGHT TIMES in his last outing. They also are not a very good football team. It may only be Week 4, but this is as critical of a game as it gets for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Another poor showing against a bad football team could send this season off the rails.
A bounce-back victory restores some hope and optimism around this team, this coaching staff, and most importantly, this quarterback.
Stay tuned for my preview of the game tomorrow to find out which way I see it headed, Duval Faithful. As always, thank you for your support. Check out the great content all across NZI and support the talented group of writers represented across all 32 NFL franchises.