What’s Wrong With The Jacksonville Jaguars?
Jacksonville, FL — The short answer, injuries and quarterback play. At the core of Jacksonville’s struggles in the first half of the season is the lack of bodies to compete at a high level. Quarterback Blake Bortles was benched in the second half Jacksonville’s 20-7 loss to Houston for Cody Kessler, after completing 6-12 passes for 61 yards.
However, losing games highlights issues within a team’s fabric. Those issues boiled over after Sunday’s loss when the locker room doors were opened prematurely to allow the media to enter — defensive end Calais Campbell was seen restraining defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and players could be heard yelling and shouting.
“You all walk in here, you all see how it is in here, you all see how we vibe with each other, you all see how we vibe towards the coaches,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “You all see how it is. It is no secret what’s going on here right now. Ain’t nobody going to say it because we can’t, but it ain’t no secret what’s going on and it ain’t right, right now… It is what it is.”
Last year’s 10-6 Jags team reached the playoffs for the first time in ten years, en route to two playoff wins, almost reaching the Super Bowl due to a dominant defense, and leading the league in rushing. Those two facets of the game complement each other maybe more than any two facets of the game can. Also, an elite rushing attack masks sub-par quarterback play.
Due to the absence of running back Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville has the 23rd-ranked rushing attack averaging 98.6 yards per game. The trickle-down effect ensues as the passing game and defense are compromised. The Jags have been outscored 90-28 in their past three games and scored under ten points three times this season.
Last year the Jags stricken by injuries hard in the receiving corps, offensive line, and Fournette. They overcame them and reached to the playoffs.
2018 hasn’t been kind to Jacksonville. Starting in the preseason with their top receiver Marquise Lee going down. Then Fournette with his nagging hamstring injury causing him to miss five games thus far. Fournette is reported to be out until after the bye week. Also, running back Corey Grant is lost for the season, which led Jacksonville to sign veteran running back Jamaal Charles, and trading for running back Carlos Hyde.
Jaguars’ left tackle Cam Robinson is on the injured reserve (IR) list due to a knee injury. Also, Robinson’s back up Josh Wells was put on the IR due to a groin injury. The decimated offensive line forced the Jags to sign former first-round pick Ereck Flowers to provide depth. Flowers is considered a bust due to flaming out with the New York Giants.
One of the biggest needs for Jacksonville heading into the 2018 offseason was the tight end position. The Jags filled the void by signing veteran tight ends Niles Paul, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, Seferian-Jenkins is on IR with a core muscle injury, and Paul is on the IR with a knee injury. The Jags’ third-string tight-end, James O’Shaughnessy, couldn’t go against the Texans due to a hip injury. Due to all the injuries at tight end, Jacksonville opted to used six offensive linemen for over half of their plays in Sunday’s loss to Houston.
Bortles isn’t an elite quarterback, never was, and he never will be. 2017 was his best season as a pro with a career-high 60.2 percent completion percentage, and career-low 13 interceptions. After two playoff wins, and near Super Bowl appearance in 2017, the Jags rewarded Bortles with a new three-year $54 million contract ($26 million guaranteed).
After three seasons with Jacksonville, Bortles was regarded as a potential bust. However, the Jags took a different approach in 2017 by running the ball more and passing the ball less. However, due to the injuries, the Jaguars have sustained, the running game can’t mask the deficiencies of Bortles as the Jags have to pass more due to the lack of points.
Jacksonville’s 16.6 points per game is ranked 29th in the NFL, their lowest output since 2014 — Bortles’ first year with the organization.
Marrone saw enough of the Jags’ offense vs. Houston resulting in Bortles being benched.
“I just literally did it to try and get a damn spark from this football team to put everyone on notice. They have to focus and go out there and play better. At points in the second half, they did it. That’s not fair to the quarterback, but that’s how the business is.”
Marrone’s post-game presser led the media to believe there would be an open quarterback competition along with some other positions. But Jacksonville named Bortles the starter ahead of their annual trip to London vs. the Eagles.
“I spoke to both quarterbacks this afternoon and told them that Blake will be our team’s starting quarterback,” Marrone said in a statement. “I believe this gives us the best opportunity to win.”
Jacksonville giving Bortles a three-year deal opposed to five or six years is telling. They can part ways with the quarterback after the 2019 season with no repercussions. However, if Bortles keeps playing poorly things will get interesting. If the Jags want to part ways sooner than later, it’ll cost them around $16.5 million against the cap.
In Bortles’ defense, the receiving corps has been less than spectacular. They’ve dropped more than their fair share of passes, can’t seem to separate, and strike fear into no opposing defenses.
What Does Jacksonville Need To Do?
- Beat Philly
- Get Healthy
- Run The Ball
- Fix The Passing Game
Those things are easier said than done. It starts this week in London where Jacksonville will take on the defending Super Bowl Champions. Philadelphia comes into London pissed off after surrounding a 17-point lead to the Carolina Panthers. Due to the state each teams divisions, Sunday’s matchup is almost a “must-win” game heading into the bye week. Jacksonville must win on Sunday by any means necessary even it’s 2-0.
After the Jags win in London bringing their record to .500, they must get healthy with the help of the bye week. Most notably, Fournette to get the rushing attack back on track. The addition of Hyde helps. Fournette and Hyde will provide a two-headed monster at running back allowing the Jags to get back to what they want to do.
Lastly, the Jaguars must fix the passing game. A renewed ground attack will help, but Bortles must be better, receivers must catch the ball more consistently, and create separation. Jacksonville may look to more help on offense via trade for another receiver, tight end, and offensive tackle.