The Jaguars fell to the Bengals yesterday by a score of 33-25. After a third straight loss — and a second consecutive defeat at the hands of a previously winless team — I wrestled with the idea of sitting down and type out a typical game recap. Instead, I'll just take a look at what went wrong for the Jaguars. Sure, there are plenty of talented young pieces here and blah, blah, blah. Today, there's no reason to look at the bright side. The Jaguars are 1-3 and just lost to one of the worst teams in football.
The Third Quarter
This was the first game of the year in which the Jaguars did not fall behind the eight-ball early. In fact, they went into halftime with a 13-10 lead. But then the third quarter happened. The Jaguars were outclassed on both sides of the ball for the 15 minutes following the half time break, when the Bengals outscored them 17-0. The team looked unprepared to compete on both sides of the ball, and that ultimately cost them the game. The Jags outpaced the Bengals 25-16 throughout the rest of the ball game, but a lack of discipline on defense, a lack of execution on offense, and poor coaching did them in for that fateful 15-minute span.
In looking back at this contest, I'd be remiss in not mentioning the injuries. The Jaguars lost their top cover man, rookie cornerback CJ Henderson, after the game's first drive. His coverage ability was certainly missed, but even more, his ability to position himself to make tackles in the open field. His replacement, rookie seventh-round pick Chris Claybrooks, was the main culprit that led to two long runs to the outside for the Bengals to start the third quarter. Claybrooks did not hold the edge and allowed Giovani Bernard to race past him early in the drive. The Bengals went back to the well just two plays later, and Joe Mixon outraced the entire Jaguars' defense to the end zone. The Jaguars also lost Myles Jack early in the third quarter, who would have helped them slow down Mixon and co. in the second half. Several other Jaguars' players missed periods throughout the game, but not having CJ Henderson and Myles Jack in the second half greatly hurt the Jaguars' ability to stop the run and the pass.
A New (Old) Defensive Issue
Prior to yesterday, the Jaguars had been stout, for the most part, against the run in 2020. Injuries played their part in the struggles against the run yesterday, but mental mistakes were the most significant issue. Plays were there to be made, but the Jaguars' defenders simply didn't get the job done, especially in that third quarter. In total, they gave up 205 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to Cincy. A lot has to go wrong to give up that many rushing yards in a game. Prior to week four, the Jaguars had allowed no more than four yards per rush in a game in 2020, but they surrendered six yards per carry to the Bengals. It's a frightening development, as the Jaguars struggled mightily to defend the run for much of the previous two seasons.
Struggles for Minshew After the Break
This one ties into the third quarter struggled I mentioned before, but I wanted to dive deeper into the quarterbacking struggles from Q3. Gardner Minshew played a decent game overall. Like most of the team, he played well in three of the four quarters. But to open up the third quarter, he didn't look himself. After James Robinson had a near 50-yard run erased by a James O'Shaughnessy holding penalty early in the third, Minshew appeared flustered. On two consecutive plays after the penalty, he held on to the ball for too long and ultimately chucked it out of bounds on both dropbacks. Early in his progressions, there were open players, but Minshew was either unwilling to pull the trigger or did not see his open receivers. He then overshot Keelan Cole on a screen pass that likely wouldn't have gone anywhere anyway. To start the Jaguars' next drive, Minshew undershot James O'Shaughnessy on an intermediate crossing route. After a short completion to DJ Chark, Minshew faced a third and four, but was unable to find an open receiver, and ended up dancing around in the pocket before going down at the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars were forced to punt. Outside of that string of plays, and his first-quarter interception, Minshew played reasonably well, but with the Bengals racing up and down the field in the third quarter, the Jaguars needed more from their quarterback.
The Jaguars are a team that generally likes to employ a four-man rush. Instead of blitzing, Todd Wash prefers to let his front four rush the passer, dropping everyone else into coverage. This strategy hasn't been working in recent games, as the Jaguars have allowed 32.3 points per game over their last three contests. When Wash's front four can't generate pressure on their own, his defensive strategy usually proves unsuccessful. That was the case again on Sunday. Bengals QB Joe Burrow dropped back 41 times but was only pressured on 13 times. The Jaguars recorded only one sack for the fourth consecutive game. With no consistent pass rush to speak of, the Jaguars' defense can't survive like this. This effort was particularly disappointing considering the Bengals had allowed the most sacks in football heading into week four. The Jaguars have the worst pass rush in football.
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