The Jaguars are coming off an ugly 31-13 drumming at the hands of the previously winless Dolphins. Did I mention the game was played in front of a national television audience? Yeah, not a good look.
The Jaguars can't hold onto the past; instead, they need to learn from it and improve moving forward. Here's how they can do just that.
A Faster Start
Slow start, after slow start, after slow start. The Jaguars have been outscored 35-7 in the first quarter of ball games in 2020, and they've allowed their opponents to score on each of their opening drives so far. The main issue here has been the defense has looked completely uninspired early on in games. Whether it be soft coverage that lacks physicality or an inability to slow down running backs on early drives, the Jaguars' defense just hasn't gotten the job done early on. There isn't just one thing the Jaguars can do to improve early on. To me, it's a mindset. They need to be ready to play physical, smash-mouth football from the jump, instead of easing into the game. Todd Wash needs to get this group ready to make their first opening-drive stop of the year in week four. On offense, it's just a matter of execution and not picking up silly penalties. Each of the Jaguars' early drives this season has seen Minshew and the offense have some success. But whether it be a dropped pass, a penalty on the offensive line, or a miscommunication, the Jaguars' offense has been largely inept when it comes to scoring in the first quarter. They need to execute and not shoot themselves in the foot.
The Jaguars' outside cornerbacks, CJ Henderson and Tre Herndon, were used and abused in week three. In total, the pair allowed seven first downs and a completion percentage of 100. These two were entirely out-physicaled by the Dolphin's receivers in man coverage. They'll need to make contact earlier in routes, and be able to anticipate with much more efficiency against Joe Burrow and the Bengals' pass-happy offense. Henderson showed the ability to lock down a guy like TY Hilton in week one and played well again in week two. If the Jaguars hope to stop, or even slow down Burrow, these two outside cornerbacks will need to play much, much better.
The Jaguars' pass protection started the season fairly well, and from an interior perspective, it's been pretty effective throughout the first three games on the season. But in week three, the pass pro seemingly fell apart on the edges thanks to a blitz-happy approach from head coach Brian Flores. Jawaan Taylor was used and abused in what may have been his worst game as a pro. He surrendered six pressures and two sacks on the right side. He's got all the talent in the world, so I do not doubt that he'll rebound from this poor outing, but he'll need to put in the work to do so. On the left side, Cam Robinson played fairly well before his seemingly ridiculous ejection from the game. But his replacement, Will Richardson, resembled a turnstile late in the game, allowing four pressures in just over one-quarter of action. Getting Robinson back in the lineup will be a huge lift for the pass protection.
A few more areas of note:
- Joe Schobert had a tough outing against the Dolphins. He was unable to track Ryan Fitzpatrick down before a big play a couple of times. He also wasn't as effective as he needs to be early on in slowing down running backs. In the coming weeks, the Jaguars could undoubtedly use a forced turnover that Schobert is known for creating.
- Chris Conley had an abhorrent performance on Thursday night. He was targeted eight times and only came down with three catches. He dropped two passes and picked up an offensive pass interference, effectively taking the air out of the Jaguars' sails multiple times. DJ Chark has returned to practice for the Jaguars, and they'll need him to be able to suit up for this one; otherwise, the Jaguars may have to rely on the ever inconsistent Conley yet again.
- James Robinson has proven a much more suitable third-down back than Chris Thompson. Thompson does a fine job catching the ball out of the backfield, but he struggles to pick up the blitz in pass protection. The Jaguars would be wise to use James Robinson in situations where they need the back to help protect Minshew.
- Jay Gruden says he miscalled several plays, which led to difficult situations for his players. Says he called a poor game and will need to do better moving forward. Also mentioned he needs to not get too pass-happy when the team falls behind.
- The pass rush was much improved against the Dolphins. They registered ten pressures and 4 QB hits on just 20 passes from Fitzpatrick. But they still need to get home more often — three total sacks in three games isn't going to get the job done.
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