There will be a time to search for positives and spin how the Jaguars can learn and improve from the first game of the Trevor Lawrence + Urban Meyer era. Now is not that time. After a 37-21 defeat that was even uglier than the scoreboard suggested, here are my top takeaways.
The Jaguars are a young, inexperienced football team. They're the fifth-youngest team in football and have a rookie head coach in Urban Meyer and a rookie quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. With the relative lack of experience from the quarterback, head coach, and several key starters, the margin for error is low. Picking up NINE offensive penalties, many of which went were of the ten-yard variety, was far too much for this young team to overcome, especially in the first half. Multiple illegal formation penalties and holding calls led the Jaguars to several first and long situations that Trevor and his offensive weapons couldn't get past. These types of penalties need to be erased. The coaches must instill discipline, and the players need to remain focused throughout the week and on Sundays.
Lack of Execution (Offense)
Too many talented players made too many mistakes on offense. From the five drops by receivers; to the three interceptions and handful of inaccurate throws by Trevor Lawrence; to the poor pass protection as the game wore on, this offensive performance was UGLY. Because the talent is there, it seems likely that Trevor Lawrence and this offense can get things turned around. But early returns are not good. They'll need to rapidly improve in the execution and discipline departments if they hope for better results in week two.
What Is Pass Coverage?
I was admittedly worried about the secondary the moment the Jaguars traded Sidney Jones — who was their best cornerback in 2020 — to the Seahawks for a sixth-round pick. Losing Jones severely depleted the depth and talent at the position. Then you factor in cornerback Tre Herndon dealing with an MCL injury and Andrew Wingard inexplicably finding himself in the starting lineup at safety, and you have a horrific performance against one of the least talented passing offenses in football. Rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell was a complete liability in coverage, surrendering five completions for 80 yards on five targets in primary coverage. He's not ready to be the starting slot cornerback in Jacksonville. Once rookie safety Andre Cisco finally entered the game, he played better football than Andrew Wingard. Hopefully, the coaching staff will insert Cisco into the starting lineup in week two. At any rate, keeping Andrew Wingard on the roster instead of Jarrod Wilson will also be baffling. The personnel decisions made this spring and summer at cornerback and safety bit the Jaguars in the ass on Sunday.
No Finish (Defense)
The Jaguars recorded just one sack on Sunday. Josh Allen chased down a scrambling Tyrod Taylor early in the first quarter. The team generated a good amount of pressure as a whole, with 24 total. But they couldn't quite finish. Taylor appeared dead to rights on multiple occasions, but the finish wasn't there, especially for K'Lavon Chaisson, who whiffed on two sacks. Tackling in space was also an issue. Cornerback CJ Henderson missed two tackles, and the defense missed seven total. This group needs to show a killer instinct to give their offense a chance.
This result was ugly no matter how you slice it. But if Urban Meyer hadn't preached winning fast all summer, it would feel a bit different. He created the idea that his Jaguars were going to win immediately. He refused to talk about player development as a success. By perhaps setting unrealistic expectations since arriving in Jacksonville, Urban Meyer made losing a game like this even tougher on himself than it had to be. If he had been honest and called this situation what it actually was — a rebuild — then perhaps a day where Trevor Lawrence threw three touchdown passes and showed flashes of brilliance would have been enough to appease a fan base so desperate for something, anything positive. But by repeatedly talking about winning games in 2021 as the only acceptable result, Meyer set the expectations too high. Perhaps, I believed him a bit too much. My season record prediction of eight wins and nine losses looks far less attainable than it did 48 hours ago. The Jaguars will fight an uphill battle from here on out. But Meyer and the Jaguars can right the ship. It starts with not beating yourself with penalties and poor execution from talented players. If they can manage to do that, perhaps they'll find themselves in some close ball games, or at least have life heading into the second half.
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