JAGUARS FALL TO TEXANS: 10 THINGS
Another week, another Jaguars' loss. Let's not waste any time here.
These are ten things.
1. The Jaguars have lost three straight games to previously winless teams. It's an almost unbelievable feat that these 2020 Jaguars have been able to achieve. Over the three week span, the Jaguars were embarrassed by the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football, lost on the road to a rookie quarterback, and then fell to a team that had just fired their coach/general manager/offensive play-caller. Yeah, this ship is sinking, and fast.
2. On Gardner Minshew: the young starting QB has put up solid numbers over the three-game stretch. He hasn't really been or good bad during the three losses. He's been okay. Minshew certainly hasn't been the biggest problem for this youthful Jaguars' roster, but he also hasn't been the solution. During the three consecutive losses, Minshew has completed 67% of his passes for 927 passing yards with four touchdowns, two interceptions, and two fumbles. Minshew's inability to see over the middle of the field due to his lack of size has come into play quite a bit, and he's also having trouble — at times — getting to the right read on time. Minshew feels a bit stagnant at this point, but that's a common theme amongst young QBs. The bottom line is that Gardner Minshew is eighth in passing yards, seventh in passing TDs, and 14th in passer rating. It's way too early to bury this kid.
3. Perhaps the biggest offensive issue over the last three games has been playcalling. Jaguars' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has repeated every week that he wants to run the ball, specifically with James Robinson, more often. Instead, he's got Minshew throwing the ball 40+ times a game, and only handing it off to Robinson 13.6 times per game the last three weeks. I get that game script hasn't always been in their favor, but with the team being in the ball game at halftime, the Jaguars cannot abandon the run so quickly. It's putting too much pressure on Gardner Minshew and not allowing the offense to run through one of the better young running backs in football. And the Jaguars need to start targeting DJ Chark more often. He was only targeted four times this week, which is simply unacceptable when you have a Pro Bowl receiver. And there have been some, let's say odd, play calls inside the red zone.
4. How 'bout Sidney Jones?! This kid, a former first-round talent who fell to the second round due to injury, looked every bit of an elite young cornerback. Released by the Eagles this summer, the Jaguars quickly scooped up the 24-year-old cover man and added him to their practice squad. They probably didn't envision needing to start him this early in the season, but with injuries to CJ Henderson and DJ Hayden, Jones was forced into the lineup. All Jones did was go out and break up four passes, including a diving interception in the second quarter and a tipped pass that turned into a Jarrod Wilson interception that he returned 48 yards. He was targeted five times and allowed just one completion. Jones also got his nose dirty several times, recording three tackles. The combination of Jones and CJ Henderson could be a young outside cornerback duo the Jaguars can rely on moving forward.
5. The Jaguars need Josh Lambo. The most accurate kicker in football has missed the last three weeks with a hip injury, and boy, have the Jaguars missed him. The revolving door at kicker has burned this team and perhaps no more than it did against the Texans. Stephen Hauschka missed two field goals in the second quarter. He missed a 24 yarded wide left and then didn't have enough leg on a 49-yard attempt to close the half. His inability to connect on an easy field goal attempt hurt the Jaguars' chances in this one. Lambo is eligible to return from IR, but it's unclear when his health will allow him to do so.
6. Chris Claybrooks is not a starting cornerback. At least, he's not yet. The Jaguars never planned to start Chris Claybrooks at outside cornerback this early in his rookie year. He allowed five completions on seven targets and a touchdown against Houston. He was an easy mark for Deshaun Watson on Sunday. For the second straight week, I can't help but think the Jaguars' defense would have made at least a couple more stops if CJ Henderson were on the field.
7. And Tre Herndon... I thought he would play better on the inside at nickel, but it appears he might not be ready to start in the NFL. Herndon allowed six receptions on seven targets in coverage and a touchdown. Starting nickel cornerback DJ Hayden is out for at least two more ball games, so Herndon will need to find his footing for the Jaguars' defense to have more success over the next two weeks.
8. The defensive line, sans Josh Allen, got a decent amount of pressure, thanks in large part to the individual efforts of Dawaune Smoot, but again struggled to get the opposing QB to the ground. The Jaguars, for the fifth straight game, recorded just one sack. Smoot led the way with six pressures and that lone sack, but he was a one-man show. No other Jaguars' defender recorded more than two pressures in this one. The Jaguars need Josh Allen back, and they need to get Dawuane Smoot on the field more.
9. Laviska Shenault is a star. Heavily featured the last three weeks, it's been impossible not to notice the ascension of Laviska Shenault as a pure receiver. On Sunday, he hauled in seven of eight targets for 79 yards. He's been a consistent chain mover for the Jaguars' offense and is getting better every week. With Viska and DJ Chark in the fold, the Jaguars' passing offense is set up for success for years to come.
10. Taven Bryan doesn't appear to be getting any better. Bryan finished strong in 2019, but that performance hasn't carried over into 2020. I was in on Taven Bryan heading into this season, but the former first-round pick doesn't seem to be making progress as a pocket pusher and is just adequate as a run defender. If Bryan doesn't start showing some improvement over the next few weeks, it'll be time for the Jaguars to start looking elsewhere for their 3-tech of the future.
BONUS: The Jaguars are the youngest team in football, and they genuinely look it right now. They're finding different ways to lose football games on a weekly basis. While that is a sign of a young team, it's also a sign of poor coaching. Injuries have not been kind to the Jaguars, this year. But that's a tired excuse. The Jaguars should've cleaned house following the 2019 season, but they elected to run it back again in 2020. Head coach Doug Marrone is 12-25 since the start of the 2018 season. General manager Dave Caldwell has assembled exactly one winning team since he was hired in 2013. With a boatload of young talent, an arsenal of draft picks in 2021, and a treasure trove of cap space, Shad Khan needs to clean house, whether it be now or after the season, and find a new general manager and head coach.
Follow Jordan de Lugo on Twitter for all the latest Jaguars news and analysis.
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