In week two, the Jaguars traveled north to Nashville to do battle with their arch-rivals, the Titans. A 1 pm kickoff, the winner between the Jaguars and Titans, who both earned victories in week one, would take first place in the AFC South.
The Jaguars fell just short in this one 33-30, as the Titans won for the second straight week on a late field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. A loss is a loss in the NFL, but the way the Jaguars played was encouraging in many ways. They'll need to put this one in the rearview quickly, as they prepare to host the Dolphins in just four days on Thursday Night Football.
How can the Jaguars improve their play moving forward into week three? I'm glad you asked!
The Jaguars have been notoriously slow starters for most of the last decade. They seem to always get down early in ball games, and that makes it very difficult to win with any consistency. It's one thing to fall down 7-0 early on as the Jaguars did against the Colts in week one. But against the Titans, the Big Cats got off to an even worse start, allowing the Titans to establish a 14-0 lead. The Titans scored on the opening drive of the game. As the Jaguars were marching the ball down the field, Collin Johnson tipped a Gardner Minshew pass intended for James O'Shaughnessy up into the air, and rookie cornerback Kristian Fulton gladly took it the other way, setting up the Titans with excellent field position. The Titans were able to capitalize again. It's the little things early on in games that have plagued the Jags to start 2020. Had the Minshew completed that pass to O'Shaughnessy, the Jaguars may have tied the game early on instead of going down 14-0. That was a 14 point swing. If the Jaguars want to compete for the playoffs and hang in there against the best teams in football, they'll need to figure out how to shoot themselves in the foot early on.
The Jaguars' pass rush simply has not gotten the job done so far. In week one, they registered just eight pressures with one sack on 48 dropbacks. In week two, Titan's QB Ryan Tannehill had way too much time to throw the ball and was sacked only once. He completed 18/24 passes and threw four touchdowns with zero interceptions. To win games late, you'll usually need your pass to be active, not allowing opposing QBs time to survey the field and make the correct read. The Jaguars were unable to harass Tannehill in the slightest.
While this is an area that needs to improve rapidly, it's the flaw that I'm least concerned with. Why? Because these guys are normally excellent in this area. Joe DeCamillis is one of the best special teams coordinators in the game, and the guys kicking the ball, Logan Cooke and Josh Lambo, are normally on the money. Logan Cooke only punted twice, but one of them traveled just 35 yards, giving the Titans a short field. Lambo missed an extra point in this one and also botched a squib kick late in the first half that basically gave the Titans three free points, the exact amount that the Titans beat the Jaguars by. Chris Claybrooks struggled as well, muffing two kicks; fortunately, neither was recovered by Tennessee.
The Titans targeted Jaguars' free safety Andrew Wingard early and often in coverage and found plenty of success doing so. Perhaps Wingard needs more time to get acclimated? Maybe the Jaguars' coaching staff needs to put him in better positions to succeed? A 2019 undrafted free agent, he might not be ready to play at a consistently high level yet. Starting free safety Jarrod Wilson will be out with a hamstring injury until at least week five, so the Jags will need to figure this one out quickly.
It's difficult to win in the NFL if you don't win the turnover battle. This week, the Jaguars weren't able to force any turnovers. The Titans, on the other hand, picked off two passes and got their hands on another one that probably should have been intercepted. Winning the turnover battle provides teams with more room for error in other areas of the game. The Jaguars will need to force turnovers and be more careful with the ball in week three.
Oh, yeah. Better officiating wouldn't hurt either...
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