JAGUARS FALL TO TITANS: WHAT WENT WRONG
The Jaguars lost their 20th straight game overall and fifth straight to start the 2021 season. It was a bizarre contest between division rivals through and through. The Jaguars stepped into third place all-time with 20 consecutive losses. From shocking officiating to poor play to questionable coaching decisions, this was a spectacle in all the wrong ways. In the end, the Jaguars fell by a score of 37-19 in what was their fourth consecutive loss to the Titans.
Disconnect Between Coach and Quarterback
The Jaguars have struggled mightily on fourth and goal over the last two contests. It seemed a QB sneak might have been the perfect call in two similar situations over the last two weeks. You've got less than a yard to go; why not let your QB reach over the top of the pile and get you in the end zone?
According to Urban Meyer, his young quarterback isn't comfortable with the sneak.
"And the quarterback sneak, he's (Trevor Lawrence) not quite comfortable with that yet," said Meyer. "We've been practicing that. I know that might sound silly, but when you've never done it, it's something that we need to continue to make that, so you can make that call in that critical situation."
You're right, Urban, it does sound silly. Especially when Trevor Lawrence says this just moments later:
"No, I feel comfortable (with the quarterback sneak). Obviously, I haven't really ran it before in a game, but I feel comfortable. It's something we've worked. We trust our guys up front, we trust our backs in that situation. Obviously, I'd love to get in there, but if we make the play, it's like no one says anything, but it's a TFL, and that doesn't look great obviously. So, we all can get better. But no, a QB sneak is something we can all get to, and I feel comfortable with."
Where to begin...
For one, Urban Meyer didn't figure out that Myles Jack is better when he doesn't have the green dot on his helmet. That means, when Myles isn't tasked with communicating the play call to the rest of the defense, he's able to play freer and performs at a much higher level. Anyone who has followed this organization over the last few years would know this. But the head coach didn't figure it out until this past week. Meyer correctly handed over the duties to Damien Wilson and Rayshawn Jenkins this week, allowing the Jaguars' most talented and highest-paid defender to play in a role he's more comfortable in. But this all begs the question, how did Urban Meyer not know this before the start of the regular season? Jaguars' GM Trent Baalke was here in 2020, you know, when Myles Jack had the best season of his career, and he wasn't calling out the defensive plays... Yikes. It's great that Myles Jack is now in a better position to succeed, but asking Wilson and Jenkins to take on this role in the middle of the season is a bad joke. Those guys should have been doing it this summer, allowing them to practice and get more comfortable with the added responsibility.
When the Jaguars scored their second touchdown of the contest on a beautiful pass from Trevor Lawrence to Jacob Hollister, Urban Meyer elected to send out Matthew Wright to kick the point after. Trailing by two points because Wright missed the previous PAT, why not attempt to even the score with a two-point conversion? It's simple math, really.
This one might be debatable, but asking Matthew Wright, a kicker whose Achilles heel is his lack of leg power, to attempt a 53-yard field goal, was another blunder. Sure, he's made those in practice, but Wright has never made a field goal from 50+ in his career. The odds of that one working were low, and it led to three more points for the Titans.
How bout this one: Earlier this week, Urban Meyer told the media he wants to get Laviska Shenault Jr. at least ten touches per game moving forward. The Jaguars proceed to target the talented wideout only two times during week five, and he doesn't make his first grab until the fourth quarter. Viska proceeds to break five tackles on his way to a 58-yard gain. If Urban wants something done, he needs to ensure that his coordinators make it happen. Yet another sign of a disconnect between coaching staff regarding the vision for what this team is.
It's fourth and goal from the one in the fourth quarter. The Jags are trailing 31-19 and desperately need a score. Carlos Hyde is lined up behind Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence takes the snap and hands it to Hyde, who gets stuffed in the backfield. It wouldn't have mattered who was in the backfield on that play because the offensive line cratered. But this one is about the process, not the result. With the game on the line, why on earth is your backup running back in the game? James Robinson is one of the best goal line backs in the league, and he's not in the game? The man is averaging over eight yards per carry on the day, and he's not on the field in a critical short-yardage situation? Unbelievable. Urban Meyer's explanation? "I don't micromanage who's in the game." Urban, maybe you should.
And Meyer's seemingly complete lack of awareness regarding what's going on with the secondary's inability to communicate and perform was baffling.
"Kind of asked that same thing on the sideline, and we've got to get that corrected," Meyer shared. "I see the same thing you see. I see a defense that sometimes plays outstanding, elite football, like the first half against the Bengals and the latter part of the game of the one we just played. But then we're putting pressure on the quarterback and the guy is wide open. That was a miscommunication. It was man coverage, and the guy didn't cover his man. It's that simple."
It's Urban Meyer's job to have the answers. He doesn't.
Lack of Talent and Adjustments in Coverage
This comes in two forms. There's a lack of overall talent in the secondary, which leads to the Jaguars losing one-on-one battles down the field. But there's also an issue with the scheme right now, which could go under the "poor coaching" category, but I thought it deserved its own section. Week in and week out, teams continue to attack the Jaguars with crossing routes, both shallow and intermediate. These types of plays are known as "man beaters" or plays that work well against man coverage. Unfortunately, there have been no adjustments to account for these routes, and teams continue to pick up chunks of yardage with them. The Titans ran this route concept repeatedly yesterday. Tennessee also employed bunch formations, using rub routes, another concept that works well against man coverage. Again, no answer from the coaching staff or players on the field.
And, of course, the lack of talent on the back end is also killing the defense. Every Jaguars' cornerback not named Shaquill Griffin has been a massive liability in coverage this year, and that continued against the Titans. With no Tyson Campbell (toe), Chris Claybrooks and Tre Herndon played significant snaps in this one. Titans' QB Ryan Tannehill was perfect when targeting the pair, completing six of six passes.
Still Can't Make a Kick
The Jaguars' coaching staff held a rare in-season kicking competition this week between incumbent Josh Lambo and Matthew Wright, who the team signed last week. Wright "won" the competition but missed his first extra-point try, putting the Jaguars' behind the eight-ball early.
With just over two minutes left in the first half, a Jaguars drive stalled after Jamal Agnew dropped a would-be-first down in tight coverage. Urban Meyer and company decided giving Matt Wright a try from 53 yards out would be a good idea. Yes, the same Matt Wright, who's never made a field goal from 50 yards out in his career. What a decision. Wright's kick hit the bottom of the crossbar, giving the Titans excellent field position.
The Jaguars are the only team in the NFL that has yet to make a field goal in 2021.
Good teams generally overcome poor officiating. I believe this to be true, most of the time. And make no mistake about it; the Jaguars are nowhere close to being a good team. Still, I'm not sure the best team in the NFL would have been able to hurdle the obstacles the referees placed in front of the Jaguars on Sunday.
On the first drive of the game, Trevor Lawrence hit tight end Dan Arnold in the flat, and while Arnold was bringing the pass in, rookie cornerback Elijah Molden popped the ball out with the crown of his helmet. The Titans picked up the pigskin and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Upon further review, the head referee confirmed the ruling on the field of a touchdown. But CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore confirmed that this was the wrong call, as Arnold did not make a football move prior to the ball coming out. So, the officials gifted the Titans a touchdown only one minute into the contest.
The next blunder, a phantom pass interference call on Chris Claybrooks over the middle of the field. In no way did Claybrooks impact the receiver's ability to make a play on the ball. Another gift for the Titans.
Third and goal in the fourth quarter with the Jaguars down 31-19. Trevor Lawrence drifts right and then back to his left and takes off towards the goal line. He dives towards the end zone, and the side judges raise their arms to indicate a score. Upon further review, the call is overturned. But it's clear based on the footage that the ball crosses the goal line prior to Lawrence's knee going down. At the very least, it was inconclusive, which should have led the official to go with the ruling on the field.
The officials also missed a blatant PI in the endzone. Lawrence had Dan Arnold one-on-one with a defender who clearly twisted the intended target's body while the ball was in the air. The pass was within reach, yet there was no call.
There were obviously more issues in this one. There was spotty play from the O-line, a complete inability to stop Ryan Tannehill on designed QB runs and scrambles, and Derrick Henry had his way with the Jaguars' defense inside the red zone. But the problems outlined above were crippling for this young team desperate to win a game.
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