The Jaguars prepare to take the field down at TIAA Bank field Sunday against the Detroit Lions, coming off of a fourth straight loss. Coming on the heels of another disappointing showing against the Texans, a team they will see again in a week nine matchup after the bye week, Doug Marrone seems to think the Jaguars are "close." Well, let me tell you something: this team is far from close. The outlook will only worsen as the season goes on with the opponents the Jaguars will have to face. If they truly want to turn things around this season and become competitive down the stretch, they have a ton to figure out, and they need to do it fast. Nonetheless, there are keys to victory in every game, and if this team does the right things, they can take their first step towards turning things around with a victory Sunday.
Offensively, the Jaguars are once again facing another team whose defense has been able to do very little in terms of stopping the run. We have seen the Jaguars have a favorable matchup in the running game in the previous two weeks, but Jay Gruden has refused to take advantage of it. Gardner Minshew threw the ball 49 times last week! He is not a guy who you can rely on to throw the ball almost fifty times, at least not at this point in his career. The Jaguars will once again need to get on track with the run game. It needs to be a consistent focal point of this week's offensive game plan. There is no reason on this planet as to why James Robinson should not see at minimum 20-25 carries a week at this point. He has done more than enough to prove to the offensive staff he can be a workhorse back. Couple this with an offensive line which continues to move bodies and a Detroit Lions run defense giving up over 5.2 yards per carry, and the Jaguars should be able to run the ball effectively. If Jay Gruden does not improve his play-calling this week, it will definitely be a head-scratcher. The Lions defensive secondary has also struggled at times this year, allowing nine passing touchdowns in only four games. The Jaguars will be able to attack this defense from multiple angles on Sunday, and play-action pass will need to be where Gruden allows quarterback Gardner Minshew to take his shots downfield. DJ Chark is questionable again this week, and the Jags surely missed him in their week three tilt against the Dolphins. If he does not play, someone will need to step up into a much bigger role than last time around. Chark's absence against Miami seemed to be an insurmountable loss.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars' secondary will need to step up big this week. I think with the carousel the Lions have going on in the offensive backfield, the Jaguars will be able to hold up fairly well against the run. They will need to refrain from allowing either back to get hot, but I think the Lions' biggest threats can come in their 2 headed monster receiving core. Kenny Golladay is back and healthy, and he has picked up right where he left off. Having him back opens up more opportunities for Marvin Jones as well, who can always have a big game at any time. He seems pretty sure to have two or three big-time games each year, and the Jaguars usually put themselves on the wrong side of such headlines. The Lions' offense will be looking to get their wheels turning, and I fully expect Matt Stafford to go right at this young secondary. I saw some great things out of Sidney Jones last week. He was exceptional in man coverage, and had a hand in both Deshaun Watson interceptions last week. CJ Henderson has had a much better transition to the pro game thus far than fellow Lions' rookie Jeff Okudah, and I would like to see him have another strong outing. If the new tandem of Jones and Henderson can lock down the Lions' receivers, the Jaguars will have a chance to keep the Lions' scoring to a minimum.
There is nothing I would like to say about special teams. Absolutely, positively nothing at all. The Jaguars need Josh Lambo.
This team has had a hard time getting off to a hot start on either side of the ball in every game this year. They never seem in sync either. Through the first three weeks, the defense could not allow the offense a chance to keep themselves in a game. In the last three weeks, the offense has not been able to get rolling early, either. Eventually, this team needs to sync up if they intend to win any more games this year. I think that all starts upfront with the offense. If they are able to get out to an early lead and make the opposition uncomfortable, the defense will have chances to force turnovers. I don't think this Jaguars' secondary is great in coverage, but what they have shown, is that they can force turnovers. Force Matt Stafford into bad decisions, and allow Minshew to stick to the game plan. This is a very winnable game, and if the Jaguars are going to garner any respect in this league — if Gardner Minshew wants to keep his job — the team needs to turn things around quickly.
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