NFL

Jaguars Are Improved Everywhere But The Scoreboard

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The Jacksonville Jaguars are not the most disappointing teams in the NFL so far.  That dubious honor goes to the likes of the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs.  

Nobody picked the Jaguars to contend for the postseason in 2015.

Jacksonville was expected to improve and if Blake Bortles played well they could double their 2014 win total, or possibly do even better than that.  

The Jaguars are improved and Bortles has been good.  The improvement is evident everywhere but where it counts:  The standings.  

Jacksonville has gone from 31st in offense in 2014 to 16th in 2015.  That’s an improvement that even the most die hard Jags fan wouldn’t have expected.  Defensively, they were ranked 26th overall in 2014 and are currently ranked 20th.  

Clearly, the offseason additions have helped the team play better football.  

So, why are they 1-4 after five games?  

The answer is situational football, and the Jaguars are terrible at it.  

“I mean it’s tough man. It is what it is. The film don’t lie. It’s not like I can sit up here and tell you guys anything different,” veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said after the overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts. “Like I said before, football is a situational game, and within those situations we have to be more attention to detail and get it done. We just have to make the plays to get the job done.”

Attention to detail and injuries are what’s plagued the team in 2015.  Taking away the losses to the undefeated Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots, you can make a case that the Jaguars have been the better football team in every other game this year.

In the 16-13 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville aided the only Indy drive that ended in a touchdown by committing five penalties.  They still had plenty of opportunities to win, but rookie kicker Jason Myers missed game-winning kicks at the end of regulation and in overtime.

“There’s self-inflicted wounds that are hurting us badly,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said after the Colts’ loss.  “I look at one drive defensively. They had a 13-play 80-yard drive and I think we had five penalties for 42; over half the yardage came in penalties and the self-inflicted wounds. Some are aggressive, some are defensive holding but decision making and these penalties, good teams consistently don’t have even a series like that so far too many penalties in that situation. I thought there was some alignment and communication errors although the numbers were down versus the week before, but still not good enough where we want to be.”

As good as the Jaguars offense has been moving the football, they’re still ranked 27th in the league in the all-important scoring category, averaging 18.6 points per game.  They are only better than the Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.  

The second half has been where the Jaguars have had the most trouble scoring points.  In three of their first four games this season, Jacksonville has scored a total of three second half points.  The other game, a 51-17 loss to New England, the Patriots allowed 14 second-half points in a game that had long been decided.  

Opposing teams have been able to make adjustments that the Jaguars haven’t been able to counter.

In last Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville had a flurry of mental errors.  The defense allowed a 56-yard screen pass on a third-and-15.  Special teams allowed an average of better than 28 yards per punt return including a 58-yard return in which running back Bernard Pierce was blocking instead of trying to make a tackle.  Finally, rookie running back Corey Grant fumbled at his own 5-yard line and it was recovered for a touchdown.  

“We had them third-and-15.  24-20, third-and-15 and we failed to make the play.  Was it the play?  Could we have had a better call?  It was a combination of things. We had guys that had an opportunity to make plays. We didn’t make the play,” an emotional Gus Bradley recounted in his postgame press conference.  

It’s clear that the Jaguars are not getting the most out of their talent, and they’re finding ways to lose games instead of ways to win them.  

Maybe that’s what happens with a young team and a losing culture?  

“I believe in these guys.  The reason I am upset is because they are capable of better,” Bradley said after the Bucs loss. “That’s the reason I’m upset. I am not upset because we are not very good; we are capable of being better and we are not showing that.  That’s what is frustrating.  We have enough good players in that locker room to do better than what we are doing on the field today.”

Gus Bradley is one of the best people in the NFL.  But with an 8-29 record through 37 games, it’s getting tough to defend him, especially when it’s a bottom line business.  The fact that the team is improving statistically is almost an indictment of the coaching staff instead of a positive.  

Bradley isn’t fumbling the ball or missing kicks, but it feels like the Jaguars aren’t in the very best position to succeed on a weekly basis.  Their biggest free agent signing, Julius Thomas, suited up for the first time on Sunday and the coach admitted that they didn’t have a real game plan for him.  Bernard Pierce was blocking on special teams when his team was punting, likely due from a concussion.

“It’s not a good play at all,” Bradley said of Pierce’s untimely block. “When I saw it I couldn’t believe it, but I know he’s in the concussion protocol. I know after the game he had concussion symptoms. That’s where I’ll leave it at that, the play itself if you watched it.”

Why was Pierce in the game with a concussion?

In the coaching staff’s defense, they have been without their best defensive player, Sen’Derrick Marks, all season long as he’s recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last year.  They lost Brandon Linder, their best offensive lineman, for the season a couple weeks ago.  They missed their emotional leader, Paul Posluszny, on Sunday and the team missed 23 tackles.  

“We don’t have to win, we want to win,” Bradley said back in the offseason on Sirius/XM NFL Radio.  

That was an accurate statement before the team spent the equivalent of the GDP of a small country in free agency.  

It looks like the Jaguars have reached the point where just being competitive and not getting blown out is not going to be acceptable any longer.  If they have enough talent on the field to win, as the stats and Gus Bradley would suggest, then you have to look at the coaching staff when pointing fingers.

Should Jaguars owner Shad Khan make a change?

To put it simply, when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.