It’s not that the Jaguars are a bad team. I think it would be more accurate to say they’re an incomplete team. “We have a plan in this organization,” Head Coach Mike Mularkey said Sunday after the 27-10 loss to Cincinnati at home, “And we’ll stick to that plan. We’ll have to take our lumps, and we have, but we have to chip our way back. We have a lot of football to go.”
All of that is accurate, but it doesn’t make it any easier to take. There are no moral victories in professional sports and a loss is just that, a loss. There’s been a lot of talk about whether the Jaguars have enough talent to win. When I asked Mularkey that question two weeks ago, he said, “It’s on tape, we’ve seen our guys have success. We can sustain drives. We can get off the field on defense. It’s not about changing things or changing players, it’s about playing better.”
I believe that in a lot of areas and the Jaguars have shown flashes of being able to compete. But inconsistency is what beats you in the NFL and the Jaguars are about as inconsistent as they come. Long drives are followed by sever 3 and outs. That won’t work long term. So how do you get more consistent? “We have great practices,” Quarterback Blaine Gabbert said in his post-game comments Sunday, “But we’re not executing in the games. It’s as simple as that.”
The team believes they can win and I’d agree, they’re a pretty good practice team. But when they get in games, one thing here and one thing there that don’t go right add up to a bunch of things not going right and getting beat.
There are two areas where the team needs improvement right away if they want to win some games: Quarterback and pass rush. Gabbert is right when it comes to executing. He has to execute better, quicker and with more authority.
Two weeks in a row we’ve seen young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton and both seem more comfortable running an offense than Gabbert. He has some flashes, and Gabbert has as good of an arm as anybody in the league. But his decision-making in the pocket is just a split second slow, leading to sacks and in completions. Mularkey says he’s a young player still learning and progressing, but it’s hard to be patient with a quarterback who’s not getting it done when you look around at comparable QB’s who are. I think Gabbert can and will be better, but it’s taking longer than anybody would like. Just a little dump off here or a quick throw there will go a long way to keeping drives alive and getting a rhythm on offense.
Pass rush is a different story. Teams that win Super Bowls have a front four that can pressure the opposing quarterback without any blitz help. The NY Giants are the best example of this. The Jaguars don’t have that. While Jeremy Mincey is about the hardest working guy you’ve ever seen on the field, he’s not a sack specialist from his DE position. Tyson Alualu was drafted to rush the QB up the middle to neutralize Peyton Manning. Alualu isn’t getting to the quarterback and his specialty isn’t stopping the run at the point of attack. I don’t know that he’s big enough in today’s NFL to do that. So move him to DE and work on some other guys at DT. Mularkey knew this was a building job when he took it and that it would take some time.
But his players aren’t helping by playing below their own standard. If they can execute, get the same kind of results during games that they do on the practice field, then they have a chance. Otherwise, they’ll have to blow it up and start over again.