Marrone wants Jaguars to refocus after uneven start to season

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, left, talks with cornerback Tre Herndon during timeout in the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No doubt that the Jaguars have had a challenging and erratic start to the season.

Doug Marrone is trying to bring things back to the basics and help players refocus.

They beat the Colts in Week 1 and turned in an impressive performance in a loss against the Titans in Week 2. But everything seemed to go sideways in a 33-13 blowout loss against the Dolphins on Thursday night.

There were costly injuries (linebacker Leon Jacobs injured his knee on the first drive and kicker Brandon Wright suffered a hip injury) and uneven performances all around. Quarterback Gardner Minshew was erratic. The defense was strafed again.

What was a solid 1-1 start had spiraled into what fans had probably expected to see from the Jaguars (1-2) this season. Marrone said that he made it a point to the team get players back on level ground and navigate the wild swings in emotion that have emerged the first three weeks.

Jacksonville was one of the best stories in the league in Week 1. Now, they’re a three-point underdog against rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals on Sunday.

“I try to go back to this foundation and really kind of refocus. Because I think one of the difficulties of where you go in the season, especially early on, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re older or younger, everyone handles things differently, each team is a little bit mixed,” Marrone said.

“But it’s just everything is so extreme, of what goes on in the beginning. You win, and ‘oh my gosh,’ all of a sudden it’s just one way. If you lose it’s another, and there’s so much talk that goes on that challenges you to stay focused and it pulls you away from maybe some of the things you need to focus on to get better.”

With a trip to Cincinnati on Sunday, the Jaguars have got to shore up some issues quick.

The pass defense has been shaky. The defense has just three sacks in three games. Todd Wash’s unit has struggled immensely in the first halves of games.

The positives have been there, too.

The defense has been better in the second half of games than in the first. Receiver Keelan Cole played well in D.J. Chark’s absence. And among the heavy rookie presence on the Jaguars, undrafted free agent running back James Robinson has had quite the start.

He’s got three rushing touchdowns through three weeks — that’s as many rushing scores as the Jaguars had in all of 2019. Marrone said that he saw bursts from Robinson during training camp, but that largely came in shorts and in no-contact drills. When the games came and Marrone saw that Robinson could pass protect and contribute offensively, he was impressed.

“So, I knew he could catch, I think he’s a guy that — he can do everything, I mean, he can be a three-down back, he can protect, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, obviously he can run the football,” Marrone said. “There’s a lot of things that he does and it’s just, it’ll be interesting to see how he does as the season goes and being able to take care of your body.”

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