JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s the quarter point of the NFL season. The Jaguars are 1-3 and spiraling. The News4Jax sports staff analyzes the first slice of the season and projects where the team will be at the midway point.
We’re four games into the season. Is there real disappointment in a 1-3 start or is it about what you expected?
Justin Barney: I’d honestly have taken 1-3 back in August when the Jaguars were parting out players left and right. But sitting 1-3 after such promising Weeks 1 and 2, the start feels like a letdown because it could have been, at worst, one victory better. Josh Lambo gaffes at Tennessee (missed PAT and a botched onside kick) could have changed things considerably. The Dolphins annihilated Jacksonville, but I’d have to say that I’m disappointed that this team isn’t at least 2-2.
Cole Pepper: I thought the Jaguars would get off to a better start, then struggle more as they encountered better opposition. I had them beating the Dolphins and Bengals to finish the first quarter at 2-2. Instead, those two games saw their worst performances of the season (so far). It’s not just the record, though, that is disappointing.
The Jaguars showed against the Colts, and even in a loss to the Titans, that they have the capacity to play with teams contending for a division title. They didn’t look like the same group the past two weeks. I still say the biggest questions to be answered this year are about the quarterback and whether there are enough foundational pieces in place to contend in the coming years. The jury is still out.
Jamal St. Cyr: 1-3 is a huge disappointment. I expected them to get off to a faster start especially after beating the Colts (3-1) to start the season. When the team gets absolutely embarrassed by the Dolphins on national TV, disappointment only starts to describe my reaction.
What has been the biggest disappointment thus far?
JB: We expected the defense to have problems. It has. The Jaguars lost players in the offseason due to trade or release. The reinforcements in free agency that were supposed to help soften the blows wound up as nonfactors. Rodney Gunter, Aaron Lynch and Al Woods all stepped aside for COVID-19 opt-outs or, in Gunter’s case, a heart condition.
Lerentee McCray and Rashaan Melvin opted out. Jacksonville signed Timmy Jernigan, but he was just a guy and wound up getting cut. I thought we’d have seen more production from Josh Allen, but he’s only got two sacks. I knew it would be a work in progress from this unit, but it’s been bad so far. And I don’t see the bodies on the roster to help. What can Jacksonville do to make this side of the ball better? Anything?
CP: To me the biggest disappointment is that the defense hasn’t generated any kind of a pass rush to speak of. Only four sacks in four games, and two of them were garbage time giveaways. We knew this team would miss Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, but the pass rush has been nonexistent. It’s time for Todd Wash to dial up the blitz packages or commit to a 3-4 to get Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson on the field together more often.
JS: The complete lack of pass rush. The Jaguars have spent first-round picks on their defensive line each of the past three seasons and still can’t find a way to get to the quarterback. They only have four sacks this year. That ranks second-to-last in the NFL. For comparison, the only other team that has drafted a defensive lineman in the first round for the past three years is Washington and they rank third in the NFL. When you have spent that kind of draft capital and can’t even put up respectable numbers it shows a complete breakdown in coaching and talent evaluation.
Are the Jaguars closer to being a good team or closer to being a team in need of a full-on rebuild?
JB: Split on this answer. I think the offense is closer to being good and consistent, especially when D.J. Chark is in the lineup. As we’ve seen the last three weeks, the defense is closer to a full-on rebuild. As a complete team, I think it’s two years away from legitimately reaching the playoffs.
CP: Overall, I think this team is on the way to being good in a year or two. Clearly, the defense needs the most work. If we are looking long-term, I’m not sure who fits into the future as starters in the secondary beyond CJ Henderson. Myles Jack and Joe Schobert are guys you can win with, and the move to weakside linebacker has been a great transition for Jack.
Up front, you would think that Allen and Chaisson are building blocks. We haven’t seen enough out of DaVon Hamilton to know if he’s a building block player. I think we know by now that Taven Bryan is not a guy you build a defense around. I would like to see the Jaguars use high draft picks on cornerback, defensive line, and maybe even safety in April.
JS: Much closer to being a good team. With some savvy offseason moves the Jaguars could compete for a playoff spot as soon as next season. The offense is solid. The biggest changes need to be made on the defensive end. Some smart moves on the defensive line, at cornerback and safety. If the defense is competent this team will be able to compete.
Who have been the offensive and defensive MVPs at the quarter point?
JB: James Robinson. The fact that he’s undrafted enhances the season he’s having, but Robinson has been darn good no matter his background. He’s eighth in the NFL in rushing (285 yards) and has as many rushing TDs as Leonard Fournette did in 2019. He’s on pace for a 1,700-yards-from-scrimmage season.
Robinson has yet to fumble and has very low mileage on him (17 carries is his season high). Defensively it has to be Myles Jack. He’s got 37 tackles and a sack. Jack’s' end zone strip pick against the Bengals last week amplified what type of athlete he is. The move to weakside linebacker has been one of the few positives for Jacksonville’s beleaguered defense.
CP: These are both easy picks. James Robinson and Myles Jack. However, I would also give some credit to DJ Chark on offense. When you look at impact plays — plays of over 20 yards on offense, or plays that force turnovers or big losses on defense — nobody outside of Robinson, Jack and Chark are making them with any regularity.
That’s one of the big problems for the Jaguars. I would like to see more from Tyler Eifert and Laviska Shenault, who have shown flashes this year. On defense, I want to see Josh Allen disrupt a game. So far, he has not.
JS: On offense, James Robinson. The rookie has been fabulous. He is the first Jaguars running back to win offensive rookie of the month since Fred Taylor. Every week Robinson makes at least one play that just makes me go WOW. I would love to see the rookie get more touches, but they need to keep some games close in the second half for that to happen.
On defense, Myles Jack. Jacks has been the Jaguars best player on defense this season. The combination of Jack and Schobert make linebacker the only position on the defense that does not need to be upgraded.
The midway point of the season for Jacksonville is Nov. 8 after a home game against the Texans. When we check in again, what will the Jaguars' record be?
JB: The Jaguars face the winless Texans twice in that span, as well as the Lions and the Chargers. There’s also a bye week. Can you look at those games right now and think Jacksonville will be favored in any of those? I can’t. I’ll give the Jaguars a win at home against the Lions and say that they’re 2-6 at the halfway point. The second half of their schedule is a monster. There are games at Green Bay, Baltimore and Minnesota, as well as home games against the Titans
CP: The Jaguars better gain some ground in the next four games, because the schedule gets really tough in the second half of the season, as Justin noted. I understand that none of the next four games will be against teams with more than one win (as of this point), but I don’t think I can pick the Jaguars to win any of them.
Houston just fired Bill O’Brien, so they’ll be focused and motivated this Sunday and I can’t see DeShaun Watson starting a season 0-5, regardless of the lack of help around him. I’m going to try to stay (somewhat) optimistic here and say that the Jaguars split with the Texans (probably winning the game in Jacksonville in Week 9. Sorry, folks, I see them as a two-win team at the midway point.
JS: My expectations aren’t high. I’m thinking 3-5. They will play the currently winless Texans twice. I expect them to split those matchups with the Texans and the Lions tend to find ways to lose so that should be another win.
But on the more optimistic side this is a young roster. The more game reps these young players get hopefully they will continue to improve and be playing their best ball by the end of the year. That means in the second half of the season maybe they will be able to string a few wins together. But that is the best case scenario.