JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mired in a six-game losing streak and dealing with an injury to starting quarterback Gardner Minshew, the Jaguars need to be bold in the final nine games of the season.
Doug Marrone said he was going to think “outside of the box” during the rest of the season. Here are four bold moves the Jaguars should make after the break:
Create opportunities for rookies to show improvement
The guys who will be expected to form the nucleus of the future have to show us something. The Jaguars drafted 12 players this year. So far, for my money, the only draft picks who have shown that they were the right pick are Laviska Shenault, DaVon Hamilton, and maybe CJ Henderson, although I would expect more from a top 10 pick. That doesn’t include James Robinson who was undrafted. It doesn’t mean more guys can’t prove themselves, but that’s not enough.
Get creative on defense
The second thing I’ll be looking for is for some new and imaginative ways to use the talent they have. Shenault should be used more, especially if the quarterback situation continues to be in question. And let’s see something from K’Lavon Chaisson. Before the season began, we heard plenty about the potential to utilize a 3-4 formation on defense. Using that formation would allow for Chaisson to work as an outside linebacker to rush the passer.
With Joe Schobert and Myles Jack allowed to play inside, it also allows for a formation that would get Chaisson on the field with Josh Allen for more snaps. Chaisson is yet to impact the game. He has been credited with only nine tackles and one sack in seven games. That’s not good enough for a first-round draft pick. The biggest question here is whether Todd Wash is willing to depart from his usual approach. We did see more blitzes called by Wash over the past two games, which isn’t typically his preference, so perhaps that is an indication of a willingness to do something different. So far, the same old approach isn’t working with six straight games giving up at least 30 points.
Offensive line consistency
The most veteran position group on the team has been inconsistent this season. While the run blocking has been generally good, the pass protection has been spotty. Even though the Jaguars will have a lot of salary cap space to play with, if they feel good about the offensive line, or at last, most of it, that would help them target other areas of need. The player most in the spotlight is Cam Robinson, who is on the last season of his rookie deal. Can he prove that he is worthy of a new contract? If so, the Jaguars will have to allocate a sizable chunk to Robinson, who plays the premium position of left tackle. If not, the Jaguars will need to find their left tackle this offseason.
Andrew Norwell goes from being a $12 million cap hit to a $15 million cap hit, but his dead money drops from $18 million to $6 million, so the Jaguars have more flexibility to move on from him if needed. Brandon Linder is a relative bargain at $9 million next year, with no dead cap money if the Jaguars move on from the veteran center. A.J. Cann’s deal calls for the same cap number this year as next. He’s been steady. And, it would be a shock if the Jaguars would move on from Jawaan Taylor at right tackle. This group can play better, and they must after the bye.
Locker room chemistry
Finally, let’s see if they can get to through the season without falling apart in the locker room. How the young guys do in terms of building culture is as important as what they do on the field. If this year’s rookies are going to make up the bulk of the core players for the future, they cannot start to fall apart at this point in a difficult season. We saw the Jaguars in 2018 start to fray at the seams later in the season. That lead to a full meltdown in 2019. While those were with slightly older players, the infighting was rampant and it took a team from within five minutes of the Super Bowl to a complete teardown in just two years.