Day after ‘devastating’ loss, Jaguars looking for answers

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 30: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half of an NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium on September 30, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Andy Lyons, 2021 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Half a day after a dejected Jaguars’ head coach Urban Meyer called the team’s 24-21 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati “devastating” and “heartbreaking,” he was back to work trying to find the answers for why his team has yet to win a game after a month of the season.

Meyer said that one of the pivotal plays in the game, the Jaguars’ fourth-and-goal try that saw the Bengals stop Trevor Lawrence inches from the goal line at the end of the second quarter, was not intended to be a quarterback run.

“It was actually designed to get James (Robinson) on the outside,” Meyer said. “We were going to fake like we were going inside because there was going to be a real expectation that it was going to be real heavy defense inside and then flip to James, and the end went upfield on us. There were the two thoughts, and you look back now and James is running the ball hard, our offensive line was playing well too.”

For the second straight game, the Jaguars held a second-half lead, but could not close the deal.

“I’m looking at it all. I would imagine it’s not conditioning but I’m looking at the halftime adjustments. It seems like the first part of the second half is when we’ve had a couple of issues. I remember that against Arizona and then as well as the one last night, they went right down the field on us. So, we’re looking at that,” Meyer said. “I’m looking at the second half adjustments and what are we doing as opposed to [the other team]. I know Cincinnati came out and tried to establish the run early in the game and we played them very well. I talked to [Bengals QB] Joe Burrow after the game a little bit. Then [in] the second half, he wanted to empty it out and identify matchup issues, and that’s what they did. Their second-half adjustment was better than ours.”

These issues are, in part, a product of the Jaguars roster, still early in a rebuilding process. Part of the issues are also about a coach who is still learning the intricacies of the NFL game. Therein lies the good news and the bad news. The roster isn’t likely to improve, outside of young player progressing with more experience. The Jaguars’ deficiencies will continue to be deficiencies until free agency and the draft in 2022. But Meyer is likely to get better at the job of NFL coaching, including finding better ways to use the players on the roster, as long as he can weather the storm of losing more games than he’s ever lost in a season.

Speaking of that, Trevor Lawrence has now lost as many games in the first month of his rookie season as he did in high school and college combined. Lawrence enjoyed his first turnover-free game Thursday night and the Jaguars worked some new faces into the offense. Jamal Agnew was used as a wide receiver. He caught a 27 yard pass from Lawrence. And newly acquired tight end Dan Arnold caught two passes for 29 yards. The Jaguars could see more new faces on the field soon.

“We have Devin Smith who was activated one game, you have (Laquon) Treadwell (who) was activated another, and Tyron (Johnson) who has been activated, so we have to get those guys ready,” Meyer said. “Jamal Agnew is now I think only (in) his second year playing receiver. [He] was actually a corner out of a small school in San Diego and his value is incredible. That’s something that I have to make a decision here pretty soon, but we need playmakers on offense. We need those big hits and (Agnew is) a big hit guy.”

The Jaguars will have three extra days to prepare those players for their next game, Oct. 10 against the Tennessee Titans.

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Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.