Jaguars coaches ‘moving on’ from controversial handling of James Robinson

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 19: Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on in the game against the Denver Broncos at TIAA Bank Field on September 19, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) (JULIO AGUILAR, 2021 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jaguars coaches appear ready to move on from the controversy surrounding the benching of running back James Robinson. But is the team ready to move on enough to challenge the Titans in Nashville?

During the weekly meeting on Thursday, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told reporters that he would like to put the whole subject behind him.

“I think we’ve talked a lot about it. I think you talked to Coach [Urban] Meyer, I think you talked to Trevor [Lawrence], I think you talked to James [Robinson],” Bevell said. “I’m going to let all of those conversations go and move on. We are focused on Tennessee. We have had great communication. Everyone is on the same page and we are just moving on from that.”

Bevell’s offense ranks next to last in the NFL in points scored. The Jaguars average just 15 points per game. Only the Texans (13.6 ppg) average fewer. And Lawrence has thrown just one touchdown pass in the last five games.

“Yeah, we have a lot of issues going on right now. I’m not going to pinpoint it on one thing,” Bevell said. “We’re trying to get better every week as we go out there. We have some young players on offense that we’re trying to continue to get better. If you asked me how I want to play the game, that’s how I want to play the game. I want to run the ball and whatever the style of run is that we’re running and then I would like to be able to build our pass game off of that.”

The conversation about being a run-first team has been ongoing. Still, the Jaguars have yet to have a game where they were totally dedicated to the run. Some of that can be attributed to falling behind early, or injuries. But too often, the Jaguars have put the focus on the passing game, where Lawrence has regressed since the bye week. It seemed to start with a 31-7 loss in Seattle — the same game where Robinson injured his heel. Robinson did not practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday.

“We had a nice trend going, even the last time we played Tennessee, we had some really good drives and we played well,” Bevell said. “You could see we were kind of on a steady climb and then you have that game in Seattle and I think a little bit since then it’s been like ‘ahh.’ They want it so bad, these guys are great guys first of all. They come to work every single day, they’re attentive in the meetings, they are really trying to give us what we want and I think sometimes that can hurt you a little bit.”

Running backs’ coach Bernie Parmalee was not made available to reporters this week.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars have shown improvement over the year, but twice in the last three games, Jacksonville has surrendered 30 points or more. With the offense struggling, it’s been difficult for the defense to make as many plays, playing on tired legs. This week, they’ll face a Titans team without Derrick Henry, but still playing the same style that they did with the former Yulee running back.

“They have a system. They’re going to run their system and it doesn’t matter who’s back there,” defensive coordinator Joe Cullen said Thursday. “They have really good backs, not just with [Titans RB] Derrick [Henry]. He’s as good as it gets, but the other backs are really good. They’re powerful, they’re explosive, they can get downhill, they can run you over, they can make you miss, and they run their system and they do it well.”

The last time the Jaguars beat the Titans in Nashville, Gus Bradley was the head coach, Maurice Jones drew was running the ball and the Jaguars won without the benefit of a touchdown pass from Chad Henne, who threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. The Titans have swept the season series three of the past four years and can do so again with a win on Sunday.

“It’s one of those games where if you don’t enjoy playing in this game then you shouldn’t be playing at all because it’s a throwback game,” Cullen said. “Rivalry? Yes, it’s a rivalry. They’re the kings of the division [AFC South], they’ve been. If we want to get to where I know we want to get to, it goes through Nashville. With that, I’ll leave it up to questions.”