In a season full of lows, the Jaguars found a way to scrape the bottom of the barrel again.
The Jaguars capped a tough week off the field with a clunker in Nashville, a 20-0 loss that stretched their losing streak to five games and continued the conversation about Urban Meyer’s ability to succeed in the NFL.
The latest result was Jacksonville’s worst of the season.
Trevor Lawrence was picked off a career-worst four times, all of them in the second half. The ground game netted all of eight yards on eight carries.
But the shutout was a new low for the Jaguars. For all of their offensive struggles and shortcomings this season, they’d at least put something up on the scoreboard.
They hadn’t been shut out in a game since Oct. 11, 2009 in a 41-0 blowout to the Seahawks, a stretch of 199 games.
They return home next week against the Texans in a game with more draft pick position at stake than anything else. Houston clobbered (2-11) Jacksonville (37-21) in Week 1. Back then, the expectations for Meyer, Lawrence and the Jaguars were substantial.
Since then, the Jaguars have devolved into a weekly train wreck, with Meyer at the forefront.
Meyer had to put out smoldering public relations fires throughout the week about the team’s handling of running back James Robinson after a fumble in a Week 13 game against the Rams.
On Saturday, the NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero wrote of more turbulence in Jacksonville’s organization around Meyer, including it being his call to bench Robinson, a tense argument with receiver Marvin Jones and labeling assistant coaches losers because they hadn’t accomplished as much as him.
Meyer said both of those things were “nonsense.” He called story leaks like that “garbage,” and vowed to fire anyone in the organization if they were responsible for that.
“So what’s the answer? Start leaking information or some nonsense? No. No, that’s nonsense. That’s garbage. That’s once again — I’ve been very blessed. I’ve not really dealt with that. I’ve not dealt with, ‘Well, did you hear what he said?’ What? No. Let’s improve on offense and get our quarterback in a position to be successful. That’s our focus,” Meyer said. “What someone’s brother said, or someone said someone said, that will occupy very little of my time. And if there is a source, that source is unemployed. I mean, within seconds, if there’s some source that’s doing that.
On Sunday, the Jaguars were just back to playing bad football and remaining on course to set the franchise record for least points scored in a season. The 2011 Jaguars scored 243 points in 16 games; the 2021 Jaguars have scored just 180 and will play 17 games. They’d need to average 15.8 ppg over their final four games to not set that dubious mark.
For Meyer, a coach who was synonymous for high-powered offenses in college, it’s been an embarrassing debut in pro football.
Offense remained the big story. The Jaguars just can’t move the ball.
The Titans doubled up Jacksonville in plays in the opening half and kept the pressure on quarterback Lawrence. The ground game never developed. They trailed 10-0 at halftime, stretching their miserable production in the first half of games to seven. Jacksonville hasn’t scored double figures in the first half of a game since it beat Miami in London in Week 6. The Jaguars had 10 points at the break in that one.
But the bye week came and went after that and Jacksonville has regressed every game out, with Sunday’s showing the lowest of the low points.
Lawrence continued to get no help from his skill position players and turned in the worst performance of his NFL career. He said the distractions this week about Meyer and the buzz around Robinson don’t affect him on the field.
“That’s not a part of my job to worry about that. I play football. Guys in this locker room have done a great job of staying focused,” Lawrence said. “I hate to even say that when we played like that because it doesn’t look like it, but really we’ve got a great locker room and everyone’s stayed together and stayed focused.”
Jacksonville dialed up a trick play on its first drive of the second half, a flea flicker that went from two players and back into Lawrence’s hands. He found James O’Shaughnessy on a 20-yard strike, but he dropped it. The next play, a Lawrence pass went off Laviska Shenault’s hands and was picked of Rashaan Evans.
Lawrence’s second pick was of his own doing, a one-handed grab by Jayon Brown that killed Jacksonville’s best drive of the game at the Titans 31. His two others were desperation throws and trying to make something happen.
“I feel like I can come up here and say the same things. You’ve got to keep it positive,” Lawrence said. “One thing is, I think we’ve got some guys in that room, we’ve got enough guys to make it work. We’re just not playing well and that’s something that you obviously see on tape. Everyone that watches the game, they see.”
Lawrence looked as rattled as he’s been as the game wore on, especially in the fourth quarter as things spiraled out of control. Outside of the picks, Lawrence was knocked around the pocket much of the day. He took a sack for a loss of 20 yards and overthrew receivers multiple times as the pressure kept coming.
He finished 23 of 38 for 218 yards. The ground game had 8 yards rushing on eight carries.
Meyer said he still has confidence that he can get things turned around.
“Yeah, I do. Most certainly. Me personally you mean? Yeah. It hasn’t exactly materialized the way I expected it to have, the experience of winning games,” Meyer said. “I knew that this was somewhat of a build. I also really believe that we have plenty of good enough players to go win games. I still believe that. That’s why I get so disappointed sometimes with our coaching staff or myself, because I think we can do better than we’re doing. Really disappointed.”