Jaguars at the bye: Work to do, but team hanging together

Jacksonville is 3-7 in Doug Pederson’s first season

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - NOVEMBER 13: Trevor Lawrence #16 celebrates with Christian Kirk #13 of the Jacksonville Jaguars after a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images) (Jason Hanna, 2022 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars have reached their bye week. Clearly, things are not where the team would want them record-wise. They have shown improvement year-over-year, but they have a long way to go.

Two veteran leaders, safety Rayshawn Jenkins and wide receiver Christian Kirk, on Tuesday addressed the need for greater consistency and focus.

The defense started the season looking like it could be the strength of the team before injuries and poor play struck. After starting the season 2-1, the defense gave up 401 yards to the Eagles on a rain-soaked day in Philadelphia. It was the first of four games where the Jaguars allowed the opponents to gain more than 400 yards of total offense. At one stretch, the Jaguars went three straight games without forcing a turnover. Not surprisingly, they lost all three games.

Even when they forced three turnovers against the Chiefs on Sunday in Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes and co. piled up 486 yards of total offense, the most by any opponent this year.

“I would definitely say that we can definitely tighten screws a bit as a unit, just settle down and really be on every detail of the game,” Jenkins said. “This is a game that’s turned more, in my opinion, more mental than anything. It can’t just be run and hit, run and hit. It’s thinking about how I’m getting set up for this play, how they are trying to attack me and the defense on this play. We just need to be more cerebral with stuff like that.”

The offense has shown improvement over the course of the year with the exception of one key area: scoring. Since that 2-1 start, the Jaguars have produced three 400-yard games, including in a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders that snapped a five-game losing skid. But over the last seven games, the Jaguars have scored more than 21 points only twice and have not been able to win close games.

“I think that for us, really taking advantage of every time we’re able to step on the field (is important),” Kirk said. “We have to stay on schedule. I kind of always talk about it, but it really is a flow for us offensively. I think that’s when we’re producing at our best. That’s one of the things that we definitely need to hone in on and really be critical of ourselves this week and try to get better for the back half of this season.”

So, what can the Jaguars accomplish during the bye week? That depends on each player.

Kirk says young players should double down on the mental side of the game while veterans need to get away and reset.

“For us veterans and those who have been out there playing, I think it’s really important to give your body and mind rest, get away from the building, just kind of unplug for a little bit,” Kirk said. “Obviously, keeping our goals in the back of your mind and think about what you can do better for yourself personally to help the team get better in the back half of the season. I’m a firm believer that it’s really important to just kind of get away from the building and just unplug, because seven games is a lot more games. We’ve got about two months to go, and we all have to be at our best physically and mentally.”

After the bye week, the Jaguars will host the Baltimore Ravens, then travel to Detroit to face the Lions before a trip to Tennessee to take on the Titans. Then it’s home against the Dallas Cowboys before back-to-back road games against the New York Jets and Houston Texans. They finish the season at home against Tennessee. Five of the games come against teams in the playoff hunt. It won’t be easy to find wins, but Kirk said the makeup of the Jaguars’ locker room gives them a chance to finish the season strong.

“These guys are resilient,” Kirk said. “(Head Coach Doug Pederson) says it best, we’re all hand-picked to be here. You see the commonalities between everybody. High character guys, guys that go out and play for one another, tough, smart football players. When you bring around the same kind of guy you’re kind of looking for, you know you’re building something special. I know right now the season hasn’t really gone the way we want it to, but you don’t really feel anybody giving up or kind of cashing it in, everybody’s still looking forward to what’s in front of us, and those are the type of people you want to be around.”