Pederson: Jaguars have to go through it, learn from poor performance

Sunday’s blowout loss was a culmination of things that have plagued the team

Head coach Doug Pederson of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence look on during the second half of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 04, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) (Leon Halip, 2022 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It looked bad from the very beginning, got worse and wound up as the most disappointing performance of the season for the Jaguars.

Not exactly what coach Doug Pederson wanted to see with a trip to Tennessee up next.

Jacksonville (4-8) had been competitive in every game this year. It had just one loss by more than eight points and was fresh off a comeback win over the Ravens.

Then came the trip to Detroit.

It was awful. The Lions pounded the Jaguars 40-14, exploiting the holes that Pederson and Co. have tried to plug with little consistency.

“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s getting worse. I’d just think yesterday was a culmination of everything,” Pederson said. “If you go back to the week before, there were some positive things there in the Baltimore game and stuff like that. It shows that it’s not all coming together.”

The Lions have been a very good offensive team this year, but they picked No. 2 in the draft last April for a reason. Against the Jaguars, Jared Goff and Detroit looked like a Super Bowl contender.

The Lions marched up and down the field with ease on Sunday. The Lions had nine possessions in the game and scored on eight of them. Detroit’s only unsuccessful drive was its final one, a kneeldown to drain the clock.

After the scare of losing quarterback Trevor Lawrence had subsided, attention shifted back to the big question.

What is wrong with the defense?

Is it the growing pains of a first-time coordinator or is the personnel just not good enough to get it done?

Jacksonville has poured significant resources to fix that side of the ball over the past two offseasons, only to have the same questions pop up. Where is the pass rush? Why can’t the team get a stop on third down? What is wrong with the defense?

“This is not all on the defense yesterday,” Pederson said. “Offense had their share in this yesterday as well. You can’t put the ball on the ground second play the game.”

Jacksonville struggled everywhere.

Travis Etienne ran well, but lost a fumble two plays in that Detroit converted into a touchdown. Lawrence suffered a leg injury on a sack in the second quarter but returned to throw a touchdown pass and played all but Jacksonville’s final drive. Pederson said Lawrence was undergoing an MRI Monday on his foot/toe area to rule out any damage.

“I think things are trending in the right direction, but I won’t have a definite until I get the report later today on his foot and everything,” Pederson said about Lawrence playing against the Titans.

The offense was at least capable of beating Baltimore a week earlier with some exceptional play by Lawrence. The defense isn’t performing like that.

Over its last three games, Jacksonville’s defense has struggled mightily, putting the pressure on Pederson and coordinator Mike Caldwell to find an answer.

In games against the Chiefs, Ravens and Lions, the Jaguars allowed an average of 448 yards per game. It has forced a combined three punts in those games. On third down, those teams converted on 23 of 36 chances. To put that in perspective, the Bills, the league’s best at converting on third down, has converted 52% of their chances. During Jacksonville’s three-game stretch, those teams have converted 64% of the time.

The Jaguars have nearly $103 million invested in the defense this year, a number that ranks second in the league to only the Rams, according to Spotrac.

Corners Shaquill Griffin ($16.4 million, injured reserve) and Darious Williams ($6.9 million) have been disappointing. Josh Allen ($7.2 million) has been a nonfactor in the pass rush. No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker ($6.8 million) is still learning the NFL game and hasn’t been nearly as impactful as hoped for. Those are four of the six highest-paid players on defense and they just haven’t made enough plays.

“I think Mike has done a good job of organizing and really keeping things together,” Pederson said. “On the same side of that is that we’ve got to do a better job of coaching and teaching and making sure everybody understands their jobs.”

There have been bright spots on that side of the ball. Second-year safety Andre Cisco leads the team in interceptions. Linebacker Foye Oluokun has been a wrecking ball, racking up 128 tackles. But the shortcomings elsewhere have made individual standouts difficult to spot.

“I think moving forward this week is going to be important for, I think, the psyche and the mentality of the football team and where we are. And just how guys respond from that type of loss and definitely things we can learn from,” Pederson said. “You want to sort of burn the film and move on, but you still have to go through it with them and fix the mistakes, make the corrections and then still point out some of the good that was there. You can’t be so negative. You still want to be able to correct some of the positive as well.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.