‘It wasn’t us:’ With or without Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars need bounceback vs. Titans

Tennessee Titans defensive end Jeffery Simmons (98) chases Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski) (Mark Zaleski)

JACKSONVILLLE, Fla. – Whether Trevor Lawrence plays or not, the Jaguars know they must play better Sunday against the Titans if they want to end the nine-year winless streak in Nashville.

For the second straight day, Trevor Lawrence did not practice on Thursday. He is still considered day-to-day by the team. We’ll find out Friday if he’s listed as questionable, doubtful or out for Sunday’s game in Tennessee. Either way, the Jaguars have to find a way to put a better performance on the field than they did last week against the Lions.

Both coordinators were keenly aware of what the Jaguars must do, regardless of who is playing quarterback. Once you get to December, if the playoffs aren’t a possibility, it’s tough to get every player focused and motivated each and every week. Sometimes, it just takes one player on one play to wreck a game, especially for a team like the Jaguars who don’t have a lot of margin for error.

“It wasn’t us,” defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell said of the Jaguars’ performance in Detroit. “You go back, you’ve talked to the guys and had the same feeling. So we just got to come back in here — had a good day’s work yesterday and continue that today and just get back on the field Sunday and go at it again.”

Simply going at it again likely won’t be enough against the AFC South-leading Titans. The Jaguars’ last win in Nashville came in 2013. Having Lawrence available would be a major plus for a Jaguars team with only a narrow chance to make the playoffs. Those chances depend on the Jaguars beating the Titans on Sunday for starters.

“There’s never been a question of his toughness and his availability for the team,” said offensive coordinator Press Taylor. “I think everybody feels very confident that Trevor is gonna play what Trevor has the ability to, and there are times it’s our decision to protect players from themselves. A lot of these guys were willing to play through a lot of things. But we needed to do what’s best for the player, as well as what was best for our team. So we’ll continue to make those decisions.”

No player on the Jaguars roster has seen a Jaguars win in Nashville while in a Jaguars uniform. But the recent (or not-so-recent) history is largely being ignored by the players who have been on the roster for a short time. The more pressing loss on the minds of the Jaguars this week is last week’s embarrassment in Detroit.

“You have to learn from a loss like that,” said safety Rayshawn Jenkins. “Obviously it’s going to be a little tough watching the film, but we’re professionals and it’s part of the job requirement.”

If the Jaguars are to make something of this season, they’ll likely have to win out. That starts with Sunday’s game in Nashville, the first of two games against the Titans remaining on the schedule.

“It’s imperative that we do. The season is on the line,” said wide receiver Marvin Jones. “The division is on the line.”

Even though many of the Jaguars have experienced only a few of the nine losses in the streak, the challenge is well-known to all. Along with the Baltimore Ravens, the Titans are among the most physical teams in the NFL. Perhaps that is a positive the Jaguars can take with them to Music City.

“There’s a lot of energy there,” said wide receiver Christian Kirk. “It’s a great fan base and a great football team. It definitely has its challenges. Well-coached team. They’re physical. And especially defensively, they feed off the momentum and the fan base. We’re going to have to band together. There’s no room for mistakes.”