JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars are a team in search of answers.
Jacksonville (1-2) is facing a gut check as it heads to London riding a two-game losing streak and an inconsistency that threatens to knock the Jaguars off course. The offense has looked out of synch at best. Defensively, the Jaguars had played well until Sunday’s implosion against the Texans, a game where nothing went smoothly.
Will those struggles linger?
Houston was missing four starters on the offensive line, yet the Jaguars couldn’t sack rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. He’d been sacked 11 times in the first two games, but the Jaguars seldom put pressure on the Ohio State product. Special teams were a disaster, with a blocked and a missed field goal, as well as an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by 255-pound fullback Andrew Beck.
For Doug Pederson, this is new territory. Last year, little was expected from the rebuilding Jaguars. But an unexpected run to the divisional playoffs and how it happened — a blistering second half of the season — boosted expectations significantly. Pederson said there may be some truth to Jacksonville buying into the hype, but coaches were focused on getting players to live in the present and not what happened last season.
“I think there’s some of that. I think to human nature, you read into a lot of the hype, you know, preseason a little bit and, you know, right now we’re not living up to that expectation, right,” Pederson said.
“And yeah, you want to pick up where you left off, but you know, it’s a new, you still got to go put in the hard work and preparation and still work in practice and all that. And that’s the one thing that I really appreciate about those guys is they’re disappointed just like I am. But they continue to work and show the confidence that they need to get it fixed.”
Thus far, the encore has been wildly disappointing. The Jaguars haven’t been able to replicate the magic of 2022 in the slightest. If there’s been any similarities, it’s to the first half of last year and the maddening inconsistencies that plagued the Jaguars.
“I got a lot of confidence in this team and how we can respond and bounce back, and you know what it takes,” Pederson said. “Listen, it’s 14 games left and we got a big one this week. We’ve got to continue to right the ship obviously and fix the things that we need to fix.”
The Jaguars are headed to London for back-to-back games, a home game at Wembley Stadium against the Falcons on Sunday and an away game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Oct. 8. That’s two challenging opponents for a struggling Jacksonville team that is scraping to find some consistency. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been average (73 for 113, 736 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs), but the parts around him have been less than stellar.
Receiver Calvin Ridley has turned in back-to-back rough games, including two false starts and a dropped pass that would have been a touchdown against Houston.
The issues around the Jaguars are the ones that were there entering the season. The offensive line, which is missing left tackle Cam Robinson due to suspension, has been underwhelming. Rookie right tackle Anton Harrison is still developing and has endured those growing pains. He’s given up three sacks, a number tied for second-most in the NFL.
“Everything’s new for him, but he’s improving and you know, we have a lot of confidence in them,” Pederson said of Harrison. “He’ll get it done.”
While the offensive line will get a boost with the return of Robinson in Week 5, there don’t appear to be any immediate solutions to the pass rush. Second-year edge Travon Walker remains a work in progress, which no doubt chafes Jaguars fans who see the production of Lions edge Aidan Hutchinson, the player selected after Walker last year. Edge Josh Allen had a three-sack opener against the Colts but hasn’t been as effective since a shoulder injury against the Chiefs. Sack totals can certainly be misleading, but the pressures tell a different story.
The Jaguars managed just four quarterback pressures against Houston on Sunday. The worst part of that was Jacksonville was facing a Texans offensive line missing four of five regulars. Houston has struggled protecting Stroud with its starters in. Against Jacksonville, its backups neutralized the rush.
“My job is to paint the picture. I mean, this is where we are,” Pederson said. “This is not who we want to be. And this is where we’re going and you know all that stuff is still right in front of us.”