JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars had a week off and returned to work with their worst performance of the Doug Pederson era. Was it a sign that the Jaguars may not be as good as their record, or was it simply just a bad game?
Sunday’s 34-3 blowout loss to the struggling 49ers was bad in every facet. The defense had flashes of promise but had its most difficult afternoon since a Week 3 loss to Houston. While the defense has had far more positive showings that negative ones, the offense has found the opposite to be true. Trevor Lawrence and Co. have struggled since Week 1 to find the consistency and flow that was thought would be the team’s strength this year. The low point was a Week 2 showing against Kansas City where the team mustered three field goals and failed to reach the end zone.
And then came San Francisco, which ripped the Band-Aid off and forced Jacksonville to take a long, hard look at its struggling offense. The Jaguars (6-3) rank 19th in the league at 328 yards per game, just in front of the Bears (322.8). When the defense is playing lights out, it can mask the offensive issues. But if the defense isn’t turning in an exceptional game, it’s far more difficult to gloss over the offensive struggles.
“There’s still no panic. I mean, I think if you panic, then you’re almost sort of waved the white flag a little bit. This is what I want our team to understand is, you’re still sitting in first place. Everything’s right here in front of you. You control it, you’ve put yourself in a good situation,” Pederson said. “If we can just eliminate or even minimize some of these mistakes that we’re making and shooting ourselves in the foot as we say, then it puts you in a better position to get into the fourth quarter and potentially win games.”
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that the Jaguars are headed in the wrong direction if they can’t get their offense figured out soon. Their second half schedule features games against Bengals and Ravens, as well as three division games (Titans twice and the Texans).
Houston’s surge under rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has been stronger than anyone outside the Texans locker room could have expected. Jacksonville’s offensive struggles fall into that same category.
No one could have foreseen a year on offense like Jacksonville has turned in. Pederson said Monday that the Jaguars have played well on that side of the ball in spurts, just not consistently enough.
“I mean, it’s been there. It’s been on track. At times. You know, it just comes down to the preparation,” he said. “I talk to the guys all the time about their preparation when they’re outside of this building. What are they doing a little extra. Are they studying, extra tape, are they looking at every cut up of a certain route or coverage or defensive front, blitz, whatever it might be, just to stay sharp.”
Lawrence has followed up his breakout second season with a year that has many asking, ‘what’s wrong?’ Lawrence ranks 15th in total quarterback rating (56.1), lower than passers like Gardner Minshew (61.8), Joshua Dobbs (58) and Baker Mayfield (56.7). He’s 17th in passing yardage (2,120), 18th in passer rating (89.3) and 22nd in touchdown passes (9). Lawrence has 10 turnovers this season (six interceptions, four lost fumbles) and nine touchdown passes. Travis Etienne has been very good this season, but there’s no way to dress up the struggles of the offense as a whole. The offensive line allowed Lawrence to be pressured nearly 40% of his dropbacks on Sunday and he was sacked five times.
Jacksonville’s offensive players are virtually the same as they were last year, with the exception of Anton Harrison at right tackle ahead of Jawaan Taylor. The team added receiver Calvin Ridley, although his impact hasn’t been as stats heavy as hoped for. Pederson said that Lawrence taking accountability for how he’s played and his vow to fix it, is all that needs to be said.
“The fact that he acknowledges that, that’s enough, really,” Pederson said of Lawrence. “I just keep encouraging him. We have the confidence in him. We’re not doubting anything as a staff. None of that kind of stuff takes place.”