Mark Brunell: Jaguars offense in disarray

News4Jax NFL analyst: Team needs Fournette back, or sort of running game

By Mark Brunell - Sports Analyst

Hoping to get the team on track after a two-game losing skid, Blake Bortles and company returned home to take on divisional rival Houston. What was slated to be a turnaround victory for the Jags ended up being another offensive collapse and divisional loss.

Dropped passes from No. 1 receiving target Keelan Cole and little to no run game were no compliments for poor quarterback play Sunday. The entire offense looked out of sync which, in turn, makes Bortles’ performance seem worse than it probably was. Something had to be done however, and that came in the form of benching Blake in the third quarter. 

First off, Blake needs help. The running game does nothing for the team, forcing Blake to sit back and throw more than necessary. This team needs Fournette back, or any sort of running game for the offense to succeed.

The element of teams having to stack the box in order to try and stifle a dominant running game is crucial. Leaving three to four receivers one-on-one is a much easier task for Blake to handle, instead of teams only blitzing four to five and dropping six to seven men into coverage.

Still, wide receivers like Cole are dropping passes that hit them directly in the hands with no defender in sight. The offensive line needs to protect in both the run and pass game as well. No protection and dropped balls equal no yards, and that was clearly displayed in front of the hometown crowd.

Secondly, Coach Doug Marrone is sending a message to Blake through his benching: If you turn the ball over, you don’t get to play. It is as simple as that. Backup QB Cody Kessler is not the permanent answer for the Jaguars going forward -- it's Bortles. If Blake wants to continue being the starter, however, he has to protect the football when running and when passing.

Blake should start against an experienced Philadelphia defense next week in London. Throwing Kessler out on the field provides the team no advantage over putting Blake in. Hopefully, Bortles uses this benching as an eye-opening experience that he is replaceable and will use that to put his game back on track. 

As for Kessler, he played well in my eyes. Completing 21 for 30 passes for 156 yards, a touchdown and an interception (that was not his fault) is not terrible for a guy that woke up in the morning as the team’s backup. Kessler actually drove the ball efficiently and, at times, put the Texans’ defense on their heels. That is the type of play that is obviously needed from Blake week in and week out.

Kessler proved that he is a legitimate threat to usurp Blake for the starting job which, hopefully, will not be necessary moving forward. The competition is there, and I hope that benching Blake and having him watch as his team’s only score on the day comes from his backup lights some sort of fire inside him.

This should also be used as a message for the whole team as well, that something needs to be different. The play right now is not where it should be from a team that began the season heralded as a Super Bowl contender. 

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If you saw the game that I saw, the offense is in disarray. Injuries obviously hinder a team, especially when your key core players are wearing street clothes on the sideline. But that is the game of football and the Jaguars are left with no choice but to overcome this or continue their ugly plummet to the bottom of the AFC South.

The team looks to travel to Wembley Stadium for a matchup against the Eagles, who are currently facing similar team troubles. The Jags have a three-game win streak in London and Bortles plays some of his better ball when playing overseas. 

As for now, Bortles is the guy. You have to trust your young veteran quarterback to do the right thing, and I believe that he can. Hopefully, a more integrated Jamaal Charles and newly acquired Carlos Hyde can help right the run game and take some of the pressure off of Bortles’ back.

The Jaguars are a winning team. They just need to find themselves. As always, go Jags.  

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