No matter how the rest of this season takes shape for the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2), there is more than enough reason to believe that Week 3 is as ugly as it will get for the Jaguars.
That statement could, of course, blow up in disastrous and hilarious fashion, but the 31-13 loss to the previously winless Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football sure felt like rock bottom. But moving forward, the Jaguars can at the least attempt to use the lessons from the brutal loss to improve their team moving forward.
So how did each position group individually play against the Dolphins, and what could it mean for the Jaguars moving forward? We pass out our Week 3 report card below to give you the answers.
As good as Gardner Minshew II was in the first two games of the season, he was that bad against the Dolphins. His final volume statistics don't look awful (30-of-42 passing for 275 yards and an interception), but the tape shows that it was a rough for quarters for the second-year passer. Minshew passed up several chances to push the ball downfield, though this could be due to the absence of top receiver DJ Chark. Minshew was just 2-of-9 for 34 yards on attempts 10-yards downfield or longer on Thursday, and his -3.8 average air yards differential (via NFL Next Gen Stats) is the fourth-lowest figure of all qualifying quarterbacks from Week 3.
All in all, Minshew struggled against pressure and when forced to look past his check-downs, and each of his turnovers were careless mistakes. He wasn't helped by some truly terrible drops and mistakes from veteran receiver Chris Conley, but Minshew will have to be way better than he was against the Dolphins if he wants to be the Jaguars quarterback past 2020.
There really isn't anything negative to say about Jacksonville's running backs from Thursday. James Robinson had his second-consecutive game without a negative carry, rushing 11 times for 46 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, giving him three touchdowns over the last two games. Robinson once again displayed good vision and explosion as a runner, and his numbers would look much better if the Jaguars didn't go down by multiple possessions. As a pass-catcher, Robinson led Jacksonville's air attack by catching all six of his targets for 83 yards (13.8 yards per catch). He had multiple plays with impressive displays of yards after catch ability, and he had several good reps as a pass blocker too.
Chris Thompson got seven touches (five receptions, two rushes) for 38 yards, but he was mostly a non-factor. He did get blown up by Kyle Van Noy on one blitz pickup, but frankly, that is a big-time mismatch.
Chris Conley's night featured two critical drops and a pass interference that took away a first down and immediately preceded a Minshew fumble. He caught just three of his eight targets and the passing game was completely derailed every time Minshew looked his way. In a lot of ways, it looked like the Jaguars were trying to force Conley into Chark's role; it just didn't work.
Keelan Cole had a solid night, catching four of his five targets for 43 yards, which included an extremely acrobatic 16-yard reception along the sideline. Laviska Shenault had a nice 16-yard gain on a curl route after he bounced off of the contact and picked up extra yards, but he got just 17 yards on his other four catches.
Jacksonville's reserve receivers, Dede Westbrook and Collin Johnson, combined for two catches for seven yards. Each could have had a potential touchdown in the end zone as well, though Westbrook at least drew a pass interference.
James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Eifert, and Tyler Davis combined for just five catches for 40 yards. Jacksonville targeted tight ends just seven times on Thursday, so it was clear the running backs and receivers were a much larger emphasis of the passing game. O'Shaughnessy continues to look good after the catch, but otherwise, it was a quiet day for the position.
As for the run blocking, the Jaguars saw Eifert put forth a really strong performance. He had limited reps, of course, but he continues to excel at blocking in space, helping lead the way for Robinson's first touchdown. Davis struggled as a blocker in his NFL debut.
Jacksonville gets points for their run blocking here because they did well at the point of attack in limited run snaps. A.J. Cann, Jawaan Taylor and Andrew Norwell all had strong performances in the running game and were big reasons that James Robinson continues to excel as a runner. If Jacksonville can ever get a lead and lean on their running game, then we could see what the offensive line's true potential is.
With that said, the Jaguars struggled greatly in pass protection for the first time this season. Cam Robinson had a particularly rough game handling Miami's edge rush, while Miami's blitz packages consistently fooled the Jaguars up front. The first two weeks were strong from Jacksonville's offensive line, but Week 3 was a step back.
While Jacksonville recorded just one sack, they had a more disruptive pass-rush in this game than in the other two upon rewatch. Josh Allen had five pressures, while K'Lavon Chaisson flashed good bend, and speed-to-power moves on the edge across from him. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they once again got next to nothing from their interior defensive line in terms of a pass rush. Taven Bryan was, again, blanketed by blockers, while Timmy Jernigan's performance was so uninspiring that the Jaguars felt comfortable waiving him on Monday.
On the flip side, the Jaguars did keep Miami to under four yards per carry (3.8 yards per carry allowed on 36 carries). The Dolphins got 29 of their 138 rushing yards on one play, so Jacksonville's defensive line gets a bump in the grade for their performance against the run, even if they still can't get to the passer.
If it wasn't for Joe Schobert taking a woefully bad angle on a crucial third-down while Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled for a 14-yard gain, this grade would likely be better. Myles Jack was once again lights out, recording 11 tackles and displaying his playmaking ability against the run as the Jaguars limited Miami's running game.
Schobert did record one tackle for loss, but ultimately his issues against Fitzpatrick's legs ding him a good bit here considering most of Fitzpatrick's good runs came on third and fourth downs. Cassius Marsh played a good bit after Leon Jacobs tore his ACL on the game's first drive, but he recorded just three tackles in his 30+ snaps.
Jacksonville's cornerbacks didn't give up any big plays in terms of yardage on Thursday, but they didn't make any positive plays either. Not a single defensive back finished the game with a pass deflection, and the Dolphins receivers were more or less running open for 10-to-15 yard gains all night. For reference, here are some of the coverage stats for Jacksonville's starting two cornerbacks, all via Pro Football Focus.
- CJ Henderson: Five catches allowed on five targets for 62 yards (12.4 yards per reception) and one touchdown. Four first downs allowed.
- Tre Herndon: Three catches allowed on three targets for 44 yards (14.7 yards per catch). Three first downs allowed.
D.J. Hayden probably had his best game by default, but the Jaguars' cornerbacks were beaten almost every single time Fitzpatrick targeted them, including for a touchdown. It wasn't a good performance.
Unlike the previous week, Jacksonville's safeties weren't exactly picked on against Miami. Andrew Wingard left at halftime with a core muscle injury but was tackling well in space when he was on the field. Brandon Watson filled in him for him and had a nice tackle for loss as the backside defender on a Dolphins rushing play, but he was also flagged for a pass interference in the third quarter.
The ultimate reason why this grade is low, however, is due to Josh Jones being beaten for a touchdown in the first half. Jones gave up just a three-yard completion to Preston Williams for the score, but it came on the game's first drive and was the exclamation point on a bad opening drive for Jacksonville's defense.
This unit was expected to struggle without veteran kicker Josh Lambo and it was more or less a mixed bag. Rookie undrafted kicker Brandon Wright made his first extra point attempt but missed his second one before leaving the game with a groin injury. Those were the only two kicks Wright attempted on Thursday, so he completed just 50% of his attempts.
As for the other parts of the special teams unit, punter Logan Cooke had a solid showing. He punted three times for 157 yards (52.3 average) and one touchback. Meanwhile, the Jaguars pulled rookie Chris Claybrooks from the kick and punt returner spots and inserted Keelan Cole (one kick for 24 yards) and Dede Westbrook (one punt return for eight yards).