The Jacksonville Jaguars' trip to the west coast didn't quite go as planned. With the Jaguars hoping to snap a three-game losing streak as massive underdogs against the Los Angeles Rams, the Jaguars left Sunday with only just another loss under their belt -- this time a 37-7 beatdown by the hand of the Rams.
What did we learn in the Jaguars' latest loss and what could it mean for the team moving forward? From James Robinson to Urban Meyer, we break it all down below.
Urban Meyer and the Jaguars' staff still lack consistency with distributing playing time
The James Robinson situation is an odd one. The Jaguars' lead back is clearly still not 100% since his Week 8 injury, but the Jaguars and Urban Meyer's staff have been curious with their usage of him the last two weeks. Robinson was off of the field for more than 15 consecutive snaps last week -- including an entire red-zone drive -- after a fumble, a hefty punishment doled out by the Jaguars' staff considering the lack of benchings for the amount of mistakes made by other players on both sides of the ball. This oddly continued in Los Angeles, too, with Robinson off the field for three whole drives after he fumbled on the Jaguars' second offensive snap of the game.
"He's still not 100 percent. He's not practicing during the week. James is as good a guy, a tough a guy, team player as you've got, that I've ever been around. Your heart bleeds for the guy just because he's not able to do what he does well," Meyer said after the game. "He hasn't been that way since Seattle. He's not able to practice, but he wants to play, and he's still a very good player. You've just got to take care of the ball."
Benching a player for a fumble is always a controversial call, but it is even more controversial considering Robinson missed nearly the entire first half despite the Jaguars' complete lack of offensive firepower. Robinson had just two touches before the final drive of the first half and ended the day with fewer carries than Carlos Hyde, even though Hyde had a fumble himself and returned just a few plays later.
There is no rhyme or reason to the Jaguars' usage of their running backs, even when taking Robinson's injury into consideration. Robinson is held to a much higher standard than any player on the roster if you are simply basing it off how the Jaguars deploy him following mistakes. If Robinson was truly too injured to provide a spark, then he doesn't need to play. But if he is healthy enough to be out there, then there is zero reason for the Jaguars to punish him for making the same mistakes that other players on the team make.
The future is now -- the Jaguars need to start playing the rookies
With the Jaguars sitting at 2-10 and being closer to the No. 1 overall pick than they are to a .500 record, it is clear the season is over for all intents and purposes. The Jaguars have five more games to get through, but the future is now for the Jaguars. The development of their young core is far more important than anything that will take place over the next five weeks, especially considering how the last month has played out. And as a result, the Jaguars need to accept the future is now and start playing their rookie class.
Trevor Lawrence and Tyson Campbell are already starters, but there is no reason for the Jaguars to not increase the snaps and roles for the rest of the group. Let Walker Little get more reps at either of the tackle spots so he has experience under his belt and more film to watch. Let Andre Cisco start over Andrew Wingard, who missed a tackle on Cooper Kupp's touchdown catch on Sunday. Let Jordan Smith be active for the first time all season long and give him snaps over Jihad Ward and Lerentee McCray. Even have Luke Farrell start to see more of a role. Do anything to accelerate the development of the Jaguars' future, because as of now, that future is stuck in neutral in favor of veterans who may not even be Jaguars in 2022.
Jacksonville's only worthwhile drive of the game offered glimpses of what the offense could be, but glimpses don't win in the NFL
The Jaguars put together one of their best drives of the season on their lone scoring drive on Sunday, marching down the field on a 13-play, 61-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a two-yard Carlos Hyde touchdown. It saw Trevor Lawrence pick up big gains through the air on third-down, convert third-downs with his legs, and even complete a tight-window pass to Marvin Jones on fourth-down to extend the drive. The Jaguars were outmatched from a personnel standpoint, but Lawrence and the offense had a glimpse of strength. But a glimpse is all it was with the Jaguars.
"After that nice drive -- he did a heck of a job on that drive. He scrambled, he made some nice plays, and we go down and score, and you're feeling pretty good about life, and then all of a sudden it goes in reverse again," Meyer said after the contest. "First down was the biggest problem today, first down and second and 10, second and 11, second and 9 against that defense, that's not what you want to be in, and that's where I felt like that was -- especially in the second half because that's when things went in a different direction for us."
Simply put, the Jaguars can not continue to walk out of games with just one drive to hang their hat on. It has continually happened over the last few weeks as the Jaguars string together competent offensive play for one series and then fall apart the rest of the game. Considering the Jaguars converted multiple first downs on just two of their other 10 drives on Sunday, it is fair to say this was once again the case for the Jaguars. And in the NFL, that is simply no way to win -- not with a rookie quarterback, and not with anyone else.
The Jaguars can officially turn their eyes to the 2022 NFL Draft, and potentially the No. 1 overall pick
The 2021 season is, for all intents and purposes, over for the Jaguars. There are still 20 quarters of football left to be played, but the Jaguars and their base can more or less look to the 2022 NFL Draft and offseason. Nothing that happens over the next five weeks will change that, especially considering the trajectory the Jaguars have been on this season and over the last month. As such, it is officially draft season in Jacksonville.
For the Jaguars, there is a chance that draft season could mean the No. 1 overall pick for the second year in a row. The Jaguars are currently slotted to pick No. 3 overall due to the Detroit Lions having the NFL's worse record and the Houston Texans having a slightly lower strength of schedule. With the Jaguars still set to play the Jets and Texans over the next five weeks, there is a real chance the Jaguars could end the year with the NFL's worst record yet again. The Lions are at least staying in games late, which is more than the Jaguars can say. Until that changes, the Jaguars are strong candidates to pick No. 1 overall.
The positives to come from Year 1 of the Urban Meyer era continue to be few and far in between
Even for the most staunch Urban Meyer advocates, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find many positives to draw from in Year 1 of the Jaguars' new regime. The No. 1 overall pick isn't producing, the best player on the team has been injured for half the season and is mismanaged when he is on the field, the defense has put just one complete game together, and the offense is one of the worst in the entire NFL. It was set to be a rebuild year from the start, but the Jaguars were never expected to be this bad. Not by Meyer and not by anyone else.
At this point in the season, it is becoming difficult to understand exactly what progress the Jaguars have made this year compared to 2020. Last season wasn't a complete waste because it resulted in the No. 1 pick and eventually Lawrence. But this season? It is hard to think of many memorable positives. The Jaguars' offense has gotten worse even with a generational quarterback prospect and Meyer has done little to inspire confidence. The Jaguars have been stacking up losses for some time, but now it is hard to find even moral victories.