The Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) started the Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence era in an ugly way on Sunday, losing 37-21 to a Houston Texans team that was unanimously predicted to finish as the worst team in football in 2021.
What went wrong for the Jaguars? How did they get here after a promising end to the preseason? From Trevor Lawrence's so-so game to Urban Meyer's Week 1 failures, we break down what we saw on Sunday below.
Trevor Lawrence looked exactly like a rookie quarterback in his NFL debut; no better, no worse
The No. 1 overall pick didn't have the best day on Sunday. Instead of Trevor Lawrence looking like a transcendent talent who could light the NFL up on his own from Day 1, he ended up looking more like a rookie quarterback placed directly in the middle of a 1-15 franchise, which likely should have instead been the expectation. Lawrence didn't look in over his head, but he certainly looked like the epitome of a rookie quarterback -- talented, but young with plenty of room to grow.
Lawrence had several impressive throws, including his third-and-17 completion to DJ Chark in the first-half, but he also had three interceptions that were jarring, each looking like an interception the moment the ball came out of Lawrence's hand. Lawrence looked tough in the pocket against pressure, but he also didn't use his mobility enough to extend plays or pick up yards. There was some good, some bad, and some ugly, which should always be the expectation for any rookie quarterback's debut. Lawrence's first game as a Jaguar was no different.
Urban Meyer and his staff failed on several levels
The Jaguars can't point to any one issue as the main culprit behind Sunday's loss. Instead, the issues were multifarious. From things as simple as having the right number of players on the field or in the huddle to getting the ball snapped in time to not allowing a 50-plus yard completion with fewer than 0:30 left, the Jaguars made mental mistakes after mental mistake on Sunday. And when a team is frequently looking out of sorts when it comes to the simple and minor aspects of football, that falls on the coaching staff more so than anyone else. And chief among those who bear blame for the Week 1 failure is head coach Urban Meyer, who didn't have his team prepared to play.
The Jaguars never looked like they had a rhyme or reason for anything on offense. They never attempted to establish a running game, only deploying James Robinson on five carries despite being down by just 10 with 2:00 left in the first half. Aside from not rushing the ball, the Jaguars leaned on Carlos Hyde when they did run the ball, which isn't a recipe for success no matter the week.
As for defensively, the Jaguars and Joe Cullen's staff were taken to school by Texans coordinator Tim Kelly, who dismantled the Jaguars' man coverage scheme with a plethora of tight formations and crossing and rub routes. The Jaguars never adjusted. On top of that, the Jaguars took defensive liability Andrew Wingard off the field probably a quarter-and-a-half too late, with the decision to play him over Andre Cisco looking like more of a mistake with each play.
From play-calling to game-planning to simply teaching the Jaguars how to line up, the Jaguars' coaching staff failed on Sunday -- and that should be the biggest concern moving forward.
Jaguars' offseason additions failed to produce results in Week 1
The Jaguars' offseason of adding new faces got off to a slow start before the game even began, with the Jaguars announcing only four of their nine draft picks would play. It got worse throughout the course of the day, too, as only wide receiver Marvin Jones, tight end Chris Manhertz and defensive lineman Malcom Brown produced in a positive fashion on Sunday.
- Free agent cornerback Shaquill Griffin was flagged once for defensive pass interference, dropped a key potential interception on the first play of the game, and was beat downfield by Cooks on each of his two big receptions.
- Free agent safety Rayshawn Jenkins was beaten by Cooks at the catch point, missed a tackle on Mark Ingram near the goal line, and frequently looked a step slow in coverage.
- Free agent Roy Robertson-Harris finished with one quarterback hit and two solo tackles despite playing the majority of the game.
- No. 33 overall pick Tyson Campbell was frequently bested by Danny Amendola in the slot, giving up key third-down completions on the Texans' first scoring drive.
- Jamal Agnew didn't record a touch on offense and returned two punts for a grand total of one yard.
The Jaguars needed their new faces to inject new life into the team, but they largely failed to do on Sunday. Whether that changes moving forward will be key to determining just how much better the Jaguars can be than last year's 1-15 team.
Talent evaluation is still a big problem in Jacksonville
The Jaguars made several decisions throughout the course of the offseason and preseason that made many scratch their heads and raise their eyebrows; the three moves that received the most criticism were trading Joe Schobert and Sidney Jones and releasing Jarrod Wilson. And through one game, it appears talent evaluation is still a big problem for the Jaguars.
Jones had a bad preseason and didn't fit in the slot, but the Jaguars looked unprepared in the back-end of the defense and were missing any semblance of cornerback depth with Jones in Seattle and Tre Herndon out for the game. As for Schobert, who struggled in 2020, he would have at least given the Jaguars more resistance against the pass than Damien Wilson did on Sunday. We already discussed the Jaguars' mistake in playing Wingard over Cisco, but even keeping Wingard on the roster over Wilson (who rejected the Jaguars' practice squad offer, per sources), was a gross miscalculation and one that blew up in the Jaguars' faces on Sunday. There is a long season to go, but the Jaguars so far look like a team that made self-inflicted mistakes on defense this offseason.
Jaguars can expect to see similar offensive game plans throughout the season due to their defensive scheme -- can they adjust?
Kudos to the Texans, who came out with a terrific game plan vs. the Jaguars. They used motions, tight formations and splits, crossing routes, and plenty of rub and pick routes to free receivers up in space against man coverage. The issue for the Jaguars now is two-fold. The fact the Jaguars didn't adjust during the game was troubling, but the fact the Jaguars looked surprised to see the Texans implement that strategy was more concerning.
Then there is the question of how the Jaguars adjust moving forward. They will see plenty more offenses doing this to them, and chances are every one of those offenses is going to be more talented than the Texans offense the Jaguars played on Sunday. The Jaguars invested in a man-heavy scheme this offseason and don't have any options or directions to move in otherwise. Instead, they will have to nail down exactly why they couldn't limit separation, and why it was so easy for the Texans to scheme against them.