The long month of October has finally drawn to a merciful close for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have failed to put together any positive momentum heading into their bye week.
The Jaguars (1-6) lost 39-29 to the 2-4 Los Angeles Chargers and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in Week 7, the team's sixth consecutive loss and sixth consecutive game allowing 30 or more points. The last time the Jaguars won a game? 43 days ago, a time that seems like a distant memory.
Jacksonville will now turn its focus to the bye week, but what can we take away from the team's long Sunday in Week 7? We break it down here.
Can't blame Doug Marrone for trying to find a spark and sneak a win, even if it didn't work
With Jacksonville having not won a game in over a month and frustration clearly building, can one really blame head coach Doug Marrone for his extreme level of aggressiveness on Sunday? Marrone is typically an even-keeled coach but he tried to pull out all of the stops in Los Angeles, going for it on fourth down four times and going for a two-point attempt after three different touchdowns.
It was a rare change in philosophy by Marrone, but it is understandable why he coached like it was a must-win game -- in many ways for his staff and locker room, it was one. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they failed on one of the two-point attempts and converted just one of the fourth downs, allowing the Chargers to regain the ball on downs at the Jaguars 47-yard line in the third quarter.
"We start the game, and I think we have four three-and-outs. We get down, then we come back. It's not my philosophy to go for two that early in the game, but I felt with the flow of the game, the way it was going, I wanted to make sure that I did that," Marrone said after the game.
"Same thing with the third and fourth downs, it's not necessarily something that I've done in the past — I think you guys realized that — but I am trying to get this team a score. I'm trying to get them going when we have a little bit of momentum. I think those are critical at that time. You have to be right on it, focused. You have to execute. At the end of the day, on three out of those four plays, we didn't execute. That's on all of us, and it starts with me."
The Jaguars should be dinged for their inability to convert any of these fourth down plays. The execution up front was poor, while the play calling was also plenty questionable. But regardless of the result, it is hard to pass much blame to Marrone for doing everything he can to give his team an advantage.
Ugly starts continue to anchor Jacksonville's chances each week
That was maybe the worst first quarter of football the Jaguars have played Doug Marrone. Considering the Jaguars have lost 27 of the last 39 games, that is saying a lot. And unfortunately for Marrone and the Jaguars, the slow starts have become such a frequent occurrence that you can only place fault at the feet of the coaching staff.
In the first quarter, the Jaguars had three possessions. They gained 6, 2, and -2 yards, completing zero passes and converting zero first downs. In 10 plays, the Jaguars had -5 net passing yards. The team's first time moving the chains on a first down conversion didn't come until 19:32 into the game.
Defensively, it wasn't much better. The Jaguars allowed 10 points in the first three possessions, while also allowing nine first downs and 154 total yards. If the Jaguars are going to find a way to squeak another win out during a tough second half schedule, they will have to figure out how to stop starting the game slow enough to put themselves into an insurmountable hole.
James Robinson proved he should be the focal point of the offense
Is there any more doubt about who should be the primary focus in Jacksonville's offense? Marrone may not like the term "feature back", but it is obvious the Jaguars will be better off if that is exactly what Robinson is. The Jaguars were ranked 29th in rushing entering Sunday largely because they don't run the ball enough, as evidenced by the fact that Sunday was the first time Robinson has earned 20 or more carries in a game.
Robinson accounted for 12 of the team's 29 points, while also accounting for 137 of the team's 294 net yards (46.6%) on Sunday. He picked up big chunk yards on the ground, made a huge play as a receiver and impressed as a pass blocker. He is the best player on Jacksonville's offense right now, and it is time for the Jaguars to begin treating him as such by feeding him the ball.
Ideally, the Jaguars could run their offense through Gardner Minshew, DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault etc., but that is simply not a feasible reality. What is feasible is Robinson churning out tough yards and conversions for four quarters each week. And as Sunday's comeback from a 16-0 deficit showed, the Jaguars can still make the run and Robinson a priority even when they fall behind in points.
Josh Allen, Quincy Williams, DaVon Hamilton made plays. Joe Schobert and CJ Henderson didn't
I know most Jaguars fans aren't as happy with Josh Allen's 2019 season as they hoped they would be, but he really is playing good football. He was constantly disruptive on Sunday, creating several pressures on his own and even opening up plays for others on the defense. For example, Dawuane Smoot and Taven Bryan's sack was 100% the result of Allen forcing Justin Herbert out of the pocket.
Quincy Williams and DaVon Hamilton had big games too, with the two combining for 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and four pressures. Williams flew around and made a few impressive tackles in space, while Hamilton shut down the Chargers' early running game.
With that said, Joe Schobert and CJ Henderson had games worth forgetting sooner than later. Schobert has the defense's worst PFF grade from Week 7 as a result of four missed tackles and being on the losing end of three different Chargers touchdowns. Henderson, meanwhile, became the latest victim to the art of Keenan Allen's route running, allowing five catches for 68 yards on five targets, with each catch resulting in a first down.
Where the areas of focus for the bye week should be after the latest loss
With the Jaguars now having a bye week to figure out where their greatest issues are, I thought the Chargers game did a great job of showing where the team's greatest warts are and where their areas of focus this week should be. Here are a few that stood out.
- Use the bye week to get Daniel Thomas up to speed. For as good as Josh Jones is against the run, he has been a complete liability against the pass and commits too many avoidable penalties. His best play in coverage this season is legitimate a dropped interception he had on Sunday. It is time for the rookie safety.
- Do the same for Luq Barcoo. He hasn't played a single defensive snap this season and has been inactive more games than he has been active, but get him some time to prepare for Week 9 so he can get the reps Chris Claybrooks has gotten.
- Figure out a way to scheme easier throws to DJ Chark. Every throw to him is downfield and contested, which is a good reason for why he has struggled to do anything over the last three weeks. This worked to start the year, but the Jaguars are at the point where Jay Gruden needs to open up the playbook.
- Find the root cause for Joe Schobert's struggles. It is unlikely that rookie linebacker Shaquille Quarterman would be a worse option than Schobert if he continues to play like he did on Sunday and in the first five games of the season. Jacksonville needs to either get a way to get him on track or find out how to keep him from continuing to hurt the defense.