Growing Pains Intensify: 5 Observations From Jaguars' Week 6 Loss Vs. Lions
Most people expected a shootout between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions in Week 6. That is partially how things played out, with the Lions scoring 34 points -- the most of the Matt Patricia era.
But for the Jaguars (1-5), 16 points was hardly something to brag about considering the Lions had entered the game allowing more than 30 points per game this season. It was the third time this season the Jaguars have failed to score 17 points.
In all, the Jaguars couldn't stop a Lions offense from having its best day in the Patricia era, nor could the Jaguars take advantage of what is a struggling Lions defense.
With all that said, what are our biggest takeaways from the game? We examine here.
Running game had its most concerning output of the season
Simply put, there was no other game this season in which Jacksonville's running game was as startlingly stagnant as it was in Week 6. The performance the week prior, in which they rushed 20 times for 75 yards (3.8 yards per carry) was bad, but Sunday's derailed running game was somehow worse considering both the production and the quality of the opponent.
The Lions had entered Sunday allowing 170.25 rushing yards per game, but the Jaguars mustered just 44 yards on 16 carries, coming out to just 2.8 yards per carry. The longest run of the game? A nine-yard scramble by Gardner Minshew. The 44 yards rushing was the lowest total the Jaguars have recorded in a game since a 20-3 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 17 in 2018.
Jacksonville's rushing attack has been either inconsistent or underutilized all year long. Overall, the Jaguars have only rushed for 100 yards or more in just one game this year (165 in Week 2). They had their best chance yet this season to fix their running game due to a weak Lion's defense, but instead they had their worst performance yet. It is fair to put some blame on James Robinson but head coach Doug Marrone said after the game on Sunday, and again on Monday, that the Jaguars were beat upfront, leading to an anemic rushing attack.
Jaguars lost in the trenches on the other side of the ball despite rare Lions strategy
With the Jaguars losing in the trenches on offense, they got similarly disastrous results on the defensive side of the ball. They recorded zero sacks and allowed the Lions to rush for 180 yards on 39 carries. 54 of those yards came on one D'Andre Swift run, with that one run totaling more yards than Swift had in the rest of his 2020 season combined. Overall Swift rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries (8.29 yards per carry), despite his previous season-high being just 22 yards.
No matter how you look at it, the Jaguars were manhandled upfront. Taven Bryan was non-existent as a pass-rusher, while the rush defense desperately missed both Abry Jones and Josh Allen. Young players like Doug Costin, DaVon Hamilton, and K'Lavon Chaisson got good experience, but they weren't able to make enough of an impact to offset the loss of two key veterans.
This type of performance wouldn't look good against any opponent or in any context, but it looks even worse when you consider the fact that the Lions used all eight of their active offensive linemen. Other than at left tackle and center, the Lions saw a revolving door at their offensive line, playing six players at the other three spots. The Jaguars still got nothing done against the group in spite of that, which is concerning to say the least.
Week 6 was a perfect example of what the cons are to having the youngest roster in the league
There are absolutely some positives to having a young roster. The players can more or less be molded by the coaching staff and they have short memories more often than not. But as the Jaguars are quickly learning, there are also a fair number of cons to having the league's youngest roster.
This was evident on Sunday in several cases, with the most obvious coming below.
- K'Lavon Chaisson's offsides penalty on a third-down Jabaal Sheard sack.
- The Lions targeting T.J. Hockenson several times in the same set of four downs on the goal line, yet the Jaguars still failing to identify him as the primary read on fourth down.
- Jacksonville failing to adjust to the Lions' defensive blitz scheme, a scheme that clearly frustrated Minshew and right guard Ben Bartch.
- Josh Jones' numerous pass interference calls.
The Jaguars' roster has youth at every position and every level of the field. In some ways, this is exciting because they give hungry and young talent chances to get better each week, which could create a bright future. On the other hand, it will also lead to the Jaguars simply not knowing how to make plays or avoid mistakes in the most important situations, just as what happened on Sunday.
Jabaal Sheard was the biggest pleasant surprise
After not playing in a game this year due to being a free agent, Jabaal Sheard served as a third-down specialist for Jacksonville's banged-up defensive line on Sunday. The 10th-year veteran led the team in pressures with three despite playing only 15 snaps, demonstrating the impact he made when on the field. While Jacksonville's pass rush failed to get to Stafford on a consistent basis on Sunday, Sheard was frequently disruptive when given snaps. He would have had a sack on the first third down of the game had it not been for Chaisson being ruled offsides, which would have been Jacksonville's only sack of the game.
With Josh Allen injured at different points this season, and with Chaissons struggling to adjust to the speed and level of play at the NFL level, the Jaguars should expand Sheard's role. It was somewhat surprising to see him make an instant impact despite not being rostered all season, but he proved in those 15 snaps that he is one of the team's best defensive ends.
Tank For Trevor sweepstakes are officially on
Gardner Minshew is by no means a bad quarterback. He has a deserving place in the league and the Jaguars made the right call by allowing him to have the 2020 season to prove himself moving forward. With that said, it should be safe to say that the Jaguars are firmly in the Tank for Trevor sweepstakes unless Minshew suddenly gets hot over the next two months.
Simply put, Minshew has regressed over the last month. It is a tough pill to swallow but it is the tough truth; he is turning the ball over too frequently, not connecting on deep passes and is struggling to throw against pressure. Most of the things he did well in 2019, and even in Week 1, have disappeared over the last five games and his physical limitations have been on full display. He isn't the sole reason the team is 1-5, obviously. That isn't up for debate. But what is also not up for debate is that so far, he hasn't developed into the franchise passer the team hoped he would. He has 10 more games to change that narrative, but Trevor Lawrence should be a primary target until he does.