The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed into the bye week with a win under their belt and momentum off which to build. After six games—and nine to go—where does this team stand? The first five losses painted a picture of a team with lots of places to improve, but some positive's that can be taken away as well.
Through this series, we'll examine each unit; what's worked, what hasn't and what grade they've earned thus far.
James Robinson. He's a positive entity all to himself. The second year back continues to be not only be a game changer, but the most consistent offensive weapon.
According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson is sixth in the NFL in total yardage (460) and fourth in yards per carry (5.5), putting numbers to what's obvious to those watching; good things happen when you give the ball to James Robinson. Versus the Tennessee Titans alone, Robinson had 126 yards after contact (149 overall).
He's also proven himself to be a reliable pass protector, pointing out and picking up blitzes for his rookie quarterback. And while he's not necessarily a pass-catching back, he's put himself in position to be a safety net for Trevor Lawrence. This was most recently evident in the win over the Miami Dolphins, when Lawrence—scrambling after his first option was shut down—turned to the opposite field and dumped one off to Robinson. The heads up play by both passer and back moved the chains on a drive that would culminate in a game tying field goal.
Robinson carries so much of the load himself, making himself an every down back. Behind him, the Jags have Carlos Hyde and Dare Ogunbowale. They aren't asked to do much...which could become one of the bigger negatives for this unit.
Hyde and Ogunbowale haven't had enough experience to handle a bigger load...and to be honest, the times they have been in haven't lent confidence they could. Hyde is a veteran with a history with Urban Meyer, so coaches have tried to shoehorn him into the offense at times. Using him—and his average of 4.5 yards per carry and 2.71 yards after contact—isn't necessarily the issue. It's more so the scenarios in which they've turned to Hyde, instead of the more reliable Robinson...like a goal line play, but we digress.
Ogunbowale was supposed to be a pass catching option, but the only thing he has less of than carries (two) is targets/receptions (one). As much as the decision to draft Travis Etienne in the first round was chastised in April—and a definite argument could still be made on whether or not it was worth a first round pick—it's understandable that the staff would want a counter to Robinson. If something ever happened to James Robinson, this running back unit would be up a creek.
Another negative—and one that is somewhat at odds with the above negative—is how little James Robinson is still used, relative to what he can bring. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson is sixth in the league in total yards (460), second in rushing touchdowns (five) and fourth in average yards per carry (5.5). Yet, he's 10th amongst qualifying backs in the league, with only 84 total touches. That's an average of 16 touches a game for a back who can handle a workload with a minimum of 20 touches. It seems counterintuitive for a team to place all of their plans for the running back unit on one guy—the most productive guy on offense at that—and then not use him enough.
Overall Grade: A-
Without Robinson, this grade is a solid C. Perhaps there'd be more material to work with if we'd seen more of Hyde and Ogunbowale. But again, that's a double edged sword, because has there been enough positive production to justify pulling one of the top five running backs in the NFL? Frankly, no. Robinson is so valuable and talented, he raises the grade average for the entire unit although to an A-.