Jaguars Mailbag: Is Week 3 When James Robinson Finally Gets Involved?

In this week's mailbag, we take a look at whether the Jaguars can get things back on track in time to play meaningfull games later in the year, as well as what exactly has gone wrong with the Jaguars' running game.
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Each week during this year's season, Jaguar Report will take Jacksonville Jaguars-related questions from our readers across social media and answer them in a question-and-answer format, giving readers a chance to have their voices heard.

You can submit your questions every week by tweeting them to the Jaguar Report Twitter handle or by submitting them here.

This week we take questions on the Jaguars and their 0-2 start to the season following the 23-13 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 2, what it means for their chances down the road, the issues with the running game, and more.

Q: Is there something I am missing with Joe Cullen? From starting Wingard (who had a good game last week, credit) over Cisco, starting Taven over Adam G, keeping Claybrooks in the roster and not now aggressively looking to improve one of the historically worst defenses last year? Run defense looks better but somehow every other level of the defense looks worse and slower

A: I don't think so, at least not yet. From my vantage point, I think the Jaguars' issues on defense have been more personnel and talent-based as opposed to simply bad scheme or bad coaching from Cullen. For example, players like Damien Wilson, Andrew Wingard, and Chris Claybrooks likely aren't starting for many other NFL defenses outside of Jacksonville. 

With that said, the Jaguars have been far from a good defense. Part of that goes on Cullen since he is a part of the decision process on Wingard vs. Andre Cisco, as well as the fact that the Jaguars made their defensive decisions this year largely based on Cullen's scheme. The Jaguars' rank near the bottom of the NFL in defensive EPA/play and defensive EPA on dropbacks, while the Jaguars rank just No. 19 in defensive EPA on running plays.

In short, the Jaguars' defense hasn't been good. And while their yards per attempt numbers against the run are good, they are still allowing too many first-down conversions on short-yardage opportunities. Cullen has improved parts of the Jaguars' run defense and their ability to generate pressure, but only time will tell if he can make the adjustments to his scheme to fit his current personnel and start making impact plays.

Q: Would an in-season trade for Jamie Collins who wants out of Detroit be something the Jags should consider to add another playmaker to our front 7

A: I don't think so. If the Detroit Lions, who have the worst defense in the NFL through two weeks, don't have much use for Collins, then I can't imagine the Jaguars would either. Collins is a recognizable name after his successful tenures with the New England Patriots, but the soon-to-be 32-year-old doesn't make much sense for a Jaguars' team that has been able to generate pressure at a solid rate through two weeks (seventh-most pressures in NFL).

Collins, who has just one quarterback hit and one tackle for loss in 100 snaps this year, is on the trading block largely because he looks too slow and lumbering for a Lions' defense that is attempting to use energy to counter their lack of talent. Collins offers some value to teams, but he doesn't make sense for the Jaguars because it wouldn't be wise to give him snaps over Dawuane Smoot or K'Lavon Chaisson.

Q: What exactly has gone wrong with the running game? When will James Robinson get involved? 

A: It hasn't been a case of the Jaguars not being able to run the ball. The Jaguars, for the most part, are grading out well in terms of run blocking. Per Football Outsiders, the Jaguars rank fifth in adjusted line yards and are fourth in stuffed runs allowed, with only 11% of their carries ending in tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars have carried the ball at 4.7 yards a clip, too, which is good for ninth-best in the NFL through two weeks. 

The issue has been the lack of volume. The Jaguars are last in terms of attempts and last in run rate, running the ball on only 23% of their plays thus far. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has placed the blame at the hands of some of the situations the Jaguars have found themselves in, whether it is trailing by multiple possessions in the second-half, constant three-and-outs limiting the ability to run the ball, and penalties forcing the Jaguars into passing situations on early downs. 

James Robinson has had a good year when he has been given the ball, but the Jaguars -- and more specifically Bevell -- have failed to lean on the run, even before situations dictate the passing game to become the emphasis of the offense. Until they make a concerted, and even stubborn, effort to make the running game and James Robinson an emphasis, the offense will continue to be unbalanced.

Q: Do you think part of Trevor’s willingness to attempt so many low percentage throws stems from him playing on Clemson where his receivers would almost always win against ACC corners?

A: Honestly ... yes. That may be a little galaxy-brained, but I truly believe a lot of Lawrence's gun-slinging tendencies to this point have been based on the fact that he is testing the limits of what he can and can't do at the NFL level. Windows are closing at a much faster rate and every single player is significantly better than the talent he faced during his Clemson career. Lawrence could make the low probability plays work often at Clemson, in part due to his special arm talent and in part because Clemson had the talent disadvantage on most reps. But as plays like the Patrick Surtain II interception against Tyron Johnson have shown, Lawrence doesn't have that same advantage now.

“Everyone’s just better, especially like technique and fundamentally. Like corners are so much better, [there’s] not as much separation," Lawrence said on Wednesday. 

"You see even the touchdown to Marv[in Jones Jr.], like there wasn’t a ton of separation. When I threw it, there was no separation and then Marvin did a good job of making a play at the end and separating a little bit. But that’s just the way it is and for me, I still just have to keep getting used to that and being more accurate. I think that’s the main thing is giving my guys a chance, being more accurate consistently.

Q: How would you justify James Robinson having 22 touches through 2 games? How long until that's actually addressed?

A: I can't justify it. Robinson shouldn't be getting fed 25-30 carries a game, but the Jaguars have abandoned the run at any sign of adversity this season. While it is understandable the Jaguars are dropping back to pass at a high rate considering the overall quality of the team and defense, the Jaguars said all offseason that they wanted a strong running game to help Trevor Lawrence. The best chance to address that is against a bad Cardinals' run defense this week. If they don't do it then ... 

Q: As a new Jaguars fan, I was excited to watch James Robinson. Is it the new system or offensive line?

A: It is more so the play-calling and offense philosophy the Jaguars have shown through a few weeks. The offensive line hasn't been stellar, but they have been more than good enough and have earned praise from the coaching staff for their performance in the limited times the Jaguars do run the ball. You should still be excited to watch James Robinson, though. Good players make plays one way or another, and Robinson is a good player.

Q: At the current pace we are on offensively, do you think it would be better to look for a new offensive coordinator in the offseason?

A: I truly would not be shocked to see Brian Schottenheimer in the offensive coordinator chair in 2022. While that may not be what fans want to hear, Urban Meyer has gone out of his way throughout the last few months to explain that Lawrence and Schottenheimer have a close and productive relationship. Meyer and Bevell don't have any pre-existing relationship, so I don't think Meyer would hesitate to move on from the former Seahawks and Lions coordinator at the end of 2021 ... if not sooner.

Q: Is there any hope for a playoff push? Or at least important games in December? 

A: Eh, not so much. The Jaguars still have a good chance to make noise and have a successful season by certain standards in 2021, but the Jaguars simply are not a playoff team. Not this version of the Jaguars, at least, with Lawrence still very much looking like a rookie quarterback. The percentage of teams who have made the 6-team playoff format after an 0-2 start is historically extremely low, and while the 7-team playoff format can change that, the Jaguars don't look like a team that will be playing for the playoffs in 2021. 

Q: Who has been the biggest surprise to you so far? Whether positive or negative

A: Laviska Shenault. Not all of his poor production through two weeks is on him because the early returns have indicated that Darrell Bevell has similar plans for Shenault that Jay Gruden had, but Shenault also deserves a good bit of blame. He hasn't been a crisp route-runner and has dropped two third-down passes that would have gone for first downs. Shenault, for whatever reason, is in the biggest slump of his young career at this point, which surprises me because I expected the Jaguars to make getting the ball to Shenault a focus. The lack of imagination in his role is one thing, but his up-and-down play has been the more concerning trend through two weeks. 

Q: What can the Jaguars do to get to the quarterback? Four sacks is fine but they just don't look like they're causing havoc like top pass defenses

A: The Jaguars are trying their darndest to get after the quarterback. Joe Cullen's unit ranks first in pressure percentage (11th in blitz rate), while ranking in the top-10 in nearly every pass-rush stat there is except, well, sacks. While it may not pass the eye test at all times, the Jaguars' pass rush has been active and mostly productive in terms of generating pressure on the quarterback.

The biggest issue has been the coverage behind the pass-rush and the fact that the Jaguars have struggled at bringing down mobile quarterback. Both Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater broke several sack attempts and went on to complete passes on the move, while the Jaguars' secondary is allowing separation at a higher rate than the league average. The Jaguars' pass-rush has been better, but it isn't quite there yet for a number of reasons.