The Jaguars will enter the bye week with their first win of the season, following their 30-27 victory over the Indianapolis Colts across the pond in London.
This win was huge for the Jaguars, as it puts them right into the thick of things in regards to contending for the AFC South. But before they can consider the winning the division, Jacksonville needs to use this bye week to address key problems they’ve had during the course of the first four weeks of the season.
The first of which is the running game. The Jaguars finally managed to get the ball going on the ground against Indianapolis. T.J Yeldon rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries. That averages out to just about 5.1 yards per carry. His average against the Colts doubled his average yards per carry going into the game. The team itself had 136 yards on the ground, which was the first time all year that Jacksonville had over 100 yards rushing in a game.
Even with that performance, Jacksonville is still tied for 31st in the league in both rushing yards (301) and yards per game (75.3). The Jaguars are 27th in yards per attempt (3.5) and are tied with 10 other teams with only two rushing touchdowns so far this year.
With a young quarterback taking snaps, it is absolutely essential for Jacksonville to establish and maintain a strong running game. As it stands now, there is no reason for opposing defenses to load the box because the run game is simply not a threat. That means that they can drop more defenders back into coverage and focus on stopping Bortles without the fear of Jacksonville gaining big yards on the ground when they do so.
Another issue that needs to be addressed and improved is the protection around Bortles. Bortles has been on the run for a large part of the season thus far. Jacksonville has given up 12 total sacks through the first four games of the season, which has them tied for 5th in the NFL with Arizona.
When Bortles is under pressure, he makes mistakes. When Jacksonville played Baltimore in week 3, Bortles took two unacceptable sacks, and threw two fourth quarter interceptions. Those mistakes ended up costing the Jaguars the game.
With Luke Joeckel likely out for the season, protecting Bortles will only become harder. They’ll have to cover all their bases in their pass protection in order to keep Bortles clean.
One other thing that Jacksonville absolutely must improve on is their ability to finish games. With the exception of San Diego, Jacksonville has been in every game that they’ve played, right down to the end. Against Green Bay, they lost on the final play. Against Baltimore, they lost late in the fourth quarter due to a string of mistakes. Against Indianapolis, even though they won, they allowed Andrew Luck and the Colts to claw their way back into the game. Jacksonville must learn to keep their foot on the gas pedal, and cut down on all the late mistakes. As we’ve seen so far this season, this team may not be good enough to win all of those games that are close late in the 4th quarter.
If the Jaguars can improve upon these things during the bye week, Jacksonville could be looking at much better production following their week off.