Something is Missing in Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the season as Super Bowl contenders, but are now just another also-ran team after eight weeks with their 3-4 record. The team hasn't been blown out of any games this year, but they haven't looked especially impressive at the end of games, especially on defense.

So what's different from last season to this season? Not much. Sure, the offensive line has suffered some injuries, but the wide receivers are better, the tight end position is better, and there is more talent on defense. Quarterback David Garrard has rebounded from a poor start and is playing at a very high level. The Jaguars have as much talent on paper as any team in the NFL, but it's not translating to the football field.

"I wish I knew what's missing," said quarterback David Garrard. "Sometimes it doesn't feel like we're getting those miscellaneous plays with somebody catching the ball at five yards and turning it up and making a big play out of it. It just seems like we're having to fight and claw for every single thing. We're pros. We've got to be ready for that, but you would hope you could get some plays where you get an explosion here, something that we weren't expecting to have. Defense, special teams…something. Somebody coming up with a big play, but unfortunately they made the big play at the end. When you have things go their way and not yours, it's going to make it tough."

The Jaguars loss to the Cleveland Browns Sunday was almost inexplicable. The team outgained Cleveland on the ground, David Garrard put up bigger yardage through the air, Matt Jones was the game's best wide receiver, and the Jaguars turned the ball over just once which led to only three points.

"Not good enough," said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio as he addressed the media following the game. "Not good enough to have any fun tonight. We'll get back after it and do all that we can to turn it. It's just not good enough. I'm not happy about it. Too many things being given away and made too easy for the opponent. We've got to take care of those things. We'll do it internally, but I'm not at all pleased with I just saw. So we'll all check ourselves, we'll all take stock in what needs to be done and worked on, and we'll get back to work starting tomorrow."

Del Rio seemed to be especially displeased with Sunday's effort, although some are getting used to that type of game from the Jaguars. In each of the Jaguars four losses this season, the defense has allowed the opposing team's offense to drive down the field and get a late fourth quarter score.

"Since I've been here, this has been the only time that we actually forced this out of him, especially the way we've been losing these close games," said Jaguars defensive end Reggie Hayward. "A play here and a play there, it's a matter of inches and it's a shame that we're coming up on the short end of these plays and we need to make these plays. To be the caliber team that we want to be, we have to make these plays. We have to separate the roller coaster effect that we're on the going up and down from good plays to good halves to giving up the game at the end. We have a lot of work to do."

A year ago the Jaguars were making plays at the end of games instead of giving them up. The team was converting on fourth downs and forcing timely turnovers. This year, things are certainly different.

The Jaguars have still gambled on fourth down, as they lead the league with 13 fourth down attempts. They've converted nine of those attempts, but have left several points on the scoreboard. On Sunday, Jack Del Rio opted to go for a fourth and one and was stuffed by Shaun Rogers and the Cleveland defense instead of attempting a long field goal attempt. Those three points loomed large as the Jaguars were forced to try and score a touchdown on their final possession as they were down by six.

"You know that dude is an animal," David Garrard said of Shaun Rogers. "We had a few plays designed to try and use his strength against him and he just put more strength into it. He made some huge plays on third and short and fourth and short. He's an animal. He's the biggest guy on the field and might be the biggest guy in the whole league. He has a motor and when it's geared up and turned on full speed, I don't know very many guys who can block him. I thought our O-line did a pretty good job against him, but when he wanted to force his will, you could see what he can do."

Throw in a blocked field goal by Rogers, and he was easily the most dominant player on the field. Although the Jaguars ran for more yards than Cleveland, more than half came from David Garrard on scrambles. The Jaguars running backs averaged just 2.5 yards per carry on Sunday, as there was no room to run.

"I don't know how many carries we had or the yardage to tell you if it was tough," said Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew who gained just 29 yards on 12 carries. "I know we had a couple of short yardage third and twos and fourth and one that we converted two or three of them. We had one that we didn't convert but I think we did a pretty good job of taking what they were giving us."

The Jaguars are treating Sunday's game like just another loss, but they now have four AFC losses. That doesn't bode well for any tiebreakers for a potential wildcard spot. The Jaguars need things to change quickly if they are going to return to playoff contention, as they are now tied for last place in the AFC South, and there are 11 teams with similar or better records.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

For more, go to: JagNation.com


Jags Illustrated Top Stories