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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Saints: Five observations from Sunday’s 6-13 loss

Demetrius Harvey

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Oct 13, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (right) and quarterback Nick Foles (left) look on during the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars had their most brutal game offensively against the Saints yesterday and were simply outmatched at the end of the day in their 6-13 loss on Sunday.

The Jaguars will have to regroup and figure out a way to play consistently both offensively and defensively down the stretch if they want an opportunity to play in the playoffs this January. For now, they are a team with pieces to get them there but have not played like a complete unit except for their week three win against the Tennessee Titans.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone took the blame for Sunday’s loss during his post-game press conference.

“It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job. I told the team [that] I like their effort, playing hard, we’ve just got to perform better, really.”

1. Gardner Minshew hadn’t played like a rookie — until Sunday

Jaguars rookie quarterback Garnder Minshew has been the talk of the town over the first six weeks of the regular season for his play since taking over for an injured Nick Foles. Before yesterday, Minshew completed 110 out of 165 of his passes for 1,279 yards, nine touchdowns, and one interception.

Yesterday, however, was simply not his day. Minshew completed only 14 of his 29 attempts for 163 yards and an interception.

After the game, Minshew placed the majority of the blame on himself, saying “Yeah it was a tough day; they are a good team. I missed some balls that I can’t miss. They played good coverage at times and got after us upfront at times. We’ll go look at the film and figure out what we need to fix.”

Much of the rookie’s issues stemmed from what the Saints did defensively. This included taking the Jaguars out of a position of strength by containing Minshew within the pocket and taking his most reliable receiver — DJ Chark Jr. — out of the game by bracketing him and placing their best cornerback, Marshon Lattimore on him.

Minshew will need to step his game up in the coming weeks, especially if the Saints laid out a blueprint on how to stop him. When Minshew did try to step up in the pocket, he was unable to get anywhere.

2. Jaguars defense played extraordinary on Sunday

The Jaguars defense was the talk of the town exiting their loss against the Carolina Panthers a week ago where they allowed 285 rushing yards — the second-most in franchise history. This week, the Jaguars were able to rebound on defense, allowing only 104 yards on the ground.

Saints’ running back Alvin Kamara gained only 31 yards on 11 attempts. Easily his worst day at the office this season on the ground. Multiple players including, Taven Bryan, Josh Allen, and D.J. Hayden were major pieces to the puzzle on Sunday.

While they did give up some yardage through the air — 240 yards on 24 completions –, the Jaguars did well in stopping the Saints. New Orleans converted only 5 out of 13 (38%) of their third-downs yesterday.

“We played good ball, but we didn’t capitalize off when we needed to,” Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye said yesterday after the game. “Our mentality is if offense puts up points, then we have to stop them. We gave them some X plays and runs that we couldn’t finish off. We played good red zone defense which made it a little hard for them to get in the end zone and score on us. This is a learning experience. We are going to come in tomorrow and watch film and work on the areas we were slow to cover.”

3. Jaguars need to find a number two receiver, and fast

Yesterday, it was clear the Jaguars had no answer for the Saints pass defense which blanketed DJ Chark Jr. for much of the day. Chark Jr. was only able to get free on a couple of designed routes towards the middle of the field.

Receiver Dede Westbrook was able to get free for a few catches (three for 53 yards on the day), however, for much of the afternoon, he was slowed considerably, forcing Minshew to check down to running back Leonard Fournette who led the team in receptions with six receptions for 43 yards.

Chris Conley — another featured receiver — was unable to get anything going after being targeted three times. Conley had zero receptions on the day and failed to create much separation.

After the game, Conley voiced his frustrations going against the Saints’ defense stating, “Yeah, that is frustrating. We knew how they were going to play the game today. We knew that DJ [Chark Jr.] was going to draw double-coverage, and we have to execute in other spots. They played a little different than what we expected. We expected them to double DJ, but we didn’t expect them to play two-man all-day basically. We have to win versus two-man [coverage].”

The Jaguars will have to learn how to maneuver around tough situations and especially cover two-man coverage moving forward. If they do not find a receiver who can win against single coverage all day, they are in for a long remainder of the season.

4. Nickel corner DJ Hayden is the Jaguars’ best defender

As a player who does not receive nearly as much praise as he deserves, Hayden is playing the most consistent football out of any player on the Jaguars’ defense. Hayden was able to make multiple plays on the ball in yesterday’s contest and executes open-field to perfection.

On one key play, Hayden stopped Kamara in the open field on a screen which almost assuredly would have been a big gain. Hayden is playing injured with a sore foot and has continuously performed well on the field. Jaguars’ defensive coordinator Todd Wash praised Hayden for his toughness just last week as he battled the foot injury, getting him in the game against Carolina.

“It was bothering him a lot last week,” Wash said. “And I think our training staff and our doctors have done a real good job of rehabbing him and getting him in position to be able to play this week.”

5. Leonard Fournette is playing his best brand of football

Fournette is playing fantastic football on the ground for the Jaguars and has consistently been one of their best players despite his poor showing against the Tennessee Titans. Finding his groove, Fournette ran hard and got tough yards with an offensive line that continues to have consistency issues.

For the year, Fournette has run 115 times for 584 yards and one touchdown. He has also added 26 receptions for 189 yards. If the Jaguars offense has any bright spot exiting week six, it is him.

Demetrius Harvey is the lead editor for the Locked on Jaguars website covering breaking news, breakdowns, and more. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Texans: Five observations, red zone issues remain

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws under pressure from the Houston Texans defensive line men during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) will be left with a lot to work on during their bye week. There was plenty to gather from the team’s 26-3 loss against the Houston Texans (6-3) in London.

1. Jaguars red-zone woes are still prevalent and have no fix in sight

In the red zone this season, the Jaguars have completed 34.5% (10/29) of their opportunities for touchdowns.  This ranks only better than the Cincinnati Bengals (33.33%) in the entire NFL.

While quarterback play is an issue in this area, the Jaguars have not made the most of their play-call opportunities either. The Jaguars entered the Houston Texans’ red zone only twice in 11 drives on Sunday.

During the two drives in the red zone, the Jaguars completed 0 passes and ran the ball one other time with Leonard Fournette for three yards. Simply not good enough.

Jaguars’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has spoken about the team’s ineffectiveness on red zone opportunities. “We moved the football well, but we need to do a better job in the red zone,” DeFilippo said on Thursday following the team’s week seven victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “I need to do a better job of helping our guys get open. We need to do a better job executing and being more detailed and throwing the ball on time and all of those things. Again, all of that starts with me, and I will do a better job with that.”

Two weeks later and the team’s struggles have continued.

2. Gardner Minshew might take a backseat

Already discussed, the Jaguars might be in for a quarterback change coming out of their week 10 bye week. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew struggled mightily in Sunday’s game, and head coach Doug Marrone will have a tough decision to make.

Although Minshew was playing with a sore right shoulder, he was able to practice in full all week leading up to their matchup at Wimbley. Regardless, the Jaguars will have to make a decision, and everything points to Nick Foles being the team’s starting quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts in week 11.

Now completely Minshew’s fault, his struggles in the red zone have been evident for the past several weeks. Foles — during the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he started for the Philidelphia Eagles — was efficient in the red zone, which could point to his maturity as a passer more than anything.

The Jaguars will want to see what they can get out of their veteran quarterback, and there is a reason to believe the Jaguars’ head coach is leaning in this direction. If Foles is not named the starting quarterback next Sunday, it is very likely the veteran will never start for this Jaguars team, at least not under the current staff.

3. Jaguars’ run-defense regressed

Without starting nickel corner D.J. Hayden and SAM linebacker Leon Jacobs, the Jaguars were forced to remain in their nickel package for much of the day. Rookie cornerback Breon Borders replaced Hayden in the starting lineup and while he was not the reason why the run defense suffered, not having a competent linebacker on the strong side of the ball impacted the team greatly.

Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde gashed the Jaguars’ defense 19 times for 160 yards during Sunday’s matchup. Part of the reason why the Jaguars were unable to stop the Texans’ running game late was the sheer amount of plays the Texans ran to begin the game.

In the first quarter, the Texans ran 20 total plays while the Jaguars offense was only able to produce nine total plays.

4. Jaguars cannot rely on penalties, but two changed the course of the game

While the Jaguars should not, and cannot rely on penalties, the team had two costly controversial calls in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup.

With an opportunity to score, Minshew threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Jaguars’ receiver DJ Chark Jr. who was able to haul in the pass but was called for offensive pass interference. A few plays later the Jaguars would botch a field goal attempt and give the Texans the football at the 50-yard line.

Following the change of possession, Jaguars’ defensive end Calais Campbell was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Specifically, Campbell was called for lowering his head to initiate contact with a defenseless rusher. The Texans would net only a field goal on this drive, but it was a potential 10-point swing as Chark’s interference call was questionable, and Campbell did not even touch Watson on the play.

5. Keelan Cole shines in Dede Westbrook’s absence

Although the Jaguars clearly missed their 1B receiver in Dede Westbrook, rarely-utilized receiver Keelan Cole was able to step up to the plate and put on his best performance of the season, and possibly since 2017.

While it was not sensational, Cole hauled in five out of six of his targets for 80 yards on the day. The Jaguars could not get anything going down the field, however, Cole was able to get open on routine crossing routes.

In the coming weeks, look for Cole to have a bigger role in the Jaguars offense, especially with veteran receiver Chris Conley playing so up-and-down (2 receptions on 7 targets for 32 yards).

DeFilippo recently spoke about Cole and understands the third-year receiver may be frustrated with his snap count.

“I am proud of the way he stayed in it and even though he has not gotten the playing time,” DeFilippo said after the Jaguars victory over Bengals. “Everyone wants to play every snap. I’m sure he wants [more playing time]. He has done a great job staying in it.”

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Jaguars to make tough decision next week, Minshew Mania over for now

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) were embarrassed early Sunday morning via a 26-3 loss to the rival Houston Texans (6-3). Minshew-Mania may be over for now, but it won’t be the last time the rookie sensation starts for the team.

To put it simply, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew did not play well at all yesterday. Completing 27/47 (57%) of his passes for 309 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost, Minshew looked lost during the second half of the game on Sunday.

Minshew has been everything the team could have hoped for — and much more — out of a sixth-round quarterback, but between what transpired yesterday, and a few of his past performances — against winning teams –, the Jaguars will likely see what they can get out of veteran quarterback Nick Foles.

For three quarters, Minshew looked okay. While there was plenty that went wrong, the rookie was able to make key throws, during key situations. One play, in particular, stands out. With a little over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Jaguars could not seem to get anything going before Minshew scrambles around and eventually finds a wide-open Ryquell Armstead in the middle of the field. Armstead would take the ball 31 yards and set the team up for their only points of the game.

Minshew’s ability to improvise has been his bread and butter this season, and although he was not able to work his magic often against the Texans, these were the types of plays that gave pause in the Minshew/Foles debate.

During the fourth quarter, the Jaguars and Minshew were forced to take more shots downfield in a sort of desperation move while trailing 19-3. Although playcalling can certainly be questioned, the decision making of the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback was equally perplexing. Throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, Minshew had no chance at making a little magic to lead the team to another come-from-behind victory.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be forced to make a decision on his quarterback, but not right now. After the game, Marrone indicated he will wait until the Sunday before the team returns from their week 10 bye week to talk to both quarterbacks.

“I think after those 48 hours are over, I’m going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don’t have to make a decision and have time,” Marrone said shortly after the game when asked about making the quarterback decision. “That’s what I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks about, and then I’ll tell them probably right before we come back on Sunday, we’ll be able to discuss where we’re going to go. That’s pretty much my plan.”

While Minshew did not have a great game yesterday, the decision will be made on more than just one game, Marrone said.

The Jaguars’ head coach is stuck with an incredibly tough decision. At 4-5, the team needs a spark. The Jaguars need to win down the stretch and having to rely on a rookie — still going through ups and downs — is exhausting. While Foles may not be “the answer”, he is the only other option at this moment, and the Jaguars absolutely believe in the veteran.

Although this may be the end of Minshew starting in Jacksonville this season, his achievements — 188/307 (61%) completions for 2,285 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions — should not go unnoticed. The team absolutely still believes in the rookie quarterback, and he has a golden opportunity — if not this season — next year to prove everyone wrong.

One of the best, most fun performances out of a Jaguars’ quarterback over the first half of the season ever, is nothing to get upset about. Minshew provided spectators with Minshew-Mania, Minshew-Magic, and any other Minshew-ism one can think of.

For now, it is very likely Foles will make his Jaguars’ debut once again after breaking his left clavicle during the opening game of the season. In 11 plays this season Foles completed five out of eight of his passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

It may be over for now, but this is just the beginning, and having the problem of deciding between a former Superbowl MVP and a rookie sensation at quarterback is a good thing. Depending on how Foles plays — if he is to be named the starter next Sunday –, Minshew could get yet another opportunity as the Jaguars progress from their 4-5 record.

Bonus clip:

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars fail to seize opportunity in London, falling 26-3 to Houston Texans

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rushes for a first down during the first half of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) fell to Houston Texans (6-3) in a disappointing pre-bye week game in London, England. The Jaguars absolutely did not have home-field advantage on the day. 

The Jaguars took to their annual London voyage with a lot of optimism, however, all of that optimism was quickly quieted by the Houston Texans (6-3) as they were able to bottle up Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars, holding the team to just three points on the day.  The Texans would win 26-3 and kill any chances the Jaguars may have had at earning the division title in a few weeks.

To begin the game, the Jaguars opted to start out on defense with the Texans struggling early on in games this season. Holding the Texans to just three points to start the game, the Jaguars defense showed up big, especially as Jaguars’ cornerback A.J. Bouye shadowed Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who finished with just eight receptions for 48 yards. The Jaguars seemed to find a groove early on during the first half of the game, but their inability to score in the red zone reared it’s head yet again.

In what is likely his last game starting for the Jaguars this season — at least for now — Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew completed just 27 out of 47 of his passes for 309 yards and two interceptions. Minshew also fumbled the football two times near the end of the game, which would ultimately end it at Wembley stadium.

While the Jaguars defense played well early on, they stood no chance against Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson who completed 22 out of 28 of his passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Extremely elusive, Watson was able to escape from the Jaguars pass rushers all day long. The Texans effectively ended any chance of the Jaguars coming back after Watson completed a long throw to Hopkins for 21 yards to the Jaguars’ one-yard line. The Texans would score on a one-yard run by Duke Johnson putting the team up 19-3 late in the third quarter.

All four of Minshew’s turnovers would come in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars attempted to climb back in the game. Missing their second-most targetted wide receiver in Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars and Minshew couldn’t seem to get anything going in the passing game.

The Jaguars’ run game was equally disappointing today as running back Leonard Fournette could only edge out 40 yards on 11 rushes.

Perhaps the best play of the game by the Jaguars’ defense, near the end of the game Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde sprinted free and was looking to go into the endzone when Jaguars’ safety Jarrod Wilson showed incredible hustle to force a fumble at the last second, turning the ball over to the Jaguars’ offense.

The good fortune wouldn’t last long, however, as Minshew would go on to throw his final interception of the game to completely seal the game for the Texans offense.

The Jaguars’ offense simply did not get anything going today, similar to their game against the New Orleans Saints in week six earlier this year. Minshew was sacked only four times on the day as the Texans did not want him to escape the pocket.

The team will have a very tough decision to make during their week 10 bye week. Ultimately, the team will need to decide between veteran quarterback Nick Foles or the rookie quarterback in Minshew.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be making the decision, and after falling 26-3 today largely due to the play of the team’s quarterback, it may be a no-brainer.

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