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Jacksonville Jaguars

What we learned: Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone addresses media

Demetrius Harvey

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Oct 20, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone on the sideline in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars have a lot of work to do even after their 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone spoke with the local media recently to address some concerns. 

The Jaguars have battled hard throughout the season and are currently sitting at 3-4 and are in third-place within the AFC South division. Although their victory against the Cincinnati Bengals was well earned, there are plenty of areas the Jaguars need improvement.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone addressed some of these core issues along with plenty of positives to gather from their 27-17 victory on Sunday.

Jaguars’ running back Leonard Fournette is exceptional 

Over the course of the season, we have seen an emergence from third-year running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette has accounted for 918 all-purpose yards this season including 715 rushing yards on 144 attempts (5.0 yards per attempt). For reference, Fournette played in eight games in 2018 and accounted for only 625 all-purpose yards including  439 yards on 133 attempts (3.3 yards per attempt).

Fournette also currently leads the NFL in yards after contact with 530, according to Pro Football Focus. Making a complete 180 from a year ago.

The young running back has grown beyond his years this season after being arrested during the offseason for driving with a suspended license. Now, he has quickly become the team’s most important player. After the game on Sunday, Fournette mentioned his arrest and his mindset coming into this season.

“Like I said, this offseason I took a lot of time to work on myself,” Fournette said after the game on Sunday. “Without God, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. I had a tough offseason — I got arrested, and things like that. Like I say, you have to find ways to get past a lot of the negatives and turn them into positives. Even at the beginning of the season — the first three games was a bit of a slump for me. I took the time with the offensive line to try and develop a better relationship — me understanding those guys and them understanding me, and just where we all come from.”

Having a better relationship with the guys that block for you is highly important, and the young running back has taken more initiative in just these few months and he really has in his entire NFL career.

During a conference call on Monday, Marrone was asked if his expectations for Fournette have raised given the success the running back has had thus far this season. Marrone said that while he doesn’t know if his expectations get higher, he does know the running back is doing very well and a nice job for the Jaguars. Fournette is currently second in the NFL in rushing yards behind only Minnesota Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook (725 yards).

“I really think as the game’s going on, he’s getting stronger,” Marrone said. “You look at what he’s done in the second half and his second-half yards are leading the league. The one thing is, is that because he’s doing such a good job of running the football and just overall all-purpose, it becomes more challenging each week, more teams are going to focus on him, so we have to do a good job as coaches and we need other guys to step up and go, and that’ll keep his production high. I think that if it’s just him, that’s going to be tough for us. But he’s really doing a nice job, so hopefully, we can just keep putting him in those situations where he can have the type of production.”

The Jaguars will have to get the most out of the rest of the offense as the season progresses and more teams load the box in order to stop the AFC’s leading rusher.

Nick Foles will be eased back into practice 

This week, Jaguars’ quarterback Nick Foles will have an opportunity to participate in practice for the first time since early September, tomorrow. Foles broke his left collarbone during the first quarter of the team’s week one matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Marrone said he spoke with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich to discuss the plan for Foles this coming week. The team will work Foles back slowly as he continues to recover. The veteran quarterback will not suit up for the team until November 17th against the Indianapolis Colts. It remains to be seen if Foles will resume his starting role.

“I know he’s been throwing on the side, I haven’t seen him throw,” Marrone said. “I just want to make sure we’re good with the reps and building it up and not trying to do too much too fast. [I’ll] talk to the doc, see where he’s at, making sure that we don’t want a lot of people around him. So, we’ll be smart this week and then we’ll see how it progresses, but we have a pretty good plan.”

Marrone also indicated Foles would throw during scout-team drills and potentially some seven-on-seven as he works back with the team.

Red zone woes are a heavy focus within the building 

The Jaguars have efficiency issues, as noted before in our five observations article from Monday. Against the Bengals, the Jaguars were one for six in red zone opportunities including one for three in goal-to-go chances.

Behind a young quarterback, the team has to make the most of those opportunities in order to succeed on Sundays. Marrone took the majority of the blame during his conference call and said the team is making the red zone a heavy focus this week and they will be putting Garnder Minshew in more situations that are better suited for his skill set.

“Things happen so fast and so quickly down there,” Marrone said. “We just have to get with him, see what he likes, as far as concepts, and then once we get those concepts, we have to hit all of the different coverages and things that he can see down there. So, I think I have to do a better job, which I will, making sure that we spend time [working on the red zone offense]. Then, we have to do a good job of going down there and picking the things that, from a quarterback standpoint, he feels real comfortable with and he can make all the changes, or things like that, depending upon the coverage.”

For a young quarterback, the shorter the field is, the harder it will be for them to read a defense effectively. Minshew has done a fantastic job in the past in the red zone, at one point he was the NFL’s leader in red zone passer rating at 125.6 with seven touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Although his red-zone effectiveness has not dropped off significantly, he struggled somewhat in the red zone on Sunday.

Josh Oliver’s workload was predetermined, will be brought along slowly

Jaguars’ right end Josh Oliver was the talk of the town last week as the third-round rookie suited up for the first time since injuring his hamstring on August 2nd. Oliver was unable to get much going in the Jaguars’ passing game on Sunday as he played in only 25 out of the team’s 82 offensive snaps.

Marrone says this was an expected number of snaps — ~30% –, and he wants to get Oliver involved a lot more than the team did on Sunday. While his snaps may not go up, the team is comfortable enough to increase his workload in the passing game.

“I was a little concerned, I was kind of going back and forth because I haven’t really seen him play in a game because he got injured so early,” Marrone said. “But I really liked the things that he did. He was able to go through the game and come out healthy. I think nerves comes into play a little bit. I see him playing those snaps, I’d like to get him targeted more, obviously, we didn’t target him yesterday. I think he’s someone that can help us in the passing game. So, I can’t guarantee the increase in snaps, 30 percent, 40 percent, somewhere around there, maybe a little bit more of an increase. But I think trying to get him more involved is something that can definitely help us moving forward and I think we’ve got to look for ways to get him involved in the passing game.”

The Jaguars need to get Oliver involved more as a safety valve for their rookie quarterback. As he progresses, so will the Jaguars’ offense. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is known to get the tight end heavily involved, and with the injuries that have occurred thus far this season, he has been unable to do so.

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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