Survive and Advance is a term thrown around often in sports. The National Football League is not an exception. Win and your hopes are alive until next week. Lose, and you must make corrections.
The Jacksonville Jaguars survived the first nine weeks of the regular season. In that span, the team lost their $88 million free-agent quarterback Nick Foles in the first quarter of the first game. The team also lost one of the top cornerbacks in the league, Jalen Ramsey, via trade to the Los Angeles Rams.
Despite the attrition at key positions, the Jaguars were able to scrape together a few wins behind a rookie quarterback. The team was looking forward to a spark after the Week 10 bye and were at a 4-5 record.
However on Sunday the Jaguars suffered yet another loss. Not just a must-win game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Jacksonville Jaguars identity took a hit as well.
Jacksonville Jaguars Identity a Huge Question Mark
Front Office Mindset
Since executive vice president Tom Coughlin joined the front office in 2017, the identity of the team was to play defense and run the ball. An identity that got the Jaguars on the brink of a Super Bowl in January 2018.
An identity that has disappeared in today’s NFL. But the front office and coaching staff stuck with it in 2018 and 2019. That is until Sunday.
Heading into the season, the defense was considered to be the bright spot of the team. Although the unit lost some key players via trade, release, retirement, and abandonment, many believed there were enough pieces in place to preserve the reputation. However as the 2019 season has unfolded, the unit has lost its will to compete against the run and their reputation seems downright fraudulent.
Several times this season, opposing offenses have gashed the defense on the ground to the tune of 134.6 yards per game. And it’s not just marquee names. Running backs like Jonathan Williams, Reggie Bonnafon, Marlon Mack, and twice by Carlos Hyde have had field days. This is an absolute embarrassment. However, the reality is that they are soft against the run, and the warts are showing more often than not. Truly an identity crisis.
Basics Are Missing
The inability to stop the run comes down to the basics, tackling and coaching. Too often the Jaguars linebackers and safeties are taking horrific angles to attack the ball carrier. Advantage running back, no matter what the name is on the back of the jersey.
It’s too late now to change the personnel along the defense. The Jaguars must play with the pieces around them. However, the defensive front seven is littered with defenders playing the wrong position. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash continues to be criticized for his team being consistently out of sync. His inability to make adjustments and his acceptance of sub-par efforts have changed the defensive identity. Yet he remains a part of the coaching staff. Mind-boggling.
Offensive Mindset Shift?
The return of Nick Foles to the offense was supposed to help bring balance to the unit and restore the offensive identity. The idea presented to the fan base was that his presence on the field would make the running game even more effective with Leonard Fournette. This was not the case on Sunday in Indianapolis.
In his first game back in two months, Foles threw 47 passes. The Jaguars only had 58 offensive plays. Let that sink in for a minute or two. Only nine rushing attempts. Nine. Now what has been the offensive identity of this team since 2017?
Why the shift? Who knows? But one thing to remember is that offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was dismissed from the Minnesota Vikings in the middle of last season for not running the ball enough.
Cause and Effect
Obviously the game plan was to try and take advantage of the Colts through the air. But at what cost? The Jaguars offensive line is already below average, and now you are asking them to pass-block almost 50 times? Not to mention, putting pressure on a quarterback returning from a surgically repaired collarbone injury. Where’s the balance? Sunday erased the offensive identity for the Jaguars.
Last Word on Jacksonville Jaguars Identity Crisis
So now what? Who is this team? It looks as though the coaching staff is haphazardly throwing ideas against a dry erase board and seeing what sticks. Perhaps desperation has set in. Sitting at 4-6 and heading to Nashville to tangle with the Titans, the Jaguars are far from a playoff team. However, they are certainly a team that has lost its identity. And if the front office, coaches, and players do not care, why should the fans?