In 2007, the NFL started playing at least one regular season game in London every year. Starting in 2013 and continuing to the present, the Jacksonville Jaguars have played at least one game there except for 2020. In their nine regular-season games since 2013, the Jaguars record in London is 4-5. The team with the second most appearances in the UK is the Miami Dolphins (5) followed by numerous teams with three appearances.
With nine games under their belt, it seems like the Jaguars would have a built-in advantage in London. The team knows what it is like to travel internationally and play in a new country. Many Jaguars have faced the jetlag and culture shock that a new country brings. There are also some Jaguars fans living in London because of how often they play there. Even Shad Khan, the team’s owner, has ties in the UK. He owns Fulham F.C., a London-based soccer team that plays in the Premier League.
Since 2013 the Jaguars have won 44.4% of their games in the UK. During that same period, the Jaguars are 44-104 in “non-London” regular season games for a 29.7% winning percentage. While both records are well below average, there is a statistically significant increase in wins for the team in London. The combination of experience and talent should help the Jaguars leave London 3-2 with wins over the Falcons and Bills there. Playing two weeks in a row in London while the Bills have to fly in for a short week of preparation should give the Jaguars a decided advantage against a better Bills team.
What the Jaguars Need To Do For A London Win
The Jaguars may have a slight advantage when playing in London. Being away from Jacksonville may give the Jaguars a reset. The team may get refocused on playing football and forget about the poor play leading up to this point. Being in London for two weeks in a row and facing the Bills that second week could also give them an advantage in the second game. The Bills are a better team, but getting into a routine and staying in-country for an extra week could propel the Jaguars to an upset. There are, however, at least five things that simply “flying across the pond” will not fix. If the Jaguars want to beat the Falcons this Sunday and right the ship in the process, they must focus on these five weaknesses.
1. The Pass Rush
The “dynamic duo” of Josh Allen and Travon Walker is not working. They cannot get to the quarterback. Devin Lloyd is hurt and not even making the trip to London with the team. He is not a huge factor in the pass rush, but he is a great athlete who will blitz on occasion. Without Davon Hamilton in the middle, the interior defensive line is getting destroyed every game. Against a very poor Houston Texans offensive line that was hobbled by injuries, the Jaguars could not put any pressure on rookie CJ Stroud. After being sacked 11 times in the first two games, Stroud did not even have the equipment manager wash his uniform after playing the Jaguars.
Entering the season, it was widely known that the Jaguars pass rush was going to struggle. Instead of addressing the pass rush issue by adding players, the Jaguars decided their roster would magically improve. There was no reason to believe that Walker would suddenly become even an average pass rusher, but the Jaguars did. In addition, Josh Allen has accomplished very little since his rookie year, but the front office hoped he would rekindle that magic. Another thought in Jacksonville was that the offense would be so good it could hide the deficiency of the defensive line. It was assumed, with the team’s high-powered offense, that other teams would be playing from behind. It turns out, the Jaguars offense is not quite the juggernaut it was expected to be and the pass rush is a glaring weakness.
2. Calvin Ridley’s Inability to Catch a Football
Ridley’s inability to catch the football is bizarre. He was supposed to be Trevor Lawrence’s primary weapon. Ridley was supposed to be a fast, precise route runner with great hands. Instead, he cannot catch the football, has not been getting separation, and when he does catch the ball he cannot get his feet down in bounds. So far, the Ridley experiment in Jacksonville is nothing more than a huge bust. Hopefully, the Jaguars big offseason addition can begin turning it around in London.
3. Poor Offensive Line Play
Cam Robinson’s return could not come sooner for Jacksonville. He was recently granted approval to travel with the Jaguars to London and will be eligible to play against the Bills. When his suspension was announced, many Jaguars fans were excited to see Walker Little fill in at left tackle. Little has played pretty well, but the rest of the offensive line is really struggling. On the right side of the line, Anton Harrison has shown flashes but lacks consistency. He will be a starter in the NFL, but he has allowed a lot of pressures and a lot of penetration.
Even worse than Harrison’s play, however, has been the interior of the line. Ben Bartch is almost not serviceable as a guard and Brandon Scherff has allowed at least three quarterback pressures in all three games. On top of that, center Luke Fortner has not performed like many expected after a successful rookie campaign. After many in Jacksonville complained about the play of Cam Robinson over the past few years, now everyone is clamoring for his return.
4. Horrendous Play Calling
The Jaguars play-calling over the past few weeks has not been good. Recently, Doug Pederson revealed that offensive coordinator Press Taylor has been the primary playcaller for the offense. After three weeks, it seems like the Press Taylor era in Jacksonville should come to an end. When the second half of the Texans game started, the offense showed some signs of life. In direct correlation to the offense coming to life, it was also revealed that Pederson was calling the plays. The Jaguars should be at least 2-1 and possibly 3-0. The defense has played well enough to get them there. It is the offense and the poor play-calling that is holding the team back. It is time for Doug Pederson to get Lawrence and the offense back on track.
5. Travon Walker
If he is not careful, the name Travon Walker could make a list that includes Jamarcus Russell, Tim Couch, Aundray Bruce, and Courtney Brown. That is a list of the biggest No. 1 overall draft pick busts in NFL history. It is still early in Walker’s career, but he has not performed well to this point. He had 3.5 sacks last year and was more known for his personal fouls and costly penalties than his defensive plays. So far this year, another first-round draft pick, K’Lavon Chaisson, for the Jaguars is outplaying Walker. To make matters worse, Aidan Hutchinson, the second pick behind Walker, looks like a perennial Pro Bowler. The entire Jaguars pass rush was built behind the thought that Walker would improve. So far, he has not.
Main Photo: Bob Self – USA Today Sports