JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Carolina Panthers at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
- Time to see it. It's difficult, frankly, to analyze these Jaguars right now. They have lost four consecutive games and are coming off their most uninspired loss of the season – and if one thought stands out as they prepare for a critical Week 17 game Sunday, it's that there's little more for this team to say. That thought resonated in the postgame locker room after a 30-12 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past Sunday as players and coaches struggled to vocalize their frustration over the season's worst performance. Players and coaches this week have correctly spoken of an opportunity still at hand. They lead the AFC South – and can win a second consecutive division title with a victory Sunday and one in the regular-season finale at the Tennessee Titans. They also could clinch the South Sunday if they win and both the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans lose. Players and coaches also this week spoke of eliminating mistakes and playing with urgency. All those words are true. But the reality is the time for talk for this team is past. Do they have urgency? Do they have the pride of which Head Coach Doug Pederson spoke after Sunday's loss? If so, it's time to see it.
- It's still about them. If there has been a theme for this Jaguars season, it's that when they have struggled it has been about their own play more than their opponents. Self-inflicted mistakes indeed continue to define this season – and nothing illustrates that more than a minus-three turnover differential despite again being one of the NFL's best defenses at forcing turnovers. The Jaguars remain tied for the NFL lead with 25 takeaways, but their 28 giveaways rank fourth in the NFL. They have two or more turnovers in nine games this season, including four in four of their last seven games. Former Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin once bemoaned a callous disregard for the ball in the early days of the franchise. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence and this offense are way too callous these days. It's threatening to cost them the season.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …
- It isn't one thing. I was walking out of Christmas Mass Monday when a few folks approached to ask what was "wrong with our Jaguars?" One suggested Lawrence's many injuries while another pointed out the secondary has been beaten up and therefore allowing too many passing yards. A third blamed the offensive coordinator. The last blamed the offensive line and thought the pass rush was too inconsistent. Eventually, the group seemed to realize the season has become a litany of issues, most of which can't be addressed before the season ends. Lawrence, playing hurt, is trying to put his team ahead of himself – and may need an offseason to get healthy. The secondary and offensive lines can play better – and that improvement could happen as the units get healthy. Still, both units need reinforcements and help is not on the way this season. Players doing their jobs and executing more consistently would eliminate the calls for the offensive coordinator's job. This isn't the magical run of 2022; it's a season of adversity on all fronts. But if they can find enough grit or determination – or get lucky and get some players back on the field – then they can still win the AFC South. It isn't one just one thing and it isn't over.
- Special teams can be the spark. Kicker Brandon McManus has missed some untimely field goals during the last four games, but his leg strength is remarkable and you have to think he can kick himself out of these yips. Punter Logan Cooke has a monstrous leg; while he, too, has had a few misses over the last month, the punting game remains a strength. That's especially true when the defense is firing on all cylinders. Safety Andrew Wingard, linebacker Caleb Johnson and long snapper Ross Matiscik are all excellent coverage players and can be counted on to make at least one play per game. Returner Jamal Agnew is back. Special teams can flip the field and create a big play. With both offense and defense struggling, a timely play from coordinator Heath Farwell's group might be the spark the Jaguars need Sunday.
Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...
- The big man is back again. Pederson earlier this week spoke about left Cam Robinson bringing "excitement and enthusiasm" to the offensive line. Robinson has missed the last four games with a knee injury, but he was activated from injured reserve this week and will be available to play Sunday if all goes to plan. Over his seven seasons in Jacksonville, Robinson never has shied away from showing his unique personality and his physicality was desperately missed over the last month. Robinson's return won't immediately fix everything, but it's a good start.
- We're talking about practice? Lawrence sustained his fourth injury of the season last week against the Buccaneers. The Jaguars announced Lawrence has a sprain in his right shoulder and he did not practice on Wednesday. This will also be the fourth time Pederson has to decide whether to play his starting quarterback after a week with limited or no practiced. Lawrence failed to impress last week with several turnovers and seemingly no continuity with his receivers. Perhaps it's time to give backup C.J. Beathard a shot against the Panthers after another week of first-team reps. We don't know if practice will make perfect, but it could play a big role in salvaging the season.