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Hackett: "We have to find a way to move the ball"

20181119-Hackett

JACKSONVILLE – Nate Hackett sees his task simply.

"My job is to always put the guys in the best position possible," the Jaguars' offensive coordinator said Tuesday.

That job has been anything but easy this season.

The Jaguars' offense, after ranking sixth in the NFL in total yards and fifth in points last season, this season amid a rash of injuries rank 21st in yards and 29th in points through 10 games. Those struggles have contributed to a six-game losing streak.

The struggles have many observers focused on quarterback, with Head Coach Doug Marrone being asked this week if starter Blake Bortles will remain the starter at the position. Asked if Bortles might be benched, Marrone said "We're not going to do that."

Hackett, in second season as the Jaguars' coordinator, during his weekly media availability Tuesday discussed multiple issues about the offense. Included among those topics: injuries.

"I don't know if I've even ever heard of something like this," Hackett said.

The Jaguars' offense this season has endured injuries at every position but quarterback, beginning with a preseason season-ending knee injury to wide receiver Marqise Lee.

At tight end, starter Austin Seferian-Jenkins (core muscle) and backup Niles Paul (knee) are on injured reserve, with reserve running back Corey Grant on injured reserve and out for the season.

Ereck Flowers this past Sunday became the Jaguars' fourth starting left tackle this season, with Cam Robinson (knee) starting Weeks 1-2, Josh Wells (groin) starting Weeks 3-5 and Josh Walker (foot/ankle) starting four games after Wells' injury. Starting center Brandon Linder (knee) is on injured reserve, and guard A.J. Cann left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.

Running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) missed six of the first eight games with a hamstring injury, meaning the Jaguars were without their top wide receiver, top two tight ends and two of their top three running backs through all or most of the first half of the season.

Hackett said he asked Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin about the injuries in Week 5.

"He looked at me and said, 'This is a total abomination; I don't understand how this could happen,'' Hackett said. "It is crazy. If you look at Week 1-4 and you look at our team now, it's a different team out there. All that's part of it. We have to find a way to move the ball."

The Jaguars, after producing at least 480 yards offense in the season's first five weeks, have been under 250 in three of five games since. They had 243 yards offense in a 20-16 loss to Pittsburgh Sunday, a game in which Bortles completed 10 of 18 passes for 108 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions.

Bortles, who has 12 touchdowns with eight interceptions this season, appeared to miss several potential completions Sunday. That included a second-half play on which wide receiver Donte Moncrief appeared open for a first down – a play on which Hackett said Bortles needed to "take that shot; that's why we called it."

"Blake wants to do a great job taking care of the football," Hackett said. "That's a fine line with him right now – of taking care of the football and still being able to be aggressive. I think that's something we just need to continue to work on with him and say, 'Look: if it's there, we have to be sure we take it.'

"It's one of those things that we knew if we didn't turn the ball over we were going to have a chance to win. I think he knew that, so that might have been why. But when you have those opportunities, you have to take them."

Hackett also addressed the lack of play-action success against the Steelers, saying that some second-half sacks allowed hurt the ability to call the plays more often.

"We hit some that got us in position to score [in the second half], so we wanted to come back with that," Hackett said. "The run game started having a hiccup there. When you're giving up the sacks and losing yards that's when you say, 'Let's stick with the run.' … With the pass, there were just some things that weren't working out for us, so that's why we aimed on that."

Hackett was asked if Bortles was playing well enough to remain the starter.

"I think Blake has a lot of things he needs to improve on; he knows that," Hackett said. "He needs to be able take his shots when he can. He needs to keep protecting the ball. That's always a fine line with a quarterback. You don't want to turn the ball over a bunch, but you still want to be aggressive and take your shots. That's something he has to continue developing."

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