Kessler: “We’ve got to score more…”

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler looks for a receiver against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler looks for a receiver against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

JACKSONVILLE – Quarterback Cody Kessler led with the obvious.

“We’ve got to score more points,” he said.

How the Jaguars might do so was a topic when Kessler met with the media Wednesday, and it will be a storyline moving forward into the Jaguars’ final three games of the season.

“That starts with me – making the right reads, getting into the right plays, helping out with protection and getting it to the right guys,” Kessler said Wednesday as the Jaguars (4-9) prepared to play the Washington Redskins (6-7) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

“That’s something I want to improve this week getting more rhythm and getting more comfortable with the offense. Last week, we saw some good flashes. But we have to put points on the board.”

Head Coach Doug Marrone reiterated what he said Monday – that Kessler made good strides this past Thursday in his second start with the team, against the Tennessee Titans.

“We’d like to see that continue to go that way,” Marrone said, adding of the offense overall: “I think we have to do a better job really all over in the run game. Practice-wise, you’d like to see not a lot of mistakes, a lot of people honed in and being able to go out and perform.

“If you have good practices you have to expect to play well. We’ve been practicing well, but we haven’t played well.”

Kessler on Sunday will make his third consecutive start at quarterback for the Jaguars, having moved into the lineup in place of Blake Bortles following a 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills. That was the same week quarterbacks Scott Milanovich assumed play-calling duties following the dismissal of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

The Jaguars, who have averaged 13.7 points a game in their last nine games, beat the Indianapolis Colts, 6-0, in Kessler’s first start with the team. They lost to the Titans in his second start.

“There are a lot of skill guys on this team, a lot of guys who can make plays,” Kessler said. “It’s getting them the ball. It’s finding the right way to get them the ball and making those plays when they’re there. The opportunities are there.

“We just have to make them. We have to do our jobs and be consistent.”

A specific area Kessler mentioned: third down.

The Jaguars are 11th in the NFL on third downs, converting 79 of 141 opportunities – 41.4 percent. They converted five of 18 third-down opportunities against the Colts and were two of 12 on third downs against the Titans. Kessler said the key is staying out of third-and-long situations.

“We had seven or eight third-and-10 plusses [against Tennessee],” Kessler said. “That’s something that really stalls drives.”

Asked specifically what the Jaguars could to do improve offensively, Marrone mentioned several areas – including third down, penalties and reducing drops.

“Be consistent, basically – and create some big plays,” Marrone said. “You look at all scoring drives, most of the time there’s one or two big plays in all of them. …. What you’re going to see is one or two plays —whether it’s the run game or pass game – of plus 18 or 20, something to that effect.

“If we can create an explosive play, which means 11 guys doing their job, then you have a better opportunity to score.”

The Jaguars improved marginally offensively against the Titans compared to the Colts, not only scoring a touchdown but producing 250 yards against Tennessee compared to 211 against Indianapolis. Kessler, after completing 18 of 24 passes for 150 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions – and taking few attempts downfield – completed 25 of 43 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Kessler had a 35-yard completion to wide receiver Keelan Cole against Tennessee, also completing a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Dede Westbrook. The team’s lone touchdown in the last two weeks was a seven-yard pass from Kessler to Westbrook.

“We made some big plays last week,” Kessler said. “There were plays we should have made as well. There was stuff we left out there, but I think we’re starting to get more of a rhythm under Scott and to get more comfortable. I’m excited to see this week, especially, and how the next few go.”

Kessler said his comfort level improved from his first Jaguars start to his second, allowing him to try more passes downfield.

“We had some shots there that I could have taken the previous week as well,” Kessler said. “This week, we were kind of letting it fly. We were trying to put up some points and hit some big plays. We hit some.

“We were close on a couple of them, but to be an explosive offense you have to hit at least 80-to-85 percent of those and make those big plays when they count.”

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