JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 41-17 loss to the Chicago Bears at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday
1.This team wasn't tanking. Laugh if you want – and some certainly will – but this Jaguars team clearly wasn't Tanking for Trevor Lawrence on Sunday afternoon. Despite pregame talk about the Jaguars needing to lose to secure the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft and the chance to select the Clemson University quarterback – and despite the post-game euphoria of many Jaguars observers when they indeed secured the selection – Jaguars players and coached fulfilled their weeklong stance that they would give everything possible to win. They took a 3-0 lead and played with energy early. Players and coaches don't tank. They don't care about draft positioning. The Jaguars didn't on Sunday, playing hard and tying the game 10-10 when quarterback Mike Glennon passed 20 yards to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. with 8:21 remaining in the half. As has happened for much of the last month, the Jaguars' defense wilted thereafter. That wasn't an effort thing. That's just the reality that the Jaguars have a lot of work to do in a lot of areas in the offseason, particularly defensively.
2.The defense just can't hold up right now. This has been said often in recent weeks, but it was true again Sunday. The Jaguars' defense entered the season thin at defensive tackle – throughout the defensive front, really. Stoutness against the run and the ability to hold up in that area were issues throughout last season and were key areas to watch in 2020. The run defense looked slightly improved from last season early this season, but injuries and lack of front-line bodies on the interior of the line increasingly have taken a toll as the season has continued. Cleveland, Minnesota, Tennessee and Baltimore at various stages of games in recent weeks took control of games against the Jaguars on the ground – and the Bears pulled away with a dominant third quarter Sunday. Again, this isn't an effort issue for the Jaguars in recent weeks. It's about not being good enough in key areas – again, particularly on defense.
3.The Jaguars secured the No. 1 overall selection – and that feels right. It's disingenuous to discuss Sunday's Jaguars loss without addressing what it means for the franchise's long-term future – and securing the No. 1 selection indeed could be a franchise-changing moment. Whatever happens with that selection in the spring, this much has been clear in recent weeks: The Jaguars absolutely need major upgrades and deserve to be selecting No. 1 overall. Through 13 games, there was legitimate debate about the NFL team that most needed a franchise quarterback and the hope that a No. 1 selection brings. The Jaguars made a case through November that they were better than their record appeared with a string of narrow and gutty losses. But the Jaguars have worn down in December with three one-sided losses – and they now have lost a franchise record 14 consecutive games. The New York Jets, meanwhile, have upset two contending teams – the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns – in recent weeks to move out of the No. 1 spot. The No. 1 overall selection should go to the No. 32 team in the NFL – i.e., the team that needs it the most. It's pretty clear that's happening.
1.I don't think I have three thoughts on this game. Honestly, that's where this season is with a week left to play. I've written about the inconsistent quarterback play, an underrated offensive line, rookie running back James Robinson – and a defense that gave you everything it had and that wasn't much the last two weeks. A new era begins shortly. Honestly, it can't begin soon enough for people who care about this franchise.
2.You don't get the franchise quarterback without the losing. It wasn't going to happen with 13 losses; we had to endure this season watching a team lose fourteen consecutive games to be in a position to take a quarterback who I think is the best we've seen come out of college football since Peyton Manning 22 years ago. The Jaguars have never been in this position – not in 2013 when they had the No. 2 pick, and the best two players were offensive tackles, or in 2014 when they grabbed quarterback Blake Bortles at No. 3 but knew he wasn't an elite prospect. The Lawrence kid is different, and everyone seems to know it. They Jaguars never have been in a position where a quarterback like this is there when they are in a position to select him, and it might not happen again. Hopefully they're not here again for a long, long, long time.
3.Back to that offensive line. The unit is really pretty good. Robinson wouldn't have had the season he's had without the offensive line playing well – and when Jake Luton and Mike Glennon were in the lineup at quarterback, the group showed how strong it can be in pass protection … most of the time. Glennon was clean all-day Sunday against a Bears front that features Khalil Mack – and that knew it could stop the run without Robinson in uniform. The Jaguars' offensive line won't likely return as a unit; left tackle Cam Robinson isn't worth the huge money he's going to seek, and it seems the Jaguars would be wise to let left guard Andrew Norwell and his huge salary walk. The Jaguars added guard Ben Bartch last offseason in the draft, and he looks promising. Plus, with two picks in both the first and second rounds, you can be sure they'll add more big guys in April. They were better than you probably thought they were in 2020.