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 Tennessee Titans at EverBank Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
- A most important response. It's the nature of a 17-game NFL season that all games loom important so long as a team has postseason hopes. But Sunday for the Jaguars has particular meaning for multiple reasons, only one of which is putting a one-sided loss to NFC power San Francisco this past Sunday in the rear view. The Jaguars not only must reestablish EverBank Stadium as a homefield advantage after three losses in four games there this season, they must reestablish themselves as AFC South favorites – something now in question with the Houston Texans only a game behind and already having beaten the Jaguars in Jacksonville in Week 3. The positive for the Jaguars on this front: They have responded well in these situations under Head Coach Doug Pederson, winning five consecutive games after a one-sided loss to the Detroit Lions last season and doing so again after losing to the Texans this season. The Jaguars need a similar response Sunday with AFC South matchups against the Titans and Texans the next two weeks. "I know if we win this week, we're good; if we win next week, we're good," Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen said. "You have to be consciously aware of what's going on around you. But for us, if we just do our job and take it one game at a time, we're going to find ourselves where we need to be."
- The quickest fix. "Quick fixes" are usually an NFL misnomer, but in the case of the Jaguars' offense, curing its current ails is relatively straightforward – and obvious. While the pass protection has been an issue at times, and while short yardage has been a struggle, the most glaring offensive problem has been turnovers. The Jaguars' season-high four giveaways last Sunday brought their total to a well-publicized 17 for the season. The team has seven in the last two games, and only once in nine games has it not had a giveaway. For all the discussion around offensive line, quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Calvin Ridley in recent weeks, eliminating – or even reducing – these mistakes would make a "struggling" offense suddenly seem much smoother.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …
- If the Jaguars win this week, then next Sunday will very likely decide the AFC South. If the Jaguars can win the next two games, they will have an 8-3 record and be on target for the goals they set for themselves before the season began. It doesn't feel that way this week after the stinging loss to the 49ers, but those are the facts. It won't be easy. The Titans are always a handful under Head Coach Mike Vrabel regardless of the quarterback. The Texans are the surprise team of this NFL season and quarterback C.J. Stroud already has wrapped up Offensive Rookie of the Year and may be a candidate for Most Valuable Player. Still, winning the next two games is doable. If there is any silver lining to the loss last week, it's that focus and intensity should be on point. Playing for the division title should serve to supercharge the effort.
- Travis Etienne Jr. is a good running back and is having a nice season. But the Jaguars aren't a good running team nine games into the season. They haven't consistently moved people off the football at the line of scrimmage, which is why their third-down-and-short conversion rate is in the tank. I don't think the Jaguars will be a running team under Pederson; it's not how he envisions a modern offense. But he does want to be able to grind out four yards when he needs to, which is the modern definition of a good running game. It obviously starts up front. The Jaguars' offensive line is still smarting from last Sunday, but get ready for defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons and a Titans defense that is going to sell out to make sure Etienne doesn't beat them. They're going to want to take away the ground game to make a quarterback who is struggling to hold onto the football have to throw it, which gives them the chance to take it away. This would be a good week for the Jaguars to figure out how to convert third down and short.
Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...
- Poor execution not poor planning. Looking back at a 34-3 loss will give a team plenty of things to work on for the next game. Pederson got quite detailed in his Monday press briefing about the issues for the offense against the 49ers. Pederson pulled out his notebook and detailed every play of the first several offensive drives. While listing off penalties, missed blocks and fumbles, you get the impression that Pederson feels most of the team's problems come down to execution. Many are calling on the Jags to switch up the play-calling. But the head coach is emphasizing it's not the play-calling, it's the implementation.
- Are we there yet? The Jaguars were brought back to earth on Sunday after a five-game winning streak. By no means is this a bad team, but it's not great yet. Jaguars players saw up close and personal what a great team looks like in San Francisco. In the locker room Wednesday, many players echoed Pederson's sentiment that "we haven't done anything yet." Here's hoping this is a catalyst for another five-game win streak.