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Quick Thoughts: On Myles Jack, the O-Line and stopping the run

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson (45) rushes the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson (45) rushes the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday …


1.Myles Jack may be this team's best player – and the player the team can least afford to lose. This is a mild exaggeration, but only because the starting quarterback almost is always the player an NFL team can least afford to lose. But with apologies to starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II there is little doubt through four games the weak-side linebacker's importance to the team. The fifth-year veteran is playing at a remarkably high level, and the difference in the defense Sunday against Cincinnati when he was playing compared to after he left with an ankle injury was staggering. The defense wasn't great in the first half, but it was getting the Bengals off the field on occasion. After Jack left, the Bengals scored on five consecutive possessions. Even when the Jaguars pulled close late, it never felt like they could get the Bengals stopped enough to pull even. With Jack, the defense has hope of a big play and a stop. Without him, you wonder.

2.The offense must do more. This is isn't fair, but offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was right this week when he told media, "We're going to have to make a jump. We're 1-3 right now, so offensively we have to play better." This is true because the Jaguars' offense currently looks far more capable of improving to a winning level then the defense. The line is playing well. Wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault are playing well. So is running back James Robinson. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II is still up and down, but they played well enough to score 25 points last week and was a couple of third-quarter three-and-outs from playing the Bengals toe-to-toe in a game-long shootout. The Jaguars have scored 27, 30 and 25 points in three games with Chark. That's improvement from last season. But considering the injuries on defense – and how the defense is playing even when healthy – the offense may need to reach the low 30s to give this team a chance. Yes, the offense must make a jump. Fair or not, it must do more.

3.They must run and stop the run. This may seem like antiquated approach in this pass-oriented NFL, but within the context of this week's game running and stopping the run must be paramount. It was the sudden inability to stop the run after three weeks of being solid in the area that gave an already struggling defense a hopeless feel against Cincinnati last week. The Jaguars' pass-struggles may or may not be fixable, but if they can be stouter against the run that will improve their chances to pressure quarterbacks. Offensively, the Jaguars have looked their best this season when rookie running back James Robinson has been most involved. He has set an NFL record for total yards by a free agent rookie through four games, and that has been with his carries limited to 15 a game because the offense has needed to throw to get back in games in the second half. Keeping him involved is largely about the defense playing better so the Jaguars can give him more carries. However it happens, it must happen.

Sexton …

1.The early word is positive. Head Coach Doug Marrone said on Wednesday he feels good about his team's injury list, which indicate we will see cornerback CJ Henderson (shoulder), Jack, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring) and left tackle Cam Robinson (knee) playing Sunday. Robinson is the one I had the most concern for; he has had knee trouble before and he's playing well as part of an offensive line that is playing well. Still, no position on this roster can handle losing starting players; this is the NFL's youngest team and depth in many cases is a rookie. You can say injuries shouldn't be an excuse. Coaches offer that up all the time. But when seventh-round kick-return-specialist Chris Claybrooks is lining up at cornerback, your chances for success drop precipitously.

2.The offensive line is a positive. Minshew would tell you the same thing. He has had plenty of time to throw this season; if anything, when he has been sacked, it generally has been because he held the ball too long. The line is holding up in pass protection and averaging 4.8 yards per carry on the ground. More importantly, the Jaguars have run when they have wanted to run – the ultimate measure of an offensive lines' effectiveness. If you consider that the unit has played without center Brandon Linder since early in Week 2, that's even more impressive. There is reason to be optimistic about the offense and it rests on the shoulders of the front five – if the Jaguars can can get Linder back and if Robinson can stay on the field.

3.Pass rush remains a problem. The Jaguars last week couldn't get to Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who was sacked eight times the previous week. This week, they get a chance at Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has been sacked 16 times in four games. The problem is the Jaguars can't seem to take any of the attention off defensive end Josh Allen, who gets the entire focus of offensive coordinators sliding every protection his way. Unless and until rookie defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson can put it all together, that isn't going to change – and the Jaguars as of today don't have a dominant pass rusher on the inside of their line. They cannot simply send more rusher with the way their secondary is built; they must find a way to get it done up front with four or five. It's a tall order against a quarterback such as Watson who is so good at extending plays.

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