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Quick thoughts: On to Week 6

10.17 Quick Thoughts

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England, Sunday in a 2021 Week 6 game…

Oehser …

  1. Turnover time. As Head Coach Urban Meyer sees it, ending one streak may end another. The streaks involve turnovers and losses, and the Jaguars' ongoing franchise-record 20-game losing streak is very much intertwined with takeaways. The Jaguars have won the turnover statistic twice during the streak, in 2020 losses to the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers; those two losses – by two and four points, respectively – were two of the Jaguars' closest since the streak began. The Jaguars haven't had more takeaways than their opponent in the last 10 games – and through five games this season, they are last in the NFL with one takeaway and in turnover margin at minus-10. "The game of football is about the ball," Meyer said Monday. "You just have step in front of one and make a play. When that does [happen], I think this whole thing changes." One issue here has been cornerback Shaquill Griffin's three dropped interceptions in five games. The biggest issue may be a pass rush that has struggled to create consistent pressure. If the Jaguars get better there, turnovers almost certainly will come. If not …
  2. Next (line)man up. We talked last week in this space about attrition, with the Jaguars already having lost wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (injury), running back Travis Etienne Jr. (injury), cornerback CJ Henderson (trade) and guard AJ Cann (knee) for extended/permanent periods. That trend ticked upward Sunday, with center Brandon Linder sustaining an ankle/medial collateral ligament injury in a 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The positive for the Jaguars is Linder likely will return in four-to-five games; the injury initially looked more serious. The negative is that Linder's absence means the Jaguars are now down two players – including Cann – from an offensive line that has been good-to-very good this season. Second-year veteran Ben Bartch appears to have played fine in Cann's place, and veteran Tyler Shatley often has spelled Linder with comparatively little decline. So, there's reason to believe this group can withstand the losses. Still, this was a deep unit to start the season and it's fair to wonder how much deeper injuries can cut here without a drop.
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Sexton…

  1. Giveaways, takeaways. I expect rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence to make more bad throws this season – but after consecutive games with no meaningful turnovers (the interception on the last play against the Titans was meaningless), I don't think he's the problem. The defense has one takeaway in five games, a pace for three this season – four fewer than the San Francisco 49ers' 2018 NFL record for takeaway futility. They've had a few opportunities slip through their hands – and a bad break with the officials against Tennessee, which mistakenly called a sack/fumble an incomplete pass. But when you watch the Jaguars' defense, the ball doesn't come out of the opposing runners' hands and opposing quarterbacks aren't pressured enough to make errant throws. These are staples of the professional game. Unless and until the Jaguars start forcing the ball out, they won't give themselves a better chance of winning. It's not as if they don't practice it weekly; all teams do. They must make the play that makes the ball come out if they're going to give the quarterback a short field or an extra possession; those are the metrics that often determine who wins and who doesn't in the NFL.
  2. It's okay to be desperate. Desperate teams are dangerous teams. But there is a difference between being desperate and playing desperate. I want the Jaguars to work tirelessly, to spend an extra 20 minutes on the field catching passes, to stay in the film room for another look at protection schemes – to do a little more every day than normal for an extra inch or yard on Sunday. I don't want to see a team that plays desperate, which Lawrence also said this past Sunday. The Jaguars can't play their best if they let the anxiety that comes with losing weigh them down. A football team that is loose and plays as if they have nothing to lose is much more dangerous than a team that is scared to make a mistake or who thinks "here we go again" if they get behind the Dolphins.
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Sullivan …

  1. Not that big of a deal. I sense a theme regarding the big trip to London: No one is overly excited for it – and that's a good thing. Yes, players are fired up to play in front of London fans; for many, this is their first time out of the country. But you don't want a team overwhelmed by the change and therefore wide-eyed over playing somewhere "different." I don't sense that will be the case Sunday. Griffin, who won in London with the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, told me he has stressed to younger guys that Sunday's game will just be like every other game – and to focus on the game you have been playing all your lives and you will be OK. He said he spoke up in the defensive-back meeting room, telling everyone to stay hydrated on the plane and to stay up as long as you can once landing in London to get used to the different time zone. Meyer said he relied on the Football Operations department and his player leadership committee for advice on the trip, primarily on making the decision what day would be best for the team to fly there. The Jaguars have been there, done that when it comes to London. That is a huge advantage that might just lead to their first win of the season.
  2. Promising. That is the feeling I had walking out of Lawrence's press conference Wednesday. Each week, you can tell how much more comfortable he is getting with all of this "NFL" stuff – on and off the field. Lawrence spoke about growing confidence with the offense and understanding that the better he does his job, the closer this team is to breaking the losing streak. That was great to hear from the rookie quarterback who weekly is showing more and more what he is capable of. Lawrence was hard on himself for that garbage-time interception during the final drive of the Titans game. To many, that interception was nothing because it did not change the outcome of the game. But it bothered Lawrence because he wanted to finish a two-minute drive – even a meaningless one. Lawrence is continuing to show why he will be this team's franchise quarterback for years to come … and that should make everyone's week a little brighter.

View the top photos from the Jacksonville Jaguars practice ahead of the Week 6 matchup against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

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