JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and digital reporter/host Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Denver Broncos in a 2022 Week 8 game at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday at 9:30 a.m. …
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer
1. A simple explanation. The big Jaguars news of the week: Unquestionably trading running back James Robinson to the New York Jets for a sixth-round draft selection that reportedly will become a fifth-rounder if Robinson rushes for 600 or more yards this season. The news drew ire from Jaguars fans – partly because of Robinson's popularity and partly because he was perhaps the team's most productive player the past two seasons. But while many observers were upset over the trade – particularly over the compensation – the move was perhaps inevitable. Not only had Robinson been replaced as a starter by the faster and more explosive Travis Etienne Jr., but the third-year veteran also had 10 games remaining until becoming a restricted free agent following the season. The Jaguars were unlikely to retain him, so moving a player whose role had diminished made sense. As far as compensation, the Day 3 selection the Jaguars received isn't eye-popping. But considering the diminished value leaguewide of the running-back position and considering Robinson's contract status – and considering he was a good-but-not-elite player – Rounds 5-6 are pretty much the market. Either way, a hat tip to Robinson – a really good story/good player who shined for this franchise in a couple of dark seasons.
2. Takeaway time. If searching for why the last few weeks have felt so much different for the Jaguars than the first few, look no further than takeaways. The Jaguars through four games led the NFL with nine takeaways after forcing a league-low nine turnovers in 17 games last season. The Jaguars' last takeaway? A Week 4 interception that safety Andre Cisco returned 59 yards for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles. One big reason for the drought: The secondary has struggled in man coverage, enabling opposing quarterbacks to throw quickly. That has negated the pass rush and quarterbacks who aren't feeling pressure are much less likely to throw errantly than ones under duress. The Jaguars have allowed more than 400 yards in each of the last two games and three of the last four. But in the NFL these days, defense is less about yards allowed than about disruption. The Jaguars must start disrupting and forcing takeaways to get back to the good defensive feeling they had in the first three-and-half games or so.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…
1. This team reminds me of the 1996 Jaguars. Those Jaguars had five one-score losses in the first eight games, and the similarity hit me when wide receiver Christian Kirk came up inches shy of a potential game-tying touchdown in a 23-17 loss to the New York Giants last Sunday. Remember when then-Jaguars wide receiver Willie Jackson was stopped inches shy of a potential game-winning touchdown on the final play of regulation in New England in 1996? Mark Brunell's five-interception game that season in St. Louis compares with quarterback Trevor Lawrence's five-turnover game in Philadelphia that season. After a one-sided loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that season, the Jaguars were 4-7. Head Coach Tom Coughlin released wide receiver Andre Rison the following day and it felt as if everything was in disarray, but they won their last five games in the most memorable season in Jaguars history. I can't predict the outcome for this team. But I just get the feeling there is a winning streak on the way – although with the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs following Sunday's game against the Broncos, it might be a few weeks off. Stay tuned.
2. The James Robinson move was smart – even if unpopular. Robinson was a great story and a productive player – maybe the only player the Jaguars could truly count on the last two seasons. He also had to deal with the nonsense the former head coach threw his way, endearing him to teammates and the fan base even more. The flip side: He's a guy who needs 25 carries to be his best and he wasn't going to get it in Pederson's scheme. He was never fast, and he looks like he's lost some of his ability to change directions suddenly with the Achilles injury he sustained in New York in 2021. A scouting buddy told me he should have been a fifth-round pick in 2020, but the Jaguars signed him in undrafted free agency. Now they're getting a fifth-rounder for a guy whose shelf life in Jacksonville was extremely limited. That's a good deal for the Jaguars. Best of luck to a quality person and a good player in New York.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars Team Reporter…
1. The man. It was clear in the locker room Wednesday that Etienne knows he is the guy at running back. He already knew this based on his carries the past two weeks, but with Robinson's departure, it is now more clear. Etienne handled the large media scrum around his locker Wednesday with professionalism and maturity – balancing sending well wishes to Robinson while stating the obvious fact he is grateful to now be the starting running back. Etienne said this trade is a win-win for both parties – now Robinson and Etienne can be starters with their teams with no tension on splitting carries.
2. Brewing. The Jaguars' offense has obviously improved the past two weeks. If the defense could have played up to par the past couple of weeks, the Jaguars likely would be going to London with a totally different record and public perception. The Jaguars' offense is ranked seventh in the league, a vast improvement from a team that could not find the end zone a couple of weeks ago against the Texans. If the defense can do its part Sunday and the Jaguars' offense can stay consistent, there is no excuse to not fly home from London with a win.