JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 31-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field Sunday
1.Minshew is back – and the carousel continues. The Jaguars made their fourth quarterback change of the season Sunday, which explains much about their 1-12 record and accompanying franchise-record streak of 12 consecutive losses in a single season. Quarterback Gardner Minshew, the Games 1-7 starter, in the third quarter Sunday replaced veteran Mike Glennon – who became increasingly ineffective in a three-game stretch after replacing rookie Jake Luton, who had become increasingly ineffective in his own three-game stretch as a starter. Minshew not unexpectedly provided a brief spark, immediately leading a touchdown drive to cut the Tennessee lead to 31-10. But Minshew noted afterward that that success came against a defense playing dramatically different than when it helped build a 28-point lead. Head Coach Doug Marrone said afterward that while he had an idea about who will start against the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday, but he didn't want to announce it in the media out of respect to Glennon and Minshew. The guess here is Marrone may stick with Minshew for the final three games of the season. Maybe he's the best option moving forward this season. Maybe he's not. Reality remains what it has been throughout a difficult season – that the quarterback of the future is not on the roster. When that's true, you change quarterbacks four times in season and that's never a good thing.
2.This one started feeling inevitable early – and with reason. Sunday's Jaguars loss had an inevitable feel most of their recent losses didn't. That was because Titans running back Derrick Henry's power – and because what had been a scrappy Jaguars defense in recent weeks realistically could only scrap for so long. While the defense continued the effort that had kept the team competitive against playoff-contending teams such as Green Bay, Cleveland and Minnesota in recent weeks, that scrap eventually caved when the Titans ran Henry over and over again during Sunday's decisive second quarter. Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel believed the surest way to win Sunday was to continue running at an injured, thin and inexperienced Jaguars defense. He was right, and once Henry scored on a 36-yard run late in the first half to give the Titans a 14-3 lead, the Titans controlled momentum and tempo after that. Inevitably.
3.The bright spot remains the bright spot. The bright spot for the Jaguars is obvious to any Jaguars observer who watched Sunday – and to any Jaguars observer who has watched this season. That's because the bright spot was running back James Robinson, who persevered Sunday against a tough Titans defense stacked against him and finally broke a 47-yard run in the second half. That run put the undrafted rookie free agent over 1,000 yards rushing, making him the fastest undrafted player in NFL history to reach that plateau. Robinson hasn't been enough to snap this seemingly endless losing streak, but he continues to be remarkably consistent, remarkably professional and remarkably productive. Marrone acknowledged Robinson in the post-game locker room, and said he felt a bit awkward about it because of the loss – and the Jaguars' record. There was no need for Marrone to feel that way. Robinson deserves notice whatever the record. He has been that impressive.
1."Try hard" only works for so long. The Jaguars haven't had their most talented players on the field for most of the second half of the season. They've substituted with guys who play as if their hair is on fire, but whose talent is somewhat less than their effort. They did it against the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field and the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings – and they did it for most of the first half against the Titans on Sunday. Then, Henry – the NFL's best running back – showed them what this league is all about. Henry carried eight times – every play – on a Titans drive that ended with his 36-yard touchdown run. Suddenly, it was no longer about effort. It won't be good enough against the Ravens, who are fighting for their playoff spot. Or the Chicago Bears, who are remarkably still hanging around. Or the Indianapolis Colts, who might have to win on the final Sunday of the season to get in the playoffs.
2.Glennon, Minshew, Luton… It just doesn't matter, they're a combined 1-12. The Titans weren't playing the same aggressive style of defense when Minshew entered the game midway through the third quarter with the Jaguars trailing, 31-3. They were backed way off, letting them have whatever they wanted underneath and rallying to the ball. Robinson benefited the exact same way, which helped him get to 1,000 yards on the season. By the way, Minshew's scrambling style is perfectly suited to take advantage of that soft zone and it was understandable he would have some success. Glennon reverted to being the same Glennon that played for the Bears, Raiders and Arizona Cardinals the last four seasons so why not put in Minshew?
3.The Titans haven't forgotten that they don't like the Jaguars. I thought the decision to go for the first down at their own 30-yard line in the first quarter was a nice little dig by Vrabel, who not-so-subtly let the Jaguars know what the Titans thought of their chances to win on Sunday. Tight end Geoff Swaim, who was a non-factor in his season in Jacksonville in 2019, played a prominent role with a few early targets and a touchdown to start the third quarter; they went back to him again on the next drive, deep in Jaguars territory, but he fell short of the goal line. And of course, watching Henry bulldoze his hometown team deep into the fourth quarter despite already having 200-plus yards reminds you that you passed him over in the 2016 NFL Draft and you saw him when he was playing middle-school ball. Maybe you have to have been around the block through the years with the Houston Oilers/Titans to fully appreciate the dislike between the two franchises, but even with the Titans dominating the series lately the fire is still smoldering a bit. It's time for the Jaguars to compete with these guys and throw some fuel of their own on the fire.