JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 23-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., Sunday
The Jaguars play with great energy and effort every time they step onto the field, but the results do not always match their collective output. Against the Colts, the team was not rewarded for playing harder than the opponent due to faulty execution in a few key areas. Those minor miscues came back to haunt the Jaguars as they were never able to climb out of a 17-0 hole that forced them to chase points for most of the day. While the fight and determination to overcome the huge deficit is admirable, the Jaguars must eliminate critical errors early in games to improve their chances against good teams. Head Coach Urban Meyer has the team on the verge of becoming a competitive squad in the topsy-turvy AFC, but more consistency and focus are required to pull off the turnaround this season.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Jaguars could not overcome a poor start to beat the Colts with a rally at the end of the game. A series of errors in each phase (offense, defense and special teams) enabled the Colts to put the Jaguars in a hole that forced the Jaguars' coaching staff to scrap their original game plans before the fans could sit. From the offense's inability to sustain a drive to the defense's lackluster effort defending Colts running back Jonathan Taylor on the ground to the miscommunication and failed execution that resulted in a blocked punt, the Jaguars were their own worst enemy in the first quarter. The silly mistakes enabled the Colts to avoid the pressure of playing in a close game. Considering Colts quarterback Carson Wentz's history of melting down in those moments, the comfortable lead did not help the Jaguars get the game on their terms with the Colts' QB1 never forced to make plays in a close game. Although Wentz made a few clutch throws in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars needed to challenge him to make money throws throughout the game to force him into a turnover frenzy.
It is hard to evaluate the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft due to the lack of weapons and resources around him. Lawrence does not have the luxury of playing with a group of all-star receivers on the perimeter, and the lack of star power forces him to play like a superhero from the pocket. Although the rookie certainly flashes the skills to eventually play like an elite quarterback, he simply is not ready to carry the team on his back at this point. That's why observers should ignore his numbers and focus on the improvements he has made as a leader and decision-maker since stepping onto the field in Week 1. Lawrence shows a much better command of the offense at this point of the season, and his decisiveness as a passer reflects the confidence he has acquired through his experiences as the Jaguars' QB1. While I would love to see him protect the ball better in key situations (see the late-game fumble), I also realize he needs to make some of those mistakes to become a clutch performer in the fourth quarter down the line. It is hard to become a great player as a youngster, but Lawrence has the ingredients (toughness, grit, talent and pedigree) to become the franchise quarterback the Jaguars need to get over the hump.
Jaguars wide receiver/returner Jamal Agnew's emergence as a dependable offensive contributor has made him the No. 1 option on the perimeter outside of running back James Robinson. The all-star return specialist has showcased his skills as a spectacular playmaker in an expanded offensive role that makes him a top priority on the call sheet when the Jaguars are looking for a big play. With Agnew's 66-yard touchdown run showcasing more of his potential, the Jaguars will look to feature him more as an offensive weapon to spark an offense that needs some juice.
The Jaguars' offense stunk up the place for the second straight week. Outside of Agnew's 66-yard run, the Jaguars could not get the offense going with three-and-outs down the play-by-play sheet. The lack of execution from a unit loaded with veterans, particularly on the offensive line, has been one of the biggest surprises of the seasons. Perhaps the coaching staff can find a way to jump-start a unit that has struggled all season, but it is hard to believe a turnaround is on the horizon given the lack of consistency and big plays that we have seen from this offense.
Credit coordinator Joe Cullen for getting his defense to play hard without much assistance from the offense or special teams. The defense has been single-handedly keeping the Jaguars in games with timely stops in critical moments. The overall effort, energy and execution from the defense is playoff-caliber despite an occasional leak on the ground or through the air. The Jaguars are holding opponents to point totals (24 points or fewer) that should lead to wins in today's game. Perhaps Cullen can get the defense to score more points by creating more turnovers and taking those giveaways to the house, but it is hard to fault the defense when it is the glue that is holding everything together in Jacksonville.