JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 26-21 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday
Despite an onslaught of losses that has guaranteed another losing season and a top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Jaguars continue to play with the effort and energy of a contender. The hustle has not translated into wins, but it suggests the team's locker-room culture is solid – and the coaches should be applauded for getting the team to ready to play. That said, the repeated mistakes in the kicking game and with game management reveal a lack of attention to detail in key areas. With the Jaguars also showing poor gap discipline against the run, the loss to the Jets continues to highlight the issues that have plagued the team for most of the season.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Jaguars lost Sunday because of poor run defense and a series of miscues in the kicking game, including a 102-yard kick-return score. The critical mistakes in those areas were compounded by a few game-management errors that hurt the team in critical moments (SEE: fourth-down play at the end of the game). While the Jaguars could have overcome some of those mistakes, it is hard to win games when the opponent grinds out 273 yards rushing, particularly with the quarterback (Zach Wilson of the Jets) running for 91 yards.
The No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft might have played the best game of his career from a fundamental standpoint. Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence was decisive and rhythmic from the pocket while also flashing improved accuracy and ball placement. Although the rookie missed a handful of throws that could have resulted in points and put the ball on the turf twice (one fumble lost), the young passer flashed some of the talents that made him the undisputed top quarterback in the 2021 class. Watching Lawrence play with supreme confidence while executing the game plan should encourage Jaguars officials that the rookie will eventually blossom into an outstanding starter for the team. Lawrence is not perfect, but he certainly displays the potential to thrive in a system built around his game.
Running back Dare Ogunbowale filled in admirably for an injured James Robinson to steady a running game that was productive against the Jets. The third-year pro amassed 72 scrimmage yards on 17 touches and functioned as a solid RB1 for the Jaguars. Although he failed to pop an explosive run, Ogunbowale's steady production enabled the Jaguars to alleviate some of the pressure on Lawrence to carry the offense.
Credit passing-game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for crafting a game plan that enabled the rookie quarterback to play fast and free in the pocket. The Jaguars played with more pace and tempo, and the offense responded with three scores on the team's first three possessions. Lawrence played one of the best games of his young career and displayed more confidence and swagger than we have seen from him in weeks. That said, the Jaguars need to clean up the communication and clock-management issues that led to a serious blunder from the offense at the end of the game. Whether it was a lack of awareness or understanding of the situation or poor preparation, the Jaguars must execute better in late-game situations to wins in close games.
Defensive coordinator Joe Cullen will need to re-examine his game plan and call sheet after watching the Jets run roughshod through his unit. The Jaguars surrendered almost 300 yards on the ground with Wilson running around like a triple-option quarterback. The defense took poor angles to the ball and missed too many tackles in space. With the defense playing with poor gap integrity, the Jaguars' porous run defense cost them dearly in a winnable game against a short-handed team.
Check out these top game photos of the Jacksonville Jaguars as they take on the New York Jets for Week 16 of the NFL Regular Season at MetLife Stadium.