JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 30-16 loss to the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field Sunday
The first game of the post-Urban Meyer era featured many of the same mistakes we watched most of the season. From issues in the kicking game to a stagnant offense and inconsistent defense, the Jaguars continue to undermine their efforts with poor execution and untimely errors. While the energy and hustle from the Jaguars is encouraging, the repeated blunders are disappointing at this stage of the season. Perhaps Darrell Bevell can clean up the issues in his role as the interim head coach, but something must change for the Jaguars to win before the end of the season.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Jaguars did not give themselves a chance to win with a series of first-quarter mistakes that put them behind the eight ball. A 98-yard kickoff return touchdown by Texans returner Tremon Smith changed the game's momentum and created an insurmountable deficit. Though the defense kept the game close, the unit allowed Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks to have a banner day on the perimeter. The veteran pass-catcher sealed the game with a 43-yard "catch-and-run" score that featured multiple missed tackles and poor pursuit angles from the defense. With self-inflicted mistakes plaguing the Jaguars on both sides of the ball, the scrappy team was unable to take advantage of a short-handed opponent dealing with their own issues.
Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has struggled most of the season due to a lackluster supporting cast and an ill-fitting scheme. Lawrence does not have a high-end playmaker on the perimeter to target, which makes it hard for him to get into a rhythm throwing to a trusted pass catcher. In addition, the lack of speed on the perimeter forces the Jaguars' QB1 to make tight-window throws to register completions. While the personnel is not up to par, the rookie must clean up his footwork and fundamentals to become more consistent with his ball placement. Lawrence missed a few open receivers on big-play chances that would have put the Jaguars in a position to score more against an athletic Texans defense. With three games remaining, it is not too late for Lawrence to clean up some mistakes and build some momentum heading into the offseason.
Cornerback Tyson Campbell is starting to come into his own as a playmaker on the island. The rookie came up with his second interception of the season while also displaying an improving game that could make him a breakout star in 2022. From his footwork, awareness and ball skills, Campbell has the tools to become an all-star at the position in time.
The offense continues to sputter in 2021 despite switching up the game plan to put Lawrence and running back James Robinson in a position to thrive within the scheme. The struggles continued against the Texans, with Lawrence completing just 22 of 38 passes for 210 yards without a touchdown or interception. Despite the coaching staff's best effort to put together a plan that enabled the Jaguars to take advantage of some of the tactics employed by the Texans' defense, the young quarterback could not get into a rhythm for most of the game. Part of his struggles could be attributed to sticky coverage on the outside, but the rookie passer must find a way to thread the needle to put the ball on his receivers. Until Lawrence can put up big numbers in the passing game, the offense will stay stuck in neutral despite Robinson carving up opponents on the ground.
Coordinator Joe Cullen deserves credit for getting his defense to play hard every week, but the unit does not make enough plays to win. The Jaguars need more disruptive plays (turnovers, sacks, tackles for loss and pass breakups) to change momentum, yet they have been unable to produce those game-changing plays despite ramping up the pressure. The lack of pressure enabled a rookie quarterback (Davis Mills) to find his rhythm and make enough plays to keep the Texans on schedule. With the defense unable to rattle the young signal-caller, the Jaguars could not beat a team that was struggling prior to the Week 15 matchup.