The Jaguars are a hard-playing unit on the verge of turning the corner as a program, but they've been unable to make the plays when needed in two of their three losses. Against the Bengals, the team's inability to control the game in the third quarter torpedoed their chances of walking away with a road victory. The defense couldn't disrupt, distract or harass a rookie passer making his fourth career NFL start. Joe Burrow picked apart the defense with an assortment of pinpoint throws on his way to a 300-yard game. Bengals running back Joe Mixon topped the 100-yard mark and imposed his will on the defense with a steady diet of punishing runs between the tackles. With the offense unable to sustain drives or cash in on prime opportunities, the Jaguars fell short in a game that should have been penciled in as a victory on their schedule.
KEY TO VICTORY
The Bengals earned the victory against the Jaguars with a strong second-half effort from their offense. Led by Burrow and Mixon, the Bengals seized control of the game with a 17-0 run in the third quarter. Utilizing a mix of ball control passes and inside runs, the Bengals' playmaking tandem overwhelmed a Jaguars defense that couldn't get a critical stop to thwart the momentum change. The defense's inability to get off the field in key moments is a continuation of a year-long theme that's frustrated coaches, players and fans in Duval County.
The Jaguars' QB1 bounced back from a disappointing performance against Miami in Week 3 with a solid outing against the Bengals. He completed 27 of 40 passes for 351 pass yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Minshew deserves credit for his efficiency and managerial skills, particularly in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. He patiently attacked the underneath areas of coverage with accurate short and intermediate throws. That said, Minshew's streakiness undermined the Jaguars' offensive effort with the diminutive QB1 misfiring on a handful of money-down throws. In addition, he took a few bad sacks and appeared flustered when his primary receivers didn't get open early in routes. If Minshew is going to be the long-term answer as a QB1, he must become a more consistent playmaker for the Jaguars with the game on the line. The great quarterbacks find a way to get it done in adverse conditions. Minshew must demonstrate those traits to be considered the Jaguars' franchise player.
UNDER THE RADAR
Jaguars rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. appears ready for a bigger role after a five-catch, 86-yard effort that showcased his versatility as an emerging WR2 on this team. The rookie displayed the full complement of skills needed to thrive as a primary playmaker on the perimeter. Shenault's speed, quickness, route-running skills and running ability make him a threat to score from anywhere on the field when he touches the rock. Given more opportunities against the Bengals (five catches for 86 yards on six targets; one rush for five yards), the rookie flashed the big-play talent and potential that made him a top prospect coming out of Colorado.
The Jaguars' offense displayed a few impressive flashes with running back James Robinson, wide receiver D.J. Chark and Shenault taking turns providing explosive plays for the unit. The trio has the potential to take over games with their individual and collective talents, but they must make their mark earlier in the contest to enable the Jaguars to seize control of the game. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden attempted to craft a game plan that put the ball into the hands of his top playmakers, but Minshew and Co. simply didn't make enough big plays on money downs (third down) in the second and third quarters to get it done. The Jaguars' QB1 misfired on several critical downs and his lack of poise in those moments was a deciding factor. With the offensive line holding its own in the trenches, the Jaguars' skill players and quarterback need to find a way to get it done in a one-score game.
The defense continues to struggle under coordinator Todd Wash due to the youth and inexperience in the lineup. The unit is unable to come up with stops or game-changing plays in key moments. Some of the lack of playmaking can be attributed to the heavy workload placed on defensive end Josh Allen's and weak-side linebacker Myles Jack's shoulders to create the splash plays as the team's designated blue-chippers. But the duo needs the supporting cast to step up and make plays. Against the Bengals, the defensive line didn't control the point of attack against the run or provide a consistent pass rush against an offense that produced a 300-yard passer and 100-yard rusher on the day. The inability to force the Bengals into a one-dimensional game plan resulted in Bengals Head Coach Zach Taylor being able to call a balanced game in a stress-free environment. The Jaguars must find a way to take something away from the offense to force the quarterback and play-caller to alter their game plan. Until the Jaguars are able to stop the run and create long-yardage situations or neutralize an opponent's top receiving threats to suffocate the passing game, the defense will continue to flounder despite playing with great effort and energy.