In a feature that will run weekly during the 2020 season, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 33-30 loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday
The Jaguars didn't walk out of Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday with a "W," but the coaching staff should be encouraged by their effort in a slugfest with a legitimate title contender. The Jaguars not only matched the Titans' physicality and toughness on both sides of the ball, they were also a few plays from knocking off a squad that routinely bullies their opponents with their rugged playing style. If the Jaguars can continue to embrace the tough, hard-nosed approach that Head Coach Doug Marrone has emphasized since training camp, the young squad will force future opponents to prepare for a hard-hitting, 60-minute grind on game day.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Jaguars were unable to secure a victory due to their inability to come up with big plays on key downs. The Titans converted 7-of-11 third downs with quarterback Ryan Tannehill doing most of the damage on an assortment of pinpoint throws off play-action. The 2019 NFL Comeback Player of the Year repeatedly found open receivers on "money" downs to extend drives or score points. The Jaguars' special teams also contributed to the loss with kicker Josh Lambo's miscues (botched squib kick and missed PAT) costing the team four points in a tight game. With quarterback Gardner Minshew II also giving the ball away (two interceptions), the Jaguars hit the trifecta (turnovers, kicking-game errors and allowing third-down conversions) that routinely lead to losses in one-score games.
The second-year pro is beginning to make believers out of his doubters with his efficient performances as a QB1. Minshew completed 30 of 45 passes for 339 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions Sunday. Despite his turnovers, the young gunslinger carved up the Titans' defense with a variety of quick-rhythm throws – short, intermediate and deep. The diversity of Minshew's throws combined with his spread-the-wealth approach (eight different receivers with at least one reception) makes the Jaguars' offense tougher to defend. He stretches the defense horizontally with his willingness to take open "dink-and-dunk" throws but pushes the ball down the field enough to keep defenders from squatting on routes. The balanced approach is uncommon for a young passer, but it is one of the reasons why the Jaguars should be encouraged by his progress as a QB1.
UNDER THE RADAR
James Robinson's production as the Jaguars' RB1 ranks as one of the biggest surprises of the season. The undrafted free agent from Illinois State not only notched the first 100-yard game of his career against the Titans, he showcased home-run potential with a 39-yard run through the heart of the defense. Robinson also displayed outstanding wiggle and burst on a 17-yard score in the third quarter. With the 5-feet-9, 219-pounder averaging five-plus yards per carry through two games, the Jaguars might've found their bell-cow runner to build around in the backfield.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden had the offense humming against the Titans. The unit scored 30 points, rolled up almost 500 yards of total offense and converted 10-of-14 third-down conversions against one of the best defenses in football. Minshew picked apart the defense with an assortment of throws to a deep and talented stable of pass catchers on the perimeter. Robinson added enough pop to the running game to force the Titans to play honest in the box. With the offensive line holding its own against a disruptive frontline with a few blue-chippers in the lineup, the Jaguars' strong offensive performance should raise a few eyebrows around the league when scouts and coaches take a look at the tape.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash pulled out all the stops in an attempt to slow Titans running back Derrick Henry and the Titans' running game. He packed the box with defenders and neutralized the reigning NFL rushing champ for most of the game (25 rushes for 84 yards). However, the commitment to slowing down the running game exposed the Jaguars' secondary in coverage. Tannehill took full advantage with a four-touchdown effort on a variety of play-action passes to every area of the field. The shaky coverage also showed up in several critical third-down situations in medium and long-yardage situations. Granted, it is hard to cover for an extended period without assistance from the pass rush. The Jaguars didn't get many hits on Tannehill with only one sack and four quarterback hits on the day. The lack of pressure enabled the veteran passer to make precise throws from a comfortable pocket. Without a consistent pass rush, the Jaguars were unable to control the game and couldn't force the Titans into miscues and turnovers in a tight game.