JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2020 season, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 31-10 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday
Despite an early-season competitive battle with the Titans, the talent disparity between the AFC South rivals stood out Sunday when watching the game play out between the lines. The Jaguars lack the firepower on each side of the ball to compete with title contenders, and the talent gap shows up in key moments. Whether it was Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown snagging a ridiculous one-handed grab over Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones IV or Titans running back Derrick Henry running through the air of the Jaguars' defense, the Titans' stars are on another level than their Jaguars counterparts. While that's not exactly surprising based on the recent performances of each team as a playoff contender and a lottery participant, the Jaguars must significantly close the talent gap to climb out of the cellar in the division.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Titans hit the Jaguars in the mouth from the opening whistle and didn't let up until the final buzzer. The beatdown was keyed by Henry's success on the ground as he tallied 215 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Moreover, he pummeled the defense with his hard-nosed running style and nasty finishes. The cumulative effect of tackling the 250-pounder not only wore down the defense, but it demoralized a unit that has been a major part of 12 consecutive losses. With the offense sputtering under the direction of quarterback Mike Glennon (and Gardner Minshew II), the Jaguars fell apart against a playoff contender attempting to find its rhythm heading into the postseason.
The offensive struggles against the Titans prompted Head Coach Doug Marrone to hand the ball to Minshew in the second half as he looked for a spark to jumpstart the unit. The second-year pro immediately led the offense down the field on an 80-yard touchdown drive that featured a few clutch throws from the plucky passer. Although Minshew couldn't sustain the momentum, the young passer energized the offense with his sandlot playing style against a Titans defense that packed it up early with a big lead.
UNDER THE RADAR
Rookie running back James Robinson has quickly emerged as the Jaguars' No. 1 option on offense due to a multifaceted game that enables him to impact the game as a runner and receiver. The rookie tallied 83 scrimmage yards on 16 touches (12 rushes; four catches) Sunday while displaying power, stop-start quickness and burst with the rock in his hands. Robinson is a future star at the position and an essential part of the team's rebuilding plans.
It is hard to call plays when your offense is struggling with a scattershot quarterback who is unable to make the mark early in the game. Glennon got off to a slow start (13 of 23 passes for 85 pass yards and an interception). The turnover prompted the Jaguars to put MInshew into the game and sent offensive coordinator Jay Gruden back to the drawing board to craft a game plan that works for his personnel. With Minshew stepping back into the starter's role for the next week or so, Gruden will need to revamp his call sheet to help his unit get back on track down the stretch.
It is easy to pin the blame on defensive coordinator Todd Wash for the unit's woes, but it is hard to craft a winning game plan with few playmakers dotting the starting lineup. The Jaguars attempted to stuff the box with an assortment of "plus-one" (one additional defender in the box) fronts, but the removal of a safety from the deep half exposed the corners to more one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. With an ineffective pass rush failing to harass the quarterback in the pocket, the Titans were able to exploit the Jaguars' defense through the air or on the ground in a noncompetitive contest on Sunday.