JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' 16-13 loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 15 and forward to Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
1.Reviewing the preview. When previewing Redskins-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to stop Redskins running back Adrian Peterson, pressure Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson and run effectively. That the Jaguars were adequate in all areas points to the frustrating nature of Sunday's loss – and the frustrating nature of the Jaguars' season. The defense limited Peterson to 51 yards on 19 carries – and although he had carries of seven and 15 yards on the Redskins' game-winning drive, the future Hall-of-Fame running back hardly controlled the game. And while the Jaguars didn't pressure Johnson into game-turning mistakes in his first NFL start in seven seasons, the 32-year-old Johnson managed just 151 yards passing. The Jaguars' rushing statistics felt deceiving; while they rushed for 172 yards on 26 carries, 68 yards came on six scrambles by Kessler – and the running offense wasn't enough to overcome perhaps the worst passing performance in franchise history.
2.As I saw it. The Jaguars' offensive struggles have defined the last two and a half months of this season, and the passing offense's worst game of the season cost the Jaguars Sunday. Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler, making his third consecutive start after taking over for longtime starter Blake Bortles, completed just nine of 17 passes for 57 yards – and six Redskins six sacks for minus-37 yards meant the Jaguars finished with a franchise-low 20 yards net passing. Kessler helped the Jaguars scratch out a first-half field goal by scrambling for 32 yards on a short drive, and Dede Westbrook's 74-yard punt return late in the first half was the above-the-Xs-and-Os touchdown the Jaguars desperately needed. But given the opportunity to lead the Jaguars to a game-winning field goal, Kessler instead threw high to Westbrook with 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Fabian Moreau returned the ensuing interception to the Redskins 45 to set up the game-winning drive.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. Up next for the Jaguars: the Miami Dolphins. The Jaguars will visit the Dolphins Sunday – and while Miami at 7-7 is significantly better than the Jaguars, the Dolphins don't feel all that much better about their situation. A week after a dramatic, last-play touchdown gave them a 34-33 victory over the New England Patriots, the Dolphins fell behind 21-0 in a 41-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday – a loss that all-but eliminated Miami from the postseason. The talk among Dolphins observers now is of offseason change, meaning the teams will enter Sunday's game with similar storylines. Another storyline: The Dolphins managed just 37 net yards passing against Minnesota, meaning the two teams combined for just 57 passing yards in Week 15. The Jaguars entering the final two weeks don't look like a team that will threaten contending teams. Can they find a way to win for a second time in four games against a team that no longer appears in contention? Stay tuned.
1.Reviewing the preview: I thought the only way the Jaguars could beat the Redskins was to play sound, fundamental football; that sounds easy, but in reality it's hard for a team that's as beat up as this one. Defensively, they didn't let Peterson get started; he was a non-factor most of the day before killing the clock with a couple of strong runs on the game-winning drive. Johnson was pressured all day long and didn't have time to find receivers down the field, but he extended drives with his legs and averaged over five yards per carry. The Jaguars didn't let the Redskins score often – just enough to win. The Jaguars' offense is so unrecognizable from the start of the season – and truthfully, from the rest of the NFL – that I wasn't sure how they would score Sunday; if it wasn't for special teams, they wouldn't have. Everything had to go just right AND they had to get a bounce go their way – but safety Tashaun Gipson's deflected pass was caught on the rebound by wide receiver Jamison Crowder to extend the Redskins' lone touchdown drive of the game. That's how 2018 has unfolded for the Jaguars.
2.As I saw it. The Jaguars' offensive line has been a patchwork group since center Brandon Linder went down with a knee injury in Indianapolis. Headed to Miami, they have only one starter left to deploy – and right guard A.J. Cann has been hobbling with a sore hamstring for months. The line couldn't move a talented Washington front in the run game, and it allowed six sacks and countless more pressures in the pass game. I get that the quarterback issue is center stage, but let's be clear: no quarterback on this roster was going to – or is going to – succeed behind that backup bunch. The head coach can say "no excuses" all he has to, but there is no denying this: In a game that's won up front, the Jaguars are lost. I may be the only one who thinks Blake Bortles should still be starting, and that includes him. I doubt he's in any rush to get back on the field this season watching the offensive line struggle to the finish line.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. The Dolphins are on the outside of the playoffs, but at 7-7 they can still connect some dots and see themselves sliding in. The axiom that teams that need to win in December usually beat teams that don't could come into play this week and next. I don't know how you look forward and project a more productive and efficient offense; unless the defense and special teams both score, the outlook is bleak. The reality: The end of the season can't come soon enough so we can look forward to the future that matters, and that is reworking the roster so that the 2019 season is much brighter.