Sexton-Oehser: Back and forth

Backandforth-1023

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 7 and forward to Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley Stadium in London …

Oehser …

1.Reviewing the preview: When previewing Texans-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to disrupt Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, score early and block the Texans' front. The Jaguars adequately disrupted Watson, failed to score in the first half for a third consecutive game and got the Texans' defensive front blocked comparatively well considering the talent level of Texans pass rushers J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. The Jaguars pressured Watson early, but didn't have extensive pass-rushing opportunities once the Texans took an early lead – and as has been the case too often recently, it was the early deficit that helped define Sunday's loss. The Jaguars have been outscored 57-0 in the first half of the last three games, and have trailed 20-0, 24-0 and 13-0 at halftime in their three-game losing streak. That's an alarming trend, particularly for a Jaguars team that has yet to lead a game in which it has trailed this season.

2.As I saw it: Sunday didn't mean the end of the Blake Bortles era in Jacksonville, but it certainly accelerates the conversation about the team's future at the quarterback position. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone replaced Bortles with Cody Kessler following Bortles' second lost fumble of the game, this one coming on the team's first possession of the second half. Marrone on Monday named Bortles the starter for Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles in London – and if Bortles can solidify himself as the team's quarterback of the future, it will take a comeback more remarkable than the one he made last season after briefly losing his starting role in the preseason. Still, while quarterback is an issue it's only one issue facing the offense. The Jaguars are struggling to run – and dropped passes and timely mistakes remain a problem. The thought here is that the defense's ability to create turnovers and sacks will increase if the Jaguars can start more quickly offensively. Whether the offense can generate such a quick start remains a question.

3.Looking ahead, briefly: Up next for the Jaguars: the Philadelphia Eagles. The positive for the Jaguars is they won enough in September that their season can still be saved; a 3-4 start can be overcome when the leaders of your division (the Texans) are 4-3. The Jaguars' problem: in the last three games they have looked nothing like a team capable of scoring a significant touchdown, much less snapping a losing streak. One hope for the Jaguars is that the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles are struggling and have the same 3-4 record as the Jaguars – and the Eagles sustained a potentially crushing loss Sunday when Carolina rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 21-17 victory. That's hope for the Jaguars, but Marrone this week likely will say the Jaguars need to play better themselves before they worry about their opponent. And he will be right.

Sexton …

1.Reviewing the preview: I thought the Jaguars' game plan for Houston had to be simple: The defense needed to create opportunities for an offense that didn't have enough options. The defense didn't do that, which raises the question: Can it? The Jaguars on Sunday played an offensive line that had surrendered more sacks and more hits in its quarterback than any other team in the NFL – and they couldn't make a dent. If they couldn't do it against those guys, how can they expect to get the job done this week in London? The offense needed to find a way to get some points; for a third consecutive week they were unable to do it with the game in doubt. What we thought this team could depend on is no longer dependable – either because of injuries, or poor performances. The Jaguars' path to a victory over the Texans seemed to fit what they were capable of doing – playing great defense, pressuring Watson and shortening the field for the offense. Reality played out otherwise, and the Jaguars are in third place in the AFC South as a result.

2.As I saw it: I've waited for a chink in the armor this season as a proud defense grew more and more frustrated by an offense that couldn't give it any help. The offense now has failed to score in the first half of three consecutive losses; it looked against Dallas and Houston the last two weeks as if the defense was starting to freelance and trying to make a play, which almost never works. The angst in the Jaguars' postgame locker room Sunday was the result of the desperation they felt while helpless to change the outcome.

3.Looking ahead, briefly. Sunday's game against the Eagles in London was supposed to be a showdown between two of the NFL's best teams and maybe even a Super Bowl preview. Instead it's two teams desperately trying to save their seasons. The Jaguars have lost three consecutive games – and four of five – while the Eagles have lost three of their last four and sport an identical 3-4 record. The Eagles hope that week by week quarterback Carson Wentz will get stronger and stronger after a December knee injury sidelined him through the playoffs and into the 2018 season. The Jaguars wonder who their quarterback is. That should tell you all you need to know about who the more desperate team is this week.

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