JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts as the Jaguars prepare to play the Oakland Raiders at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, California, Sunday
1.The franchise quarterback may not be on the roster. This may be the most disappointing story for the Jaguars over the last month – more disappointing than the five consecutive double-digit losses, and more disappointing than collapse of the defense. Remember? Six weeks ago? The thought was the Jaguars had a good quarterback situation, with rookie Gardner Minshew II ascending and veteran Nick Foles believed to perhaps be the team's franchise quarterback. Minshew since that time has lost his last two starts, with the Jaguars' offense not scoring a meaningful touchdown in either game. Foles started the three games between Minshew's starts, faring no better and being replaced in the lineup by Minshew before this past Sunday's game. Neither Foles nor Minshew has gotten significant help, with both under pressure and both being hurt by the struggling defense. Either way, it appears more likely one of the Jaguars' two first-round selections in the 2020 NFL Draft could be used on a quarterback. That didn't appear probable two months ago.
2.The pressure will be on this wide-receiver corps – and the tight ends. Here's troubling news for Minshew as he prepares for a second consecutive start Sunday: the wide receiver corps could be down their best player this week. That's second-year wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., easily the best receiver on the roster. If Chark doesn't play Sunday because of an ankle injury, it's difficult to find a legitimate go-to receiving option. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook remains a productive option on short and intermediate routes, but veteran Chris Conley had just one reception for seven yards last Sunday – and third-year veteran Keelan Cole has just two games with more than 20 yards receiving this season. The tight ends have remained unproductive since James O'Shaughnessy's season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 5. Both positions need serious attention in the offseason. Until then, someone in the group must play better for the passing offense to be effective in Chark's absence.
3.The big story remains off the field. Such is the current state of the Jaguars – that with three games remaining, the only story concerning many fans is the future of the team's decision-making. With five consecutive one-sided losses, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan must decide the direction of the franchise moving forward. Will he retain all or part of current leadership? Will he opt for an entirely new direction? NFL reality is these questions will be the primary topics until Khan makes an announcement. Khan's history following difficult seasons is such that it's difficult to predict his actions. He dismissed Head Coach Mike Mularkey and General Manager Gene Smith following a 2-14 season in his first season as owner (2012) but opted to retain Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell through multiple double-digit loss seasons from 2013-2016. He also retained Caldwell, Head Coach Doug Marrone and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin after a 5-11 season last season. Khan's only midseason leadership change came when he dismissed Bradley with two games remaining in the 2016 season. What will Khan do next? That remains to be seen. All we know for sure is we won't know anything until Khan decides the franchise's direction.
1.They better find some energy. The second half last Sunday against Los Angeles was as listless a performance as I've seen in this stadium since the 1998 Cincinnati Bengals came to Jacksonville and essentially watched the Jaguars roll them. That was bad. The Chargers game might have been worse, and help isn't on the way. I don't know if you've ever been in a situation where there appears to be no hope so let me tell you: the only way things ever turn around is action. Marrone can't say anything during the team meeting Saturday night and there's nothing Minshew or defensive end Calais Campbell or defensive tackle Abry Jones can say in the team huddle on Sunday in Oakland. The time for words has passed. It's time for action in the form of better blocking, more consistent tackling, balls caught, passes intercepted and penalties avoided. Action, not words.
2.Oakland may be the antidote. The Jaguars haven't won since October and they haven't won on the West Coast since January of 2005. No one is picking them to beat the Raiders. However, Oakland has dropped three consecutive games after winning six of their first ten and the Raiders are pretty beat up. Mix in a sold-out crowd to witness the final Raiders game in Oakland before they move to Las Vegas and the energy in that building might be something on which the Jaguars can feed. They'll be a long way from home with few expectations and even fewer people paying attention. Maybe, just maybe, this team can use their circumstances and surroundings to find a little momentum.
3.Talent is far more important than pride. While the Jaguars have some talent, they clearly lack an abundance of it. Jones angrily responded this week to questions about playing hard and I even heard an edge in Campbell's voice when he was asked about effort. Let's see it this week. I'd like to see a close game in the fourth quarter where they have a chance to win. Notice, I'm not even challenging this team to find a way to win, simply find a way to keep the game close and let the rookie quarterback try and make a play. Pride isn't the first concern for a winning team – talent is – but pride is a critical part of a winning franchise and this franchise hasn't had much pride lately. It's time to start reestablishing that even if it's just playing well. You have to start somewhere.