HOUSTON, Texas -- Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 20-3 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday
1.The leadership will remain stable. The Jaguars lost to the Houston Texans by a score of 20-3 Sunday in the 2018 regular-season finale, but Owner Shad Khan’s announcement at game’s end that the team’s decision-makers will remain intact was the day’s major Jaguars news. Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone will remain in their positions moving forward with Khan emphasizing stability in a statement announcing the news: “I have the same trust in Tom, Dave and Doug as I did upon their introduction two years ago, and I do believe our best path forward for the moment is the one less disruptive and dramatic.” Considering the Jaguars’ expectations to start the season, and considering the team’s 5-11 finish, many observers speculated there could be change. Khan throughout his tenure as Jaguars owner has exhibited patience with football leadership and this season proved no exception. The question now: “What’s next?” The Jaguars face major personnel decisions bases on salary cap and performance, with quarterback Blake Bortles and multiple defensive players with high salary-cap figures among the high-profile decisions facing the team. Khan’s announcement regarding the team’s decision-makers removes one major unknown. Many others remain.
2.Sunday’s loss was about available talent – not fight. Anyone watching Jaguars-Texans on Sunday could see the Jaguars had every desire to win, and they played that way – particularly defensively. The defense held the Texans to a field goal with an impressive first-quarter goal-line stand, and held the Texans to a field goal in the second half. The issue for the Jaguars was their offense was overmatched – as expected – by the Texans defensive front. The Jaguars played without starting running back Leonard Fournette, and the line played with its third starting right tackle of the season (Corey Robinson) and its fourth starting left tackle of the season (Ereck Flowers). The mismatch quickly was evident. The Jaguars managed three first downs and 76 yards through the first three quarters, with only the defense’s effort keeping this game close.
3.Give Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue credit – and give cornerback Jalen Ramsey some, too. The Jaguars’ one chance entering Sunday’s appeared to be disrupt the Texans’ offense with pressure on quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars did get plenty of pressure on the second-year veteran with Campbell, Ngakoue and Jackson all registering a sack and a half. That gave Campbell 10.5 sacks for the season, making him the first player in franchise history with back-to-back double-digit sack seasons. Ngakoue came a half-sack shy of joining him that category, finishing with 9.5 sacks. As far as Ramsey, he played the final month of the season on a sore knee; on Sunday, he narrowly missed his fourth interception of the season – a spectacular, diving play in the fourth quarter on which he initially appeared to make the interception before it became clear the ball had hit the ground. “I’m definitely proud of the effort,” Ngakoue said. Pointing toward Campbell and Jackson he added “Guys like that … Calais, Malik, our D-Line – we play hard. The whole defense played hard. I can’t be mad at them for nothing. I’m so proud of those guys that no matter what situation we were in this year they still fought their butts off. That’s all that matters to me. I can play with a guy who’s going to fight.
1.Khan’s announcement that Coughlin, Caldwell and Marrone will return couldn’t have caught anyone off guard … could it? A year after they took the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game, and in a year littered with injuries – key injuries – I never saw how Khan could lose faith in the men he felt so strongly about in February that he awarded each a contract extension. The trio must attack this offseason as they did 2017 to keep Khan’s belief because there is plenty to dislike about 2018: The quarterback situation, the running-back situation, the issues in London and Buffalo and Houston. It was good to see Coughlin so riled up in Texas that he released a statement about the antics of a few players on the bench: “I am disappointed in the behavior today from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette. They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player.” The Jaguars need to become a better team on the field and a more professional team off it.
2.I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but the Jaguars must completely overhaul the offense in a matter of months – and do it with some clever cap maneuvers. Quarterback Blake Bortles isn’t likely to return, which means $16.5 million must be accounted for; that kind of dead money can kill whatever plans they devise. They must get better at receiver, tight end and running back in addition to quarterback. If they release players to get to a position to go find a veteran free-agent quarterback, they’re likely to need to release a few guys on the defensive side of the ball as well. It’s going to be an interesting process to follow as Coughlin and Caldwell rework the roster with an eye on both the present and the future – and as Marrone figures out how 2019 Jaguars offense will look.
3.On a personal note, I will miss the presence of Bortles and defensive tackle Malik Jackson in the locker room. They were both professionals from the first moment they arrived – and though each struggled on the field in 2018, neither shied from the media and being accountable. More importantly, both were in the community week in and week out, representing the best of what professional football can do to help their neighbors and create positive outcomes for folks that might otherwise be left behind. Good luck to both men on the field and in life. They’re worthy of respect.