It has been a tough five weeks. We won't try to pretend otherwise.
Thinking back to the offseason, training camp and preseason, no one around the Jaguars thought 1-4 with three difficult home losses would be the September and early October story.
But, that's where we are.
And the reality is what Jaguars players and coaches have said all week – that despite public buzz to the contrary, the season is not over after a difficult start, and despite perception to the contrary, the Jaguars' hole is not so deep as to be impossible to escape.
It's going to be tough. The odds are long. Much has to improve quickly. Can it happen? We shall see, and that's what the final 11 weeks will be – letting those storylines play out. After we do, we'll have a much clearer vision about a lot of the future of the team.
So, while we wait for those 11 weeks to begin, here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to turn around the season.
1) Improve at quarterback.We'll lead with this because everyone's talking about it, anyway. Blaine Gabbert must improve. He has to be more patient and trust his line more. He has to be more accurate and make the throws that are there. He has to make a few throws that don't appear to be there. Can he do this? Yes. Is he improving? Yes, but that has to continue.
2) Get on the same page.There's not much continuity on offense. That's a big reason the team is struggling there after five games. At some point the offense needs to be able to put together productive quarters and halves and not just drives. Mike Mularkey has talked a lot about flashes. The time has come to talk about consistency.
3) Get better separation.It's not as if receivers are never open, and not as if there aren't throws Gabbert could make, but consistency here needs to improve.
4) Protect, protect, protect.This area was better against the Bears, and Gabbert had time to throw most of the first half. Still, overall the protection must improve after the bye week. It's time to give Gabbert a few games to see what he can do with time.
5) Stay calm.This could have been "overcome adversity," but that's such a cliché. Still, while we're on the subject, the Jaguars have had a chance in a few of the losses this season only to have a play go against them, followed by a landslide. It happened Sunday when Charles Tillman returned the touchdown in the third quarter. After that, the game got away from the Jaguars. One bad play doesn't have to mean a flurry.
6) Get Daryl Smith back.This should happen soon after the bye. Smith is one of the best players on the Jaguars' defense and while his return from a groin injury won't solve all of the defense's problems, it absolutely will help. He is the team's best player at making plays in the opponents' backfield. His return should put the defense in more advantageous down-and-distance situations.
7) Rush the passer. We've been over it and over it, but the team has three sacks in five games. If opposing quarterbacks have as much time as they have had, it doesn't matter how well or poorly the secondary plays.
8) Stop the run.The Jaguars have been inconsistent here. There have been times they limited opposing running backs, but against the Texans and the Bears, opponents ran too easily, particularly late in the game. The pass rush is key, but you have to stop the run first.
9) Make plays.It continues to be a theme. The Jaguars have been close. At times, they have needed a big play. Cecil Shorts has provided two. Other players have made a few. It hasn't been nearly enough. You're never too, too far from winning in the NFL, but players have to do things to win games. It's part of the job description.
10) Believe.The Jaguars must believe in themselves. When few believe in you, that's the only way.