JACKSONVILLE – They must play better. Much better.
The Jaguars are struggling as October approaches November, and goodness knows there are plenty of concerning areas as they prepare for their lone trip this season to the West Coast.
The Jaguars (1-5) enter Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., having lost five consecutive games. They have allowed 30 points or more in all five of those games, the longest single-season streak allowing 30 or more points in franchise history.
They have struggled on offense in recent weeks, too, averaging 17 points in the last four games after scoring 28.5 in their first two.
A positive for the Jaguars this week: They beat the then-Oakland Raiders 20-16 in Oakland in Week 15 last season, so they won't have to listen to the longstanding storyline of why the Jaguars can't win on the West Coast.
That victory last December was the Jaguars' first on the West Coast since 2005. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Chris Conley in the game's final 5:15, a game and comeback that marked one of Minshew's high points as a rookie.
The game helped earn Minshew the starting job entering this season. Through three games, it looked as if he might be earning it long-term. His struggles since have contributed to the team's losing streak. He must play better to move back toward being the long-term answer.
But there hasn't been just one issue in recent weeks. As Head Coach Doug Marrone said early this week, "This is all of us." He's right. The Jaguars as a whole must play better. Much better.
If they do, they can beat the Chargers. Here are 10 things they must do to make that happen:
Here are 10 others:
1.Better quarterback play, Part 1. What ails the Jaguars is not all Minshew, but he has struggled in recent weeks with defenses playing soft zone and forcing him to make high velocity throws to beat that coverage. He hasn't done this. Until he does, defensive coordinators will take much the same approach.
2.Better quarterback play. Part 2. Minshew also has struggled in the pocket in recent weeks, looking less comfortable as the season has gone. That's tied to defenses taking away the throws he makes comfortably and forcing him into uncomfortable situations. That's the nature of quarterbacking. It's rarely one thing. But Minshew must improve at multiple things this week.
3.Run. We include this here at No. 3, because it's tied into Nos. 1 and 2. Defenses in recent weeks have stacked the line to take away the run with the idea that the passing game won't hurt them. That has limited the running game and rookie James Robinson. The Jaguars must be more successful passing to get defenders out of the box. It's all interconnected.
4.Protect Minshew. The Jaguars have allowed 18 sacks this season, including four in a loss to Detroit last Sunday. That number is unfair to the offensive line. Minshew has held the ball too long too often, which has led to a lot of the sacks. Still, for the Jaguars to win, Minshew needs more time. Fair or unfair, the protection must be a bit better.
5.Pressure Herbert. Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is going to be really good. He already is really good. But he's a rookie. As such, he has made mistakes. He will make more. The Jaguars have just five sacks in five games. Improving that number and forcing Herbert into a mistake or two Sunday is critical.
6.Take advantage of opportunities. The drumbeat continues here. The offense squandered too many opportunities in Cincinnati in Week 4. And in Houston in Week 5. And against Detroit. This team has failed to score on four red-zone trips in the last two games. It won't win doing that.
7.Stop the run. This was a weekly key a year ago. The Jaguars improved in the area early in the season. It has creeped up again in two of the last three games. The Jaguars must stop that creeping to have a chance Sunday.
8.Get the ball to DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. They're the Jaguars' best playmakers. Even if it means throwing it to them when they seem covered, Minshew must get them involved. He must let them make plays.
9.Convert third downs. This is another weekly drumbeat. The Jaguars' offense was efficient in Weeks 1 and 2 when they led the NFL in third-down conversions. They have fallen off a bit since, and the offense has fallen off accordingly.
10.Make field goals – at least all the ones from 45 or so yards in. That has been an issue in recent weeks, and it's another area that has hurt. Kicker Josh Lambo will return Sunday. That's the best news the Jaguars have had in a while. A long while.