JACKSONVILLE – It’s pretty much all pride now.
A one-sided, nationally-televised loss to the Tennessee Titans last week ensured the Jaguars a sub-.500 record and ensured their status as a non-playoff team in 2018. With that status, pride moved from “a storyline” to “the storyline.”
And while Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Redskins at TIAA Bank Field is meaningless in many official ways, it’s not meaningless for players and coaches.
That’s where pride and professionalism come in. Considering the nature of the 30-9 loss to the Titans in Nashville, the Jaguars have reason to show plenty of both Sunday.
They also have a chance to be a serious spoiler for the Redskins, whose current four-game losing streak hasn’t officially ended their playoff chances. With the teams competing for the final NFC Wild-Card position hovering around .500, the Redskins would be very much alive with a victory Sunday.
A victory for the Jaguars? Well, that would be about pride. And professionalism. That’s the storyline.
Here are 10 things they must do to make that happen:
1.Stop Adrian Peterson. He’s 33 and he’s in his 12th NFL season. But the future Hall of Fame running back remains capable of big days, and the Redskins’ season-long rash of injuries mean he’s their best offensive option. The Jaguars couldn’t stop Titans running back Derrick Henry last week. If they struggle similarly against Peterson, they’ll be in trouble Sunday.
2.Run. If Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette plays as well Sunday as he did last month in losses to Pittsburgh and Buffalo, the Jaguars’ offense has a chance to reach 20 points. If that happens, the Jaguars can win. If he plays as he did against Tennessee, it’s hard to see the Jaguars scoring enough to win.
3.Pressure/contain Josh Johnson … The Redskins’ quarterback hasn’t started a game since 2011. He wasn’t in the NFL until signing with the Redskins December 5. He’s mobile and played well in the second half of a 40-16 loss to the New York Giants last Sunday. Still, the Redskins’ offensive line is beat up and the Jaguars’ defense should be able to pressure him.
4. … force mistakes … The Jaguars have trailed far too often this season. That’s a big reason their takeaways are down from a second-best-in-the-NFL-total of 33 last season to 14 through 13 games this season. The Redskins are down to their fourth starting quarterback in a month. The interior of their offensive line is equally beat up. Takeaway opportunities should be there for the Jaguars.
5. … and turn those mistakes into points. The Jaguars haven’t scored a defensive touchdown since a Week 1 victory over the Giants. Considering the offense’s struggles recently, that realistically may be the best chance for the Jaguars to push their points total into the high teens Sunday.
6.Get Keelan Cole involved. The Jaguars’ second-year wide receiver has been quiet much of this season. Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler seemed to be comfortable throwing to him against Tennessee. Perhaps that duo can revive a dormant passing game.
7.Minimize penalties. It has been a problem all season for the Jaguars. It wasn’t THE problem against Tennessee, but it didn’t help. The Jaguars too often this season have taken themselves out of games with their own mistakes. Washington shouldn’t have the firepower to win Sunday without the Jaguars’ help.
8.Protect and get the ball out. The Jaguars have scored just 15 offensive points since Kessler replaced Blake Bortles and quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich took over play-calling duties two games ago. Kessler has been sacked seven times in that span. The Jaguars’ beat-up offensive line must find a way to protect Kessler better, but the third-year quarterback must help, too. Too often the ball stays in his hand too long, which leads to sacks that could be avoided and kills offensive momentum.
9.Convert opportunities. The Jaguars won’t likely have many opportunities in the red zone Sunday, but they must convert when they’re there. Getting stopped on seven consecutive plays in the second quarter inside the Titans 10 crushed the Jaguars’ spirit in Nashville. And understandably so.
10.Play with pride. It remains all that’s left.