JACKSONVILLE – The record is the same, but the feeling is different.
That change came Thursday, with former Head Coach Urban Meyer dismissed and Darrell Bevell installed as interim head coach. And if the four games remaining aren't enough to make the 2021 season magically terrific, the Jaguars can change at least part of that season's feeling.
And that can start Sunday.
The Jaguars on Sunday will play host to the Houston Texans – and if there's a team in the NFL that has had a comparable season to the Jaguars, this is it.
The similarities beyond their 2-11 records and last-place status in the AFC South. The teams are struggling offensively – and overall. They enter Sunday very much needing a victory to feel better about themselves and haven't been competitive in recent weeks.
The Jaguars have lost their last two games by a combined 50 points; the Texans have lost their last two games by 51. There are more similarities, but that's the gist.
This game for the Jaguars represents a couple of things. One is a chance to perform better against a division rival than they did in Week 1. That was when the Jaguars lost to the Texans, 37-21, a game they never led and the first of 11 games this season in which they have trailed by double digits.
It also represents a chance to continue the reset that began Thursday.
So, yes, this is a chance for the Jaguars. What must they do to take advantage?
Here are 10 things:
- Win takeaway-giveaway. Many of these 10 things are repetitive. This is among them. That's what happens when a team struggles in the same way each week. The Jaguars are 32nd in the NFL at minus-19 takeaway giveaway. That's a huge reason for the record and something that must change if they are to win.
- Force turnovers. Yes, this is sort of the same as No. 1. But the Jaguars have forced just six turnovers all season and have forced just one in the last five games. That's a major reason they have lost all five of those games.
- Get an early lead. The Jaguars haven't led since a 9-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills on November 7. That's more than a month. That's a long time to go without leading in the NFL.
- Catch the ball. Drops continue to be an issue. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. had a pass go through his hands for an interception in a loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence isn't playing well enough to overcome those sorts of mistakes.
- Get better quarterback play. Speaking of Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft is struggling. He appears to lack confidence and his accuracy continues to be an issue. Quarterback play is intertwined with pretty much everything offensively, but the Jaguars need more consistency, accuracy and big plays from the position.
- Run. The. Ball. The Jaguars ran just eight times for eight yards against Tennessee, with running back James Robinson rushing six times for four yards. A big reason for that was down-and-distance situations caused by penalties. Another reason was the line wasn't run-blocking well. Another reason was the early double-digit deficit. Still …
- Stop the run. The Jaguars' defense improved here last week. The Texans have struggled mightily in this area. That should be an area where the Jaguars have a chance to thrive.
- Pressure the passer. The Jaguars' defense played well for the most part against Tennessee last Sunday, and the pass rush was remarkable considering the early deficit. The Jaguars registered four sacks and produced 10 hits on the quarterback. A similar day against rookie quarterback Davis Mills could solve the Jaguars' turnover issues.
- Score in the twenties. The Jaguars have done this just three times this season and haven't scored more than 17 points since a 23-20 Week 6 victory over Miami. The Texans have been held in the single digits five times this season and haven't scored in the second half in any of their last three games. Scoring in the twenties should be enough Sunday. Should.
- Just win. The Jaguars have lost their last five games, their second five-game losing streak of the season. They have scored just 9.1 points a game since a Week 7 bye. At some point, statistics and the last five week and all of the off-field stuff have to be become a thing of the past. This team hasn't quit. It doesn't seem to have turned on each other. And a coaching change often galvanizes a team and provides energy. Those are the elements that give a struggling team an opportunity to win late in the season. The Jaguars must figure out a way to do it. Somehow. Some way.
Purchase tickets to the Houston vs. Jacksonville matchup here.