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View from the O-Zone: Tough day, few answers


Answers came tough, when they came at all.

No, Sunday wasn't easy for the Jaguars. They lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 33-25, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was their third loss in as many games – and their second consecutive loss that felt one sided.

"I'm frustrated," Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones said after the Bengals rallied from a 13-10 halftime deficit with five consecutive second-half scoring drives.

"I mean, that's obvious. We all play this game to win."

As is typical in tough times, Jones – the team's most-tenured player – spoke to the media late Sunday. As is also typical, his words said a lot. 

The good feeling of a Week 1 victory over Indianapolis?

The hope of a close Week 2 loss at Tennessee?

Those feelings are gone now, replaced by frustration and concern. 

"Basically, we have to stick together and [ignore] the outside," said wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., whose return from a one-game injury absence provided the expected boost with two touchdown receptions. "I know we get home and we look on Instagram, we look at Twitter and a lot of times we are the laughingstock because people love making jokes when they're not in the fire with us.

"But at this point, it's 'Forget them.' When I go out there and play, I'm playing for those 53, 56 guys [on the roster]. I don't care, I'm going to put my body on the line and that's just what we have to do, and I feel like that's the feeling. … I don't care if we win every game moving on or don't win every game moving on, we're not going to quit, for sure, and that's the mindset we have to have.

"Somebody's going to have to feel us."

Most of the questions late Sunday came about defense, and with reason. 

The unit defense had struggled entering the game, allowing touchdowns on the game-opening drive of all three games to start the season and registering three sack in three games.

The early-game struggles stopped Sunday.

But the pass-rush concerns did not – and on Sunday, a run defense that had been strong through three games allowed 205 yards. Running back Joe Mixon rushed for 121 of his 151 yards in the second half, scoring on touchdown runs of 34 and 23 yards on back-to-back third-quarter drives.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 25 of 36 passes for 300 yards and was sacked just once. He was rarely pressured, and the season-long question of how to pressure the quarterback was again a post-game theme.

"We have guys that have the ability to do it," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "We've got to coach the heck out of them, we really do, and give them some opportunities. … I'll probably go back and look and I'm sure some of our guys will look at it and say, 'Gosh, we need to win more in that situation.' 

"And for us as coaches, we've just got to help them out. You know, put them in better situations, really get better plans on how we want to pass rush these guys, and go out there and execute it, because that's what we have to do a better job of for sure."

That will be the task moving forward, and the task could get more difficult. 

The Jaguars not only lost Sunday, they sustained a slew of significant injuries. Rookie cornerback CJ Henderson, the most talented player in a struggling young secondary, left early with a shoulder and did not return. Nickelback D.J. Hayden, the secondary's most veteran player, sustained a fourth-quarter hamstring injury and left on a cart.

Linebacker Myles Jack, whose second-quarter interception highlighted a spirited Jaguars effort both offensively and defensively, did not return after an ankle injury early in the third quarter.

Jack's injury and the game's subsequent turnaround likely wasn't a coincidence. Through four games, he has been the Jaguars' best defensive player. The unit hasn't been great this season with him playing, but his playmaking ability had helped keep the team in game – and helped minimize breakout plays.

Any extended absence by Jack is worrisome for an already struggling defense.

Equally worrisome: the question of where the Jaguars go next. They fought admirably early in the season and were competitive through two games. But quarterback Gardner Minshew II has struggled at times in the last two games, and a young offense with promising young players such as Chark, rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and running back James Robinson – all of whom had encouraging flashes Sunday – hasn't been able to score enough to counter an equally young defense that is struggling both to pressure up front and cover in the back end.

Yes, answers came tough Sunday. Really tough.

This young team will have to fight even harder to find them moving forward.

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