JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars' youth is reality.
But when it comes to the offense, coordinator Jay Gruden said youth – particularly a young quarterback and young, talented receiving corps – can't be a reason for a lack of success.
Not anymore. Not six weeks into the season.
"It's a young football team – we get it," Gruden said Wednesday afternoon as the Jaguars (1-5) prepared to play the Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"But youth is no longer an excuse. Guys have been around for enough time now that we should be executing better. Hopefully, we will be moving forward."
The Jaguars, after averaging 28.5 points per game in the first two games of the season, have averaged 15 in the last four games – losses to the Miami Dolphins (31-13), Cincinnati Bengals (33-25), Houston Texans (30-14) and Detroit Lions (34-16).
A common thread in those games: slow starts both offensively and defensively, with the offense scoring just one first-quarter touchdown and 10 first-quarter points in that span. The Jaguars have not led in the fourth quarter since a Week 1 victory over Indianapolis.
"Obviously, you want to start fast," Gruden said. "We are trying things. We tried to get the run off the ground and running last week. It didn't work out. We got stuck in some third downs and obviously we didn't convert those. We fell down early again.
"We have to do a good job of trying to figure out ways to push the ball or get some plays that are positive, get the team going and get the juices flowing so we have some momentum early. We have not had that in a while. It's critical for a young football team to get out to a good start so they play faster and have some more fun instead of having to play from behind all the time."
Gruden, as he has said throughout the season, reiterated that a focus must be converting better on third downs. The Jaguars led the NFL in third-down efficiency after two games having converted 62.5 percent of third downs into first downs at the time. They have converted 20 of 49 since.
"We've struggled a little bit on third down as of late," he said. "It keeps you in rhythm as a play-caller. That's the big thing. If you don't convert those third downs, it's hard to get in rhythm – to mix in play action, the boots. You're trying to figure out a way to get 10 yards or a chunk play. You get a little bit behind the chains and it's tough.
"When you go 10 for 14 on third down, you're going to get more plays. When you're talking about having 50 or 60 plays as opposed to 75, things change a little bit. We have to do a better job of getting some chunk plays here and there and staying on track."
The Jaguars as expected had a slew of players practicing limited Wednesday – with defensive end Josh Allen, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and linebacker Myles Jack among the prominent players on the injury report. Allen (knee) and Chark (ankle) worked limited Wednesday, while Jack missed practice after reaggravating an ankle injury against Detroit Sunday. Other Jaguars players practicing limited Wednesday were linebacker Dakota Allen (foot), guard Ben Bartch (shoulder), guard A.J. Cann (foot/knee), tight end Tyler Eifert (neck), defensive tackle Abry Jones (ankle), kicker Josh Lambo (hip), guard Andrew Norwell (ankle) and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring). Other Jaguars players missing practice Wednesday were center Brandon Linder (scheduled day off) and safety Jarrod Wilson (hamstring).
The Jaguars on Wednesday announced that Lambo has been "designated for return" from injured reserved, meaning the team now has 21 days to activate him to the 53-man roster. He was originally placed on reserve/injured on September 23 with a left hip injury. He has missed the last four games, with the Jaguars using a different kicker – Brandon Wright, Aldrick Rosas, Stephen Hauschka and Jon Brown – during that span. Lambo was limited in practice Wednesday. "There will be a lot of communication in that to see where he is and make sure he's comfortable with it and then if he feels that he can do it, then yes, he'll be out there," Marrone said. "If he feels that, 'Well, I'm really not sure', [if] there's any type of doubt in it, then I wouldn't put him out there. That's what I've done with pretty much every player no matter who it is, when it comes down to coming back from injury."