The Jacksonville Jaguars are the worst teams in the NFL running the ball, averaging just 69.5 yards per game on the ground. There isn't really just one issue you can pinpoint to specifically for the struggles, but it's more just a combination of problems that the team is dealing with right now.
Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch touched on some of the struggles on Wednesday when he met the media, including defending oft criticized free agent pickup Toby Gerhart.
"He missed a game and he’s kind of been beat up. The foot really hasn’t allowed him to play at the level of play that he would like to play at," Fisch said.
"The running game, and I’ve said this now for the two years that we’ve all been together, it’s on all 11. We’ve got to find a way whether it be the right check, whether it be the right identification by the quarterback, whether it be the receiver finishing a block, whether it be the tight end and having Marcedes Lewis play helped the running game those few weeks and a year ago," Fisch continued. "Our tight ends have to continue to step up in the running game and our offensive line has to step up. So I don’t want to ever put it on a player; I think it’s on all 11 and it’s on us coaches to continue to find a way to run the football."
Not only have the Jaguars struggled run blocking on the offensive line, with all the young players, they've also been playing from behind in most of their games this season, so they're often playing catchup and that's not conducive to establishing a running game and keeping the Jaguars offense "off-balance".
"I saw we’re at 65% pass, 35% run right now," Fisch said, about the team's balance. "Obviously I’d love to have had the situation that Kyle had last week where Kyle got to run it 15 straight times in the fourth quarter. He had called one pass and 15 runs so when you’re up 31 to 3 you can do that."
"In the 22 games I think we’ve had one lead in the fourth quarter," Fisch added.
There are ways you can "manufacture" a rushing attack however with the passing game, which is something the Jaguars have been doing even while behind. Many of the plays that do this, dump passes and bubble screens, are the plays fans use to label Fisch as being "conservative", but it's more about trying to spread out the opposing team's defense and open things up on the field.
"You do that and you get completions and you keep the quarterback’s completion percentage high. It looks good there but we also need to be able to find a way to run the ball against some of those looks and we don’t want to give up on the run," Fisch said about the shorter, quick passes. "I just don’t want to do that. We’re not in a place to do that. We don’t have a veteran group, I don’t want Blake to drop back 40 times a game ideally."
Currently Bortles is averaging 35.8 attempts per game, and even though he's been good for the most part passing the ball, that's asking a lot of a rookie quarterback surrounded by a lot of other rookies.
The Jaguars face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, who rank 30th in the NFL in run defense, giving up 149.6 yards per game on the ground. So, and I feel like I've said this a few times in a row this season, if the Jaguars want to try to establish the run this would be the week to get it done. The Browns have started slow in almost all their games so far this season, often coming from behind. If the Jaguars can get off to a quick start, they can try to get the running game going.