The Jacksonville Jaguars encountered a painful ending, losing 27-24 against the lowly Arizona Cardinals on a game-ending 57-yard field goal by Phil Dawson and losing to their former quarterback, Blaine Gabbert. If the Jaguars are aiming for a deep playoff push, it starts with next week’s match-up against the Indianapolis Colts to get back on track.
Here are 5 Jaguars players who need to bounce back in this week’s matchup:
1. Blake Bortles
Don’t let the rushing yards distract you from the fact that Bortles went 4-13 for just 26 yards and an interception against the Cardinals blitz. The fourth-year quarterback regularly looked uncomfortable sitting in the pocket, stared down his receivers, and about a quarter of his passes were considered “uncatchable”. No one in the organization expects Blake Bortles to win this team games, but he can’t be the reason they lose. Bortles had what could be considered the game-losing interception, in which he stared down his receiver. It was easily picked off by Tyrann Mathieu in the final 3:38 of the game, at which point the Jaguars were within field-goal range. This is one of the most significant reasons for the Jaguars losing.
Bortles is regularly considered this team’s Achilles heel and if the Jaguars want to make go deep in the playoffs, it will require Bortles to play much better and reduce extremely costly mistakes such as the one shown in Week 12.
2. Leonard Fournette
Usually one of the surest things on offense, Fournette couldn’t get anything going. Gaining just 25 yards on 12 carries, the rookie running back didn’t force a single missed tackle against a tough Cardinals’ run defense.
According to Pro Football Focus, Fournette had an Elusive Rating of 0.0. This is the rating in which a runner’s success is beyond the point of being helped by his blockers. In weeks 1-6, the Jaguars had the fourth-best rushing attack according to Football Outsiders.
Since then, Weeks 7-12, the Jaguars have fallen to 27th in the same ranking. People can point to the ankle injury Fournette has picked up, but there is a negative trend of power running games that is difficult to sustain. The Chiefs and Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley in his first year in the league, even the Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliot look like a different team than they were last year. The rookie running-back out of LSU cannot get complacent and needs to find his power running style he displayed early in the season. If the Jags want to bounce back, they will need Fournette to get going next week.
3. Dede Westbrook
The rookie wide receiver caught six of his 10 targets for just 41 yards. With Patrick Peterson shadowing Marqise Lee (one reception for 13 yards) Westbrook should have had a breakout game. The rookie wideout didn’t even have a gain longer than 10 yards.
In the first 12 weeks against the Cardinals, opposing No. 2 receivers not being shadowed by Patrick Peterson have the second-most yards in the NFL. In Westbrook’s two games back from injury, he has received a healthy 16 targets, which are averaging a measly 4.8 yards per target.
You can say that a majority of this is not Westbrook’s fault, but this player is regarded as a potential No. 1 receiver. If his production will continually be short yardage play, how can this player be a game changer in this offense, especially if a big play is needed? Westbrook will need to find his groove against an Indianapolis defense that is close to the bottom in pass defense.
4. Offensive line
The entire offense was dysfunctional, and it didn’t help that the offensive line both in pass protection and run-blocking looked overmatched. They allowed the Cardinals pass-rush to easily get to Blake Bortles, and Fournette was regularly met at the line of scrimmage by a defender. Giving up three sacks is unprecedented for this unit, who before this matchup was averaging a little over one sack a game. Along with the questionable pass protection, the entire rushing unit was unable to eclipse 100 yards rushing. This is coming from a team that is averaging 154.3 yards rushing per game. The unit, as a whole, needs to be better if the Jaguars want to have any chance of offensive production next week.
5. Doug Marrone
Although not technically a player, the Jaguars coach is as much to blame for the outcome of the final score. This game was won on small margins, and if Marrone had put the ball in his star running-back’s hands and ran out the clock, rather than throwing with Bortles, the Jaguars may have taken the game to overtime and the better team would have won. It was obvious the Jaguars were out-coached and Bruce Arians and the Cardinals had a game plan to beat this stout defensive unit and make Bortles throw the ball.
If Jacksonville would have won the game, it would have been in spite of Doug Marrone, rather than because of him. Marrone will need to be better with clock management and have a better game plan if the Jaguars want to win these close games.