There’s no other word for my reaction to yesterday’s game than baffled.
The Jacksonville Jaguars running backs ran 8 times yesterday — including an end-around to Dede Westbrook for 18 yards. That’s 2.25 yards per carry. Blake Bortles was our leading rusher and he only gained 43 yards. T.J. Yeldon, who I’d argue was the best back in the game, only got two carries.
Let me make it clear just how bizarre yesterday’s game was.
The game was within a single possession for nearly 53 minutes and running backs carried a grand total of nine times.
I say all that to raise this question: What was Doug Marrone thinking when he watched Blake attempt pass after pass after pass?
“Again, a lot of it’s the confidence,” Marrone said. “You have to have the confidence with the guys up front being able to do it. We just felt at times that we thought it [throwing] was our best chance to make a play, and we thought we had single coverage on the outside — a lot of man coverage, not as much zone. We just made a decision to try to make those plays.”
As much as I understand his logic, I’m not buying that Marrone —who once went on record saying he’d prefer if Blake Bortles threw zero (0) passes in a game — suddenly threw his core beliefs and tendencies out the window for one game.
His indictment of the offensive line was a little odd to me at first glance. The Jaguars have the highest paid left guard in the league and (at one point) highest paid center in the league; they’re only without Cam Robinson. Marrone essentially hinted that he didn’t have faith in his offensive line to generate push to create holes for the running backs. Now this problem is threefold.
The starting quarterback is... not good
Firstly, your quarterback isn’t good enough to warrant a game plan against him. Teams know if they shut down the run game, Blake will hand them the game provided they make him sit back and think. Numerous opponents have attested to using this strategy, so this is nothing new.
And wide receivers aren’t either
Secondly, your wide receivers aren’t good enough to win their one-on-one matchups consistently. And if they are, it’s usually for naught. The quarterback predetermines his reads, he runs into pressure, or — as we’ve seen recently — the receiver drops the ball.
Finally, the play calling
Thirdly, and perhaps most damning, is that the play calling reflects what the coaching staff thinks of the supposed talent distribution on this team. It’s a damning indictment on the supposed identity of the team that Marrone chose to go the air route against the Eagles, a team who allows 4.5 yards per carry. And I actually don’t mind our offensive coaching staff. I think Hackett’s had his moments, just like any other coach, but it’s extremely hard to create a game plan with a total unknown at quarterback. You just can’t script anything with full confidence and I’m incredibly aware of the weekly bind he’s in.
However, the play calling yesterday indicates a gap between the desired offensive identity of this team and where the actual talent lies. And that falls on the front office.
Play along with my logic for a minute. Who are our most valuable players? Typically the front office indicates that by how much they pay them. The highest cap hits on the offense, in order, are: Blake Bortles, Donte Moncrief, Brandon Linder, and Leonard Fournette. We’ll include Andrew Norwell because most of his cap hit comes from his signing bonus.
Blake Bortles is struggling, Donte Moncrief should lose all of his snaps to DJ Chark, Leonard Fournette has been injured all year, Andrew Norwell has been okay but certainly not at the level you’d expect the highest paid guard in the league to be at.
Another issue is the front office’s overconfidence in the offensive stars from last year.
Keelan Cole has five drops and two fumbles in the last three games. Corey Grant was never anything more than a gadget player good for a handful of snaps a game against slower defenses. Fournette has been labeled as injury-prone since his days at LSU.
You compound that with cutting Marcedes Lewis (our best blocking tight end) and letting Allen Robinson walk and you can see why the offensive staff is calling pass more often than not.
TL;DR: The talent and depth on this team doesn’t fall in line with their desired identity and that falls on the front office, not the coaching staff.