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5 observations: Jaguars have no answers, likely won’t this season

The Jaguars rendered a golden opportunity useless on Sunday, and serious questions remain for the 4-6 team

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6) had no answers for the Indianapolis Colts (6-4) yesterday, full stop. There was no sense of urgency even after a promising week leading up to the game filled with happiness and optimism. The team, which had a golden opportunity, squandered it within two quarters after what was shaping up to be a fantastic playoff-like week 11 matchup in Indianapolis.

There were plenty of negatives to gather from the Jaguars’ 33-13 loss to the Colts, and only two positives to take from the thrashing of a team desperate to win but destined to fail.

1. Doug Marrone is coaching for his job

It is never easy to see a coach so beloved by his players, coaches, media, and often-times fans not succeed, but at some point, the question must be asked which is whether or not Marrone will be the team’s head coach for much longer. For a second-straight week, the Jaguars appeared lifeless, and for a second-straight week, Marrone took the full brunt of the blame without hesitation. Admirable, however, it is fair to challenge the prospect of a coaching change at the end of the season — if not sooner.

“I told the team that – we don’t practice well, prepare well, we didn’t perform well and that’s on me. I’m responsible for the penalties, I’m responsible for the way the team plays,” Marrone said after the game on Sunday. “I’m responsible for how they get ready to play on Sunday and I’ve got to do a better job at getting this team ready to go.”

At this point, the Jaguars have six games left in their season and without winning at least four out of six of those games it is unreasonable to expect zero changes within the coaching staff or front office. At some point, there are no more excuses. The team entered week 11 with a near-clean bill of health — only tight end Seth DeValve missed the game due to an injury —, yet the team played as they were walking wounded only to be put down by a Colts team coming off of a two-game losing streak.

The team which surrendered over 200 rushing yards for a second week in a row, and carried the football only nine times against a division rival in a must-win situation is not cutting it. A lack of discipline falls on the head coach, and the Jaguars yet again fell victim to far too many penalties — eight for 81 yards — including a drive-killing hold called on rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor — five on the year. If the Jaguars want to move forward a change might be necessary, however, Marrone still has six games to prove otherwise.

2. The run defense is not going to be fixed

At this point, fantastic performances against the Cincinnati Bengals (33 rushing yards allowed) and the New York Jets (46 rushing yards allowed) are anomalies. Through 10 games the Jaguars have allowed over 100 yards on the ground six times. Three out of those six games, the team allowed over 200 yards, including yesterday’s contest in which the team allowed 264 yards (7.3 yards-per-carry) on the ground. Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash even acknowledged the team’s woes against the run last week, and yet, the issues remained.

Help is certainly not on the way, and the Jaguars do not seem to have an answer for their shortcomings. The team’s best run-stuffer — defensive tackle Marcell Dareus — went down due to a core-muscle injury during the team’s week seven matchup against the Bengals. Even still, the Jaguars run-defense has been hampered with, or without him on the field.

Marrone says the team tried “everything” to stop the run on Sunday, everything simply wasn’t good enough. A question of physicality up front, and Marrone seemed to agree there wasn’t enough of it. “We got outplayed upfront physically on both sides,” said Marrone. “We’ve got to do a better job and see if we can put our guys in better position and get better at it. Like I said, it’s performance so it goes back to me. I’ve got to do a better job at getting these guys ready to play on Sunday.”

The Jaguars will have an opportunity to show they can be a physically dominant team next week when they face one of their most formidable opponents in the Tennessee Titans (5-5) next week.

3. Foles had an ugly debut with zero help on the ground

Much will be made about the performance of Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles after his performance on Sunday. With a misleading stat line of 33 completions out of 47 attempts for 296 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, the Jaguars’ signal-caller failed to evoke feelings of positivity following their loss in Indianapolis. Foles knows he has to play better and said as much following the game.

Following a touchdown pass of 34 yards to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., Foles and company netted just 17 total yards on four possessions (punt, punt, punt, interception) following the score. On their fifth and final possession of the first half — with 17 seconds remaining — the Jaguars were able to inflate their number with a 31-yard drive resulting in zero points.

The Jaguars ran the football just nine times through the entire game — the lowest rushing attempts in franchise history according to ESPN’s Mike DiRocco. Marrone, once again, took full responsibility for the lack of rushing attack by initially blaming the plan on an injury at tight end, however, he withdrew his earlier statement to say there were no excuses.

“I’m not trying to sit here and make excuses,” said Marrone. “We felt – I felt it too, I think we could’ve gone back looking back and ran it more. I’m not saying that we couldn’t of, but I felt like we needed to score and I wanted to get up on this team. Obviously, it backfired.”

The Jaguars’ run game was not having an overly successful day even in their nine attempts, however, the team has often-times been one to struggle early, but pick up steam as the game moves on. With the team down late in the second-half, there was no sense in rushing, however, six rushing attempts at halftime should be questioned.

Jaguars’ running back Leonard Fournette reportedly offered very little to say after the game following his eight-carry game, deferring questions to the coach when asked about running the football.

4. Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue are stars

This almost goes without saying, but Jaguars defensive ends Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue are the two best players on the team’s defense. Multiple times on Sunday the two were in the Colts’ offensive backfield and eventually forced Jacoby Brissett and company to resort to quick passes and multiple chip-blocks.

On the day, each player netted one sack with Ngakoue getting a forced fumble on the day. Allen has tied the Jaguars’ rookie sack record (Ngakoue) with eight on the season, with Ngakoue joining Von Miller as the only players over the last decade to post at least 34.5 sacks and 12 forced fumbles through 57 career games. Both players are stars on a team in desperate need of more.

5. DJ Chark Jr. continues to shine

Yet another fantastic showing by Chark Jr. As the best player by far on offense Sunday, the second-year receiver hauled in eight receptions on 15 targets for 104 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Multiple times throughout the contest Chark Jr. provided the Jaguars with a major catch to keep a drive alive or to score a touchdown.

The Jaguars had very few positives to take away from Sunday, however, the Jaguars’ receiver was one of them. On the year, Chark Jr. has 51 receptions for 798 yards and an AFC-leading eight touchdown receptions. His Pro Bowl-caliber season should not be wasted. With eight touchdown receptions through 10 games this season, Chark Jr. tied Marcedes Lewis (2010) for the most touchdown receptions through the team’s first 10 games of the season.

“We had a really good week of practice and work, but when it doesn’t show out on the field it’s upsetting,” Chark Jr. said after the game on Sunday. “But we’ve just got to watch the film and see what you can do better. That’s the one thing about this team. They don’t point fingers. There is no ‘Me’ guys in here. We are going to get better and get ready for the next game.”