After Sunday’s brutal loss to the Houston Texans in London, the Jacksonville Jaguars fall to 4-5 on the season, third in the AFC South, in the thick of the the AFC playoff race and headed into the bye week. The loss raised a lot of questions about where the Jaguars are headed after the bye week, and they’re a lot more than simply just who starts at quarterback, Gardner Minshew II or Nick Foles?
Of course, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone hasn’t publicly made his decision at the quarterback position yet, but I think we all agree they’re going to insert Foles into the starting lineup against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11.
The bye week is in a nice spot for us to kind of review how the season has gone thus far.
Minshew Mania lived and died
From a shaky pre-season to lighting it on fire during the nine game stretch Minshew played/started, the mania lived and died. I Tweeted Sunday afternoon that I thought the Jaguars would make the decision to start Nick Foles regardless of how the game had gone, even if Minshew played well and they won their third game in a row with him as the starter, thrusting them to 5-4.
It sucks it ended like it did for Minshew, making the decision easy on the public facing side, but the reality was it was always most likely the team would turn to Foles as soon as he was available, no matter how Minshew played. He was going to inevitably have those rookies games where he gets overwhelmed and one of them, really in my opinion his only one so far, came on Sunday.
I do think the Jaguars have something in Minshew and I wish they could afford the luxury of letting him finish it out, so they can see exactly what they have going forward and decide if they need to plan on using one of their four upcoming first round picks at the quarterback position.
In the public eye, Minshew kind of ended up being his own worst enemy because he played so above his own head, the expectations got a bit out of control. We’re hyperanalyzing him missing an open receiver underneath, or holding the ball too long, or getting confused by an exotic coverage and not trusting what he’s seeing. None of that should be surprising for a sixth-round rookie quarterback who is playing in an offense not designed for him, but Minshew more often than not was able to make plays out of nothing, he raised his own expectations.
Playoffs Still Possible
Part of the reason I kind of always felt the Jaguars would go back to Foles regardless was because Minshew won them games. As it stands right now, the Jaguars are in the thick of the playoff hunt and this staff and front office almost certainly have to at least come close to making the playoffs in order to keep their jobs. I’m not going to call it an outright panic move by a group that is wont to panic moves, but I think if they didn’t feel their jobs were on the line they might continue along with Minshew.
The playoffs are still right there however, and at 4-5 in a division where everyone keeps beating each other up, you can still pull a Wild Card out of it. Now, it would probably require the team to end up going something like 6-1 in the final stretch, but the possibility still exists and that’s exactly why the signed someone like Nick Foles; to try to make the playoffs and save their asses.
Foles has to be transcendent
I’ve never been shy about my opinion of Foles, in that he’s a big upgrade over Blake Bortles, but overall I don’t really view him anything more than an average-ish quarterback who can play above his level in some games. The team made a big hooplah about going and getting Foles in the offseason, between all the coverage, sit downs, film break downs etc., so it’s no real shock they push him back in the lineup.
In reality however, Foles is going to be something he hasn’t ever really been in his career in order for the Jaguars to turn the season around. He’s going to have to be that transcendent quarterback that makes everyone else around him better. You can scream “SUPER BOWL MVP” at me all day if you want, but the reality is Foles doesn’t have the array of weapons and talent around him he did with the Philadelphia Eagles two years ago, so it’s going to be a lot more on him.
To his credit, he’s come up big in pressure situations and that’s something the team is going to need if they want to make the playoffs this season.
Defense needs more turnovers
The Jaguars defense is good, but it’s a shell of it’s former self. It feels like the NFL as a whole has figured out to target and exploit the Cover-3 shell that Seattle Seahawks disciples have been using with consistency, so the Jaguars under Todd Wash have started to give up a lot more chunk plays than we’re used to seeing.
The team still gets good pressure with just their front four, just look at Sunday’s loss where they were consistently all over Watson and just couldn’t bring him down, but there are still holes in the zones that good quarterbacks are going to exploit. The run defense is a miss, but I think a lot of that is due to the issues at linebacker and I don’t think that’s changing anytime soon.
The reality is the defense isn’t going to be able to carry the team as much as they have in the past, especially if the offense continues to be not great. The defense is going to have to dial up forcing turnovers if they’re going to go on the run to make the playoffs.
Offense is splashy, but still not great
You probably don’t realize it, but the Jaguars overall offense is kinda bad. The team averages just under 20 points per game (19.6) but put up a ton of yards. They’re in the bottom third of the league on third downs and usually struggle to sustain drives. I’ve gone over what I believe the issues are in the red zone, and to many’s chagrin it’s not just because Minshew is a rookie quarterback and will magically get fixed with Foles in the lineup. Now, maybe the mentality changes with a veteran like Foles, but it’s a lot more than just simply a rookie doing poorly, which wasn’t even close to the case.
The Jaguars offense has been good at one thing though and that’s volume rushing and splash plays. We know why they’re good at the former, but a real concern going forward is going to be the latter. A lot of the big drives on offense so far on the season came from off-script plays, where Minshew made something out of nothing and caught defenders on their heels or with misdirection. That’s something that’s going to go away with Foles and there is some real concern that maybe the offense leaned on that way too much and masked other issues that will crop up with someone not as mobile.
Now, I’m sure Foles is going to see and recognize stuff Minshew may not have, but I do have real concerns about pass protection with a significantly less mobile quarterback.
The Jaguars offense is going to have to move to a lot more consistent chain moving and no longer relay on the chunk plays they had the last nine weeks.