During his press conference on Tuesday, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone addressed several topics including the status of injured players on both sides of the football. Receiver Dede Westbrook (neck/shoulder), cornerback D.J. Hayden (neck/shoulder), rookie linebacker Quincy Williams (hamstring), and linebacker Leon Jacobs (hamstring) are all expected to practice next Monday, said Marrone.
“Like I said before, if he was close, he would have gone,” Marrone said when asked about how close Westbrook was to suiting up on Sunday. “He is one of the toughest guys. I said it before, don’t look at his stature, he is one of the toughest guys on this team and he loves football. So, that was never a question. For him not to go hurts him.”
The Jaguars could use the help, especially on offense. During Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Texans, the team’s leading receiver — Keelan Cole (five receptions for 80 yards) — had not participated in more than 34% of the team’s snaps heading into Sunday. Due to injuries at the position, Cole was forced to participate in 55 of the team’s 67 snaps.
Their next leading receiver, rookie running back Ryquell Armstead (five receptions for 65 yards) only participated in nine snaps on offense. Considering their offensive production, look for Cole and perhaps Armstead to become bigger contributors on offense, however their limited participation this season leaves a lot of room for concern.
The Jaguars missed Westbrook in the worst way on Sunday, and could use some of his toughness right now at the position. While he was absent, Jaguars’ receiver Chris Conley contributed for only two receptions on seven targets for 32 yards, it was evident rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew missed his sure-handed receiver in the worst way, and now-starting quarterback Foles will need equally as much support.
Westbrook has caught 58% (32/55) of passes thrown his way thus far this season. However, the third-year receiver has only dropped three passes thus far this season and none since week three against Tennessee according to Pro Football Focus.
While Conley has only dropped only four passes on the year, he has dropped at least one pass in each of the past three weeks, including a key drop on fourth-down Sunday against Tennessee. With Foles back in charge, there could be reason to believe the fifth-year receiver will have a better showing, however, he cannot be relied on as of yet.
On defense, the team was forced to be a little more creative in their alignments. The Jaguars played in their nickel package — or a variation — on defense the entire game with first-year cornerback Breon Borders playing 70 out of 70 snaps in place of an injured Hayden. While Borders was solid on Sunday, Hadyen has been the one of the team’s best defenders — especially in the run game.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hayden has accounted for 13 stops (fourth-most on the team).
While not having Hayden was extremely impactful, Jacobs being unavailable played a role in the team using their nickel package more than they typically would. Jacobs has played a much larger role for the Jaguars this season in stopping the run in the team’s base package.
On Sunday, Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde pounded the Jaguars for 160 rushing yards on only 19 attempts. Without defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (reserve/injured) and their run-stopping linebacker in Jacobs, the team was lost.
Getting healthy just out of the team’s bye week is especially important considering the overall trajectory of the team. Facing a red-hot Colts team on the road will be no easy task, and having every available option for a brand new signal-caller, along with a healthy defense will go a long ways in solving a majority of the team’s issues.