The Jaguars’ Week 1 loss against the Houston Texans on Sunday was perhaps as disappointing of an affair that they could have had, especially considering the expectations surrounding both squads.
Offensively and defensively, Jacksonville just didn’t seem to get into any sort of rhythm throughout the entire contest. While, certainly, there are some good things to take away from the team - the run defense, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s flashes in particular - it was clear there needed to be a re-do of sorts as the team continues through the year.
The reaction to the team’s loss was understandable, but the team’s 1-15 record, coupled with the brand-new coaching staff and plenty of new players, it shouldn’t have been too big of a surprise that things didn’t go completely as planned.
On Wednesday, Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer admitted that it’s tough not to overreact to how his team played but made it clear he still believes in the players and the people within the building.
“Yeah, it is,” said Meyer on how tough it is not to overreact to Sunday’s loss. “But the locker room is the most important thing and I just see good players, I see good people. It’s a build and we’re building.”
While it’s apparent that the Jaguars do need to make some changes to how they play moving forward, most of the issues on Sunday were self-inflicted, penalties and costly mistakes that forced the team to move outside of its comfort zone throughout the contest.
To open the game, for example, Jacksonville threw the football a staggering 12 times. For further context, the team attempted to run the football two other times, however holding penalties negated both attempts.
The imbalance is something that Meyer wants to be corrected, and his comments on Monday of, “we better not be a 51 drop back times a game [team],” made that very clear.
Lawrence would drop back 51 times on the day, completing 28 passes for 332 yards, while throwing three touchdowns and three interceptions. A rookie performance for sure, but one that shouldn’t cast doom and gloom over the stadium at all.
Some of the big plays from Lawrence in his debut: pic.twitter.com/UMJqUIwNlL— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) September 15, 2021
Due to several procedural issues, game-time management and holding calls, not to mention an early 14-point deficit, the Jaguars were forced to break out of their comfort zone, something that should be fixed sooner rather than later.
Speaking with the media on Thursday, Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spoke about the miscues that occurred on offense, ultimately forcing them to get into a situation they’d prefer not to be in.
“We have to stay out of long-yardage situations,” said Bevell. “We really put ourselves [in bad situations], a lot of self-inflicted wounds with penalties and those kinds of things. We have to stay in better down-and-distance situations.”
That can be easier said than done. Procedurally, the Jaguars simply appeared to be a step behind the opposing team. They didn’t appear quite as prepared due to the differences in how quickly the team lined up, and how well it executed on offense on a down-to-down basis.
“We just have to orchestrate overall better, whether it starts with me getting the play in quicker, getting the personnel in and off the field quicker, giving Trevor [Lawrence] and those guys more time at the line,” Bevell said. “All of that can be done better and we’ve addressed that.”
Defensively, Jacksonville wasn’t sharp, either. The team allowed 37 points on the day, along with 27 during the first half alone. Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen mentioned during his media availability on Thursday that the team simply needed to make the plays that were there.
Cullen also used an astute example of why overreaction shouldn’t occur from his time in Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers defensive line coach in 2015.
“You can’t overreact, you’ve got to be like this. I mean, if you’re up and down in this league, it’ll bury you,” said Cullen. “It’s a man’s league and I learned that from my mentor. So, we opened the year one time in Tampa, we got drilled by Tennessee. We didn’t expect it, 40-something points.
“We had to go to New Orleans, that place hadn’t won in a long time, so we were just going to out-work them, we were going to out-hit them, and let the chips fall. We had six turnovers and we beat [Drew] Brees, sacked him six times in there. So, you can’t overreact. It’s a 17-game season, there are 16 more of these and it’s the next one. That one’s gone, it’s over. Learn from it and move on.”
The Buccaneers lost to the Tennessee Titans 42-14 on Week 1 of that season, ultimately defeating the Saints the following week, 26-19. The defensive play was night and day, with the Buccaneers picking off Brees once, sacking him four times.
Though it wasn’t the six that Cullen referred to, the point is there: the team got better when it looked miserable the previous week.
These are the types of experiences that will ultimately help Meyer moving forward. Understanding that the NFL isn’t like college. There isn’t an up-and-down in the NFL, every team has plenty of talent that can win on any given Sunday.
That’s why you will rarely see spreads similar to the 15.5-point one the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide have slated for Saturday, in the NFL. It’s a man’s league, as Cullen said, and the Jaguars will have to just forget about Week 1, and move on to the Denver Broncos.