How do the Jags bounce back from the debacle from last week and get a much-needed win against the division rival Tennessee Titans? How do they score more than three points and not allow 34?
For the defense, it’s getting back to what they have been throughout most of the season. For the offense, it’s becoming something they have not been for the most of the season.
(Not playing the San Francisco 49ers also helps.)
1. Give Trevor time to take a breath.
This was one of my keys to victory last week, and well, the offensive line didn’t listen. They gave up five sacks, and Trevor looked frazzled all game. The topic of Trevor ‘seeing ghosts’ was also broached during a press conference with head coach Doug Pederson, and there’s been debate all week about Trevor’s ability to quickly go through his reads versus simply not having the time in the pocket to do so.
What’s the excuse? According to Pederson, he believes this starting five hasn’t had a lot of time playing together, and the missed assignments and communication issues that lead to some of the sacks and hurries should dissipate the more they’re out there with one another.
Let’s hope so. The Titans have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL, so while things should be easier than San Francisco’s all-star team, they won’t get a lot easier with defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons pushing the pocket. Pederson also talked about how the offense should attempt to push the ball down field more often. Another half-second in the pocket can go a long way to allowing them to do so.
2. Stop the Yulee Tractor.
This has and will always be the case until running back Derrick Henry decides to quit football and be a commentator on Amazon Prime. At age 29, Henry is on pace to have a 1,000+ yard season and is still the Titans most potent offensive weapon.
The defense, and specifically the run defense, has been a major strength for the Jaguars so far this season, but they need a bounce-back week after Christian McCaffrey ran for 95 yards on only 15 carries (5.9 yard average) last Sunday.
The defensive game plan should be as simple as a, b, c for the Jaguars this week:
a) Stop Derrick Henry.
b) Force rookie quarterback Will Levis to throw the ball downfield (he’s only completing 52.6 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in back-to-back weeks).
c) Go take fake team selfies in the end zone after you force a sack fumble or interception.
3. Don’t “give it away, give it away, give it away, now.”
Protecting the ball is one of the most basic tenets in football, but it’s one to call out given the Jaguars’ offensive struggles last week and throughout the season. While the Jaguars rank 14th overall at +1 in turnover ratio, they rank 28th overall with 17 offensive giveaways. Last week aside, the defense has consistently bailed the offense out.
When it comes to doing small things that make a big difference, turnovers are at the very top. Yes, it would be nice if we stretch the field, decide to not neglect the run, not call a trick play when the simple stuff is working, but for the love of anything you believe in, just don’t give the other team the ball – especially when you’re about to score points.
The number of times I’ve cynically thought to myself when we get close to the end zone, “Let’s just kneel on it and kick the field goal” has been way too often.
It’s time for this offense to grow up and become what we all believe they can become. This starts with protecting the ball and finishing drives.
What other things must the Jags do to beat the Titans on Sunday?