In what feels to be very Groundhog Day-like, the Jacksonville Jaguars leadership is looking to help the team find themselves, coming off an extremely disappointing loss to another backup quarterback. The most recent 31-27 loss came at the hands of a Joe Flacco-led Cleveland Browns offense, one week after surrendering 34 points to the Jake Browning-led Cincinnati Bengals.
Jaguars’ offensive coordinators Press Taylor and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell both met with the press for their weekly media availability on Thursday to recap last week's matchup, to provide additional insight on what went wrong, and to generally discuss their upcoming matchup with the Ravens which could drastically impact playoff seeding for both teams. The Ravens currently are slated as the number one seed in the AFC, with the Jaguars at number four.
Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor was first to the podium to discuss the continuity and stability of the offensive line and how that has impacted the play on the field.
Well, it’s a challenge. Obviously, there’s a comfort level playing and knowing who you’re playing with, experience next to the people, but at the end of the day, it’s an excuse. We’re called on to produce in the run game, produce in the pass game, and produce as an offense. We’ve got to find whatever way we can do to get that going. We’ve done that at points in the season, but it needs to be better than it was the last two weeks.
To Taylor's point, the Jaguars have had a significant number of offensive line shifts and substitutions this season due to injury, suspension, or simply subpar play so far. This has seemed to drastically impact how the team calls the passing offense and their effectiveness in rushing, especially in third-down situations. This past week, this was made worse by the injury to Ezra Cleveland (day-to-day).
I think I answered my own question. Jaguars are 5th and 4th respectively in dropback success rate on 1st and 3rd down, but 18th on 2nd down. They are 28th in rushing success rate on 1st down so that suggests that it has an effect. Also, 31st in rushing success rate on 3rd down.— Alex Fox (@zorrofuerte) December 14, 2023
However, this only adds a layer to the team's overarching issue of struggling to run the ball inside, something that’s normally needed in the NFL.
#Jaguars Travis Etienne's YPC by Run-Type:— Daniel Griffis (@DanDGriffis) December 13, 2023
Data via SIS
Inside- 3.3 YPC
Off-Tackle- 3.7 YPC
Outside- 4.5 YPC
They really gotta address the interior this off-season. pic.twitter.com/qxUKmSw5LY— adam (@A_Watt91) December 11, 2023
However, despite those struggles in rushing the ball, the team has improved in the red zone as of late, something they struggled with before the bye week. Taylor touched on what the team has done differently.
We’ve capitalized when we’ve had those opportunities. That’s something that earlier in the year, it didn’t feel like we were struggling as much as turning the ball over in critical situations. That obviously is a big hinderance for you, even if you’re settling for field goals, it’s now the frustration of getting in the endzone. We were just turning the ball over. That was certainly a big issue for us, it’s gotten better. I don’t know if there has been any philosophical change, scheme change, anything like that. We’ve just done a good job of executing things and taking advantage of our opportunities.
Taylor also took some time to discuss a hot topic amongst Jaguars fans this week, miscommunications and wrong routes.
I think there was a big difference in running the wrong route and not being on the exact same page with running a route. We have not had wrong routes; it has not been this person doesn’t know what they’re doing, they’re running the wrong route, things like that. I think back to when we had three interceptions the other day in the game, one of them we didn’t expect the ball at the time the ball came out so we had one around, we ended up a missed opportunity unfortunately that turned into an interception. If the ball hits the ground, it’s first down, second down, we’ll keep playing the down or keep playing the series out. We had another one we had a zero-blitz, ball has got to come out. They’re bringing more pressure than we have protectors, quarterback threw a go-ball, I think the receiver thought the ball was getting thrown earlier because where the coverage was, but again, understanding the entire situation of what the quarterback is dealing with, ball comes out early, turned into an interception as well. Then, we had another one we took a post route a little flatter across the field, where we were expecting a little deeper angle on that. Nobody ran the wrong route on those instances, in terms of the detail of it and where we thought the ball was going to go, where we thought the ball was going to be thrown at a certain time were just barely off. Unfortunately, all those plays turned into interceptions which is not always the case, but unfortunate.
Full answer from Press Taylor on this. Goes over what exactly went wrong on all 3 INTs.— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) December 14, 2023
"I think there is a big difference in running the wrong route and not being on the exact same page with how you're running a route. We have not had wrong routes. It has not been this person… pic.twitter.com/x6iTTvyQlL
It would seem that Taylor is essentially outlining to everyone that a major distinction should be made between a receiver "running the wrong route" versus running the correct route, but running it at a different depth, running it at a different speed, with different leverage, or simply not reading the defense the same way as your quarterback. None of these issues in the play are the "incorrect route". They are technicalities within route running, that come with practice and communication with the quarterback. With the recent loss of WR Christian Kirk to IR and QB Trevor Lawrence practicing less last week, this potentially added additional communication hurdles. Per Taylor,
Yeah, I think that’s certainly a factor if Trevor didn’t practice last week. There’s certain things that come up and you continue to grow and communicate through them and show examples, do everything you can to get on the same page. If any of those plays ends on the ball hitting the ground, then it’s something you continue to learn from and unfortunately those turned into plays for the other team.
Speaking of miscommunications, this will also likely be the word of the week for the defense, who for the second week in a row struggled to slow down a backup quarterback, while giving up multiple explosive plays to wide-open receivers. Jaguars DC Mike Caldwell discussed the defense’s performance,
Really, it’s not good enough. That’s the main thing I take from it, because you can go out there and you can play 70 plays, you don’t play three [plays] good, and that’s a bad day. We had a bad day regardless of looking at turnovers, how many times we forced them to punt. It was the plays that we didn’t execute that hurt us. As a defensive coach and as a defensive player, that’s what happens all the time. You have to be right all the time. We’ve got to get better.
Tyson Campbell and Tre Herndon can’t come back soon enough. With the electric Lamar Jackson on deck, a defense that gives up easy explosive plays is not what the doctor ordered. Caldwell touched on how the defense could jump-start the pass rush to contain Jackson on Sunday.
That’s the thing, we have to rush him, we have to pressure him, because we don’t want him sitting back there. He’s a guy that in the pocket can hurt you as well as outside the pocket. We have a plan and we’ll try to execute that plan. At the end of the day, we have to be who we are. We have to affect the quarterback and it didn’t work as well as we wanted it to last week, so we get another opportunity for the guys to come out and go ahead and execute the plan, let’s get after the quarterback.
The team is hoping to right the ship this week, at home, under the primetime lights of Sunday Night Football. The red-hot Baltimore Ravens will be a huge test, as they have won seven of their last eight games.
Jaguars working inside today on a windy Thursday.— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) December 14, 2023
Looked like they had full attendance with Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco back on the field. No orange, no-contact jersey for Tre Herndon.
Seems Walker Little is in line to return and play LT on Sunday too. pic.twitter.com/42EhqlLIhd