The Jaguars are about to start the second half of what so far can be called one of the worst starts to a season ever. The Jaguars are coming out of their bye week with an 0-8 record and a point differential of -178, turnover differential of -7, and have yet to play a fourth quarter where they have a realistic chance of winning.
The good news for the Jags is that their final 8 games should be easier. For the first the Jaguars opponents had a record of 46-21 (.687), whereas their second half opponents records combine for 29-37 (.439). On Sunday the Jags will have their first test of the second half as they travel to Tennessee to take on the 4-4 Titans, and these are my 5 keys for the Jaguars if they want to win.
1. Stop the Run. Chris Johnson was once a 2,000 yard rusher, who is coming of a game where he rushed for 150 yards, off of 23 carries, and 2 touchdowns against St. Louis. The Titans even gave backup running back Shonn Greene 9 carries one of which he took 5 yards into the endzone for a touchdown. The Titans as a team are ranked 15th in the league in rushing yards averaging 114.8 yards per game. Jacksonville however is dead last in run defense, so clearly if they want to get a win the Jags need to tighten up the run defense.
2. Run the Ball Effectively. Maurice Jones-Drew is getting back to being the MJD of old, and this week playmaker Denard Robinson was promoted to the #2 running back spot. MJD has improved each week and with Justin Blackmon suspended the Jags will look to Jones-Drew for some extra production. As for Robinson, he is a player who can take the ball the distance when given space, and although he had a rough start to the season you can tell he is starting to feel more comfortable.
3. Fill in for Blackmon. Justin Blackmon is suspended for the rest of the season. When Blackmon missed the first 4 games this season due to suspension, the offense looked totally inept. Defenses rolled their coverage to key in on Cecil Shorts III successfully because no one else stepped up to pose any sort of threat in the passing game. Before the bye week wide receiver Mike Brown had 2 of the best games of his career. Brown will be the one taking Blackmon’s spot in the starting lineup, but Brown can not be expected to fill those shoes alone. The Jags will need players like Ace Sanders and Marcedes Lewis will be called upon to step up and make plays.
4. Finish Drives. This one goes for both offense and defense. Ever since Henne has taken over the offense has at least shown the ability to move down field and get inside the redzone. However once in the redzone the offense all of a sudden stalls, and with the team usually losing by a large margin they go for it on 4th down, fail and come away with no points. The defense on the other hand has shown in the last 2 games before the bye that they have a hard time getting off the field. This is a unit that for the first 6 games of the season showed improvement each week, but now stupid penalties and poor play have slowed defensive improvement.
5. Eliminate stupid defensive penalties. I can think of at least 3 different times so far this season where defensive end Jason Babin has
lined up offsides. Lining up onside should be something that a player can do easily considering this is Babin’s 10th year in the league. Babin is not the only one though. There have been numerous Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties that have extended drives so far this season. A perfect example of this problem happened week 7 against San Diego where, Sen’Derrick Marks made consecutive great plays that combined with a penalty on San Diego that would have put the Chargers in a 3rd and 34 situation, however Marks lost his cool and got called for Unsportsmanlike Conduct which gave San Diego and automatic first down.
The season is not over yet for the Jaguars, and with each game this young team can gain experience and learn to play together. So it’s time for Jags fans to stay positive and watch this young team grow.