The Jaguars head into the bye week sitting at 4-3, primed to make a run at the divisional crown.
The Jaguars sport a winning record with the bye week coming up, giving fans optimism for the playoffs for the first time in years. The team must figure out a way to string victories together and take advantage of the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. Some things to key in on for the upcoming bye week:
Find a way to involve Keelan Cole in the offense
The rookie out of Kentucky Wesleyan finally got an opportunity to showcase his abilities on Sunday against the Colts with a huge 52 yard reception and another 12 yard reception in the win. Cole showed good route running and big play ability, something he displayed often in the preseason as well. With Allen Robinson out for the year and Marqise Lee struggling with drops, someone in the receiving core must step up the production. Involving Cole in the offense more may be the solution the Jaguars have been looking for.
Lighten Leonard Fournette‘s load
Leonard Fournette was billed as a workhorse, three down NFL running back coming out of LSU, and while he has been everything the organization could have hoped for in his rookie season, the Jaguars must find a way to lighten his workload. He has 130 carries and 145 touches in total already, even with a missed game. He was out for the Colts game due to an ankle injury sustained in the loss to the Rams, with injuries being the big question mark coming out of LSU for Fournette, the Jaguars must be aware of this and split at least a few more carries to Chris Ivory. T.J. Yeldon also had a fantastic game against the Colts in his first action of the season and gives the play caller a change of pace option in the backfield.
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Figure out how to stop the run
The Jaguars defense has been by far the best unit on the team and one of the best in the NFL thus far, gaining more national attention with each dominating performance. They lead the NFL in sacks and are the number four passing defense in the NFL. However, their one sore spot has been defending against the run, the defense ranks 30th in the NFL in overall run defense. Allowing 138 yards per game on the ground is not the mark of a playoff team and must be addressed before the upcoming game against the Bengals. This is not a one week fix, but something must be done with the additional time for practice between games.
Telvin Smith signed his extension, who’s next?
Telvin Smith signed a well deserved 4 year, 50 million dollar contract extension during the bye week. Fans can breathe a sigh of relief that Telvin is locked up for the foreseeable future, but who’s next? The Jaguars already signed Brandon Linder to the richest center contract in NFL history over the summer, taking care of another key decisions that loomed over the front office. Aaron Colvin, Marqise Lee, Paul Posluszny, and Allen Robinson are all key players that have expiring contracts at seasons end. Putting the franchise tag on Allen Robinson and re-signing Aaron Colvin would be the top priorities in my mind, with Marqise Lee coming next. The front office has big decisions coming, and the bye week is hopefully taking this time to mull over some of those decisions.
The Jaguars next game is November 5th at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. The back half of this season will tell a lot about this team and if they’re contenders or pretenders.