Four Down Territory: How the Jaguars turn their season around

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Jacksonville Jaguars fans celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Jacksonville Jaguars fans celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have a bye week, but that does not mean there isn’t work to be done to improve this team for the second half of 2018.

These are the facts. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 3-5 entering this week’s bye week. They’re two games behind Houston in the AFC South with the Texans holding a tiebreaker advantage because of a Week 7 victory at Jacksonville. Things are tough right now, but they can improve is this team refocuses on being the best team in the division.

The past four weeks have been a lesson the 53 players in the locker room may not like, but can be used to motivate everyone, and yes the coaching staff as well. The Jaguars are now in a unique situation where everyone thinks their season is over. Maybe that’s the motivation needed to make the final eight games of the season their calling card. A team that can overcome adversity.

The Jaguars started the season being the hunted. Now, they can accept the role of the hunter once again, much like last season. We saw the results in a more determined football team, one that would not allow detractors to get in their way of the AFC Title game.

There have been plenty of fingers pointed at quarterback Blake Bortles, the offensive line, the lack of production from the running game and Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury. Fans have criticized the drops from wide receivers and the limited play of Keelan Cole and the less than stellar numbers from Donte Moncrief.

On defense, the sack totals from Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue are down and the run defense that is anchored by both Marcell Dareus and Malik Jackson has been suspect lately. The point here is this is a problem for the franchise across the board.

If the Jaguars are going to turn the beat around (had to throw in a musical reference there), then these four things must happen.

First Down: Run the football – I know it sounds easier than it has been for the Jaguars, a team that has abandoned the run because the team continues to play from behind. A lot has to do with the consistency of the offensive line and their inability to block for the run or the pass.

"Per John Oehser of, “The Jaguars running backs have yet to combine for 100 yards rushing in a game this season. This is about more than getting back to an identity; it’s about necessity. The combination of a healthy Fournette, Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon makes running back the team’s most-talented available offensive skill position group.”"

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Fournette will hopefully be back next Sunday when the team faces the Indianapolis Colts. If he can run effectively between the tackles and move the chains, teams will put seven or eight players in the box, which could open up passing lanes for Bortles and his wide receivers.

Second Down: Give Bortles more time to throw the football – This falls in line with some of the things I said about the offensive line having to do a better job up front. Bortles looked effective in the wins against both New England and the New York Jets. He even looked better in the loss last weekend.

Things have to get better.

The offensive line play will negate the loss of injuries to skill position players like Marqise Lee and at the tight end position. If the Jaguars can run block better, it will help them adapt to pass blocking in key situations.

"“We have to make that part of our mentality as an offense,” guard A.J. Cann said via Oehser’s story. “It all starts mentally, going into games and having that mindset of going out there being more dominant.”"

Third Down: Become a better run-stopping defense – At the beginning of the season, the Jaguars were doing a better job of stopping the run and forcing opponents to pass the football. Somehow, teams figured out how to run the ball more effectively against this defense.

The Jaguars are ranked 24th in the NFL against the run this season and have allowed 123.3 yards per game. There is a fallacy with this ranking as teams have run the football more at the end of games against Jacksonville during this four-game losing streak.

Both Dallas and Houston gashed the front seven for big yards up the middle. The players are well aware of what needs to be done.

"“It’s a big reason we’re losing games,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We’ve got to do better. That’s important. That’s something we’ve got to better as a collective group.”"

Fourth Down:  Find players to step up – This is a locker room full of Alphas who know how to win. Sometimes, too many of a good thing isn’t a good thing at all. While Campbell, Jackson and Abry Jones are leaders on the field and have a voice in the locker room, others must step forward.

We keep using the word consistency, but it remains a factor in everything this team does. This team misses Marcedes Lewis on offense because of the leadership role he had with the younger players. The loss of Paul Posluszny may be felt more than many realize.

The biggest question is who is the leader of this offense. Lee’s absence is huge. Can Andrew Norwell take on a leadership role and play better in the trenches? Will Bortles take a step forward in the second half of the season and command the locker room?

Next. Three Jaguars to watch in the second half of 2018. dark

Players continually say they need to play better. It’s time for them to act on it and not just talk about it.