Jaguars struggle to overcome self-inflicted wounds vs. Browns, get decent grade

• The Jaguars fell to the Browns in Week 14 but they still managed to get a decent grade despite their struggles on both sides of the ball.

Dec 10, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Evan Engram (17) is tackled by
Dec 10, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Evan Engram (17) is tackled by / Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars lost 31-27 to the Cleveland Browns in Week 14. They managed to keep things interesting towards the end but their self-inflicted wounds were too many to overcome. Still, there were enough positives for John Breech of CBS Sports to give them a relatively good grade.

Breech graded all NFL teams that played in Week 14, and gave the Jags a C-, pointing out that Trevor Lawrence was hindered by the ankle sprain he suffered on Monday Night Football. Compounding the issue in Breech's eyes is that the third-year quarterback didn't get much help from the rest of the offense outside tight end Evan Engram.

"Trevor Lawrence didn't look like himself, which is understandable given the fact that he was playing on one good leg. With Lawrence compromised, the Browns defense pressured him while forcing several errant passes. Lawrence wasn't helped by his running game and a receiving corps that did not have a great day aside from Evan Engram, who pulled down 11 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns."

Breech also highlights the defense's inconsistencies, noting that they forced turnovers that led to 14 points but also had their fair share of struggles, and even managed to make "Joe Flacco look like Joe Montana."

Trevor Lawrence suited up even though he was six days removed from the ankle sprain. Leaving aside the injury, he overthrew a few passes and made a couple of passes he would surely like to have back. While the offense was missing Christian Kirk, who'll be missing time after core surgery, and the offensive line lost Ezra Cleveland, Steezy Trev refused to play the injury card.

"There's no excuses. Nobody cares, that's the thing about this league. No one really cares who you're missing," Lawrence told the media after the loss. "There's a lot of teams missing players at this point in the season. But 100 percent, Christian [Kirk] is one of our best players and makes a huge impact in this offense, in this team."

"So, of course, you miss him, Christian is on IR. We've got to find a way to still win games without them, so that's not going to change in the next few weeks. We've got to find a way, and I got all the confidence that we will but this week, we've got to work, we've got to get better," Lawrence said.

The Jaguars must thigthen things up ahead of game vs. the Ravens

As Lawrence noted, the offense cannot use Christian Kirk's absence as an excuse for their underwhelming performance against the Browns. After the bout, John Shipley of Sports Illustrated unveiled a concerning stat: The third-year quarterback went 5-of-14 for 39 yards and two interceptions when targeting Zay Jones and Calvin Ridley in Week 14.

That's simply not acceptable, and that's an issue the Jags have failed to address this season. Besides the offensive line woes and general lack of execution, the Jags offense has struggled when either Jones or Kirk misses time. That has to change moving forward. Tight end Evan Engram, and rookie Parker Washington — fumble notwithstanding — stepped up while Jones and Calvin Ridley didn't.

The defense also struggled in spite of a handful of good individual performances. In particular, rookie Antonio Johnson flashed, forcing a fumble and giving up no passes in three targets. The group made several important spots and gave the offense a few chances to win the game. On the other hand, they made Joe Flacco look like his vintage self.

The good news is that most of the issues are correctable. It isn't ideal that communication needs to be improved at this point of the season. Ideally, the offense would be operating at full steam right now, but it isn't. The same is true for the defense.

With four games left in the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a bit of time to right the ship. If they do, it won't matter that they lost to the Cleveland Browns, or even next week against the Baltimore Ravens. They'll get hot just in time for the playoffs.

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