JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There are teams in the NFL stuck with 0-4 records other than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Some are led by quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls, and some have quarterbacks who can go in a week from starting to being on the inactive list for non-injury reasons.
The Jaguars don’t have anything close to that sort of drama. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Even after whatever excitement there was from an early takeaway that led to a field goal Sunday gave way to another thorough thrashing, not many voices seemed to be raised in anger. Not from the fans, not from coach Gus Bradley, and not from the players in the locker room.
“Yelling and screaming is not going to help,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. “We’ve got to look at each other, look in the mirror, and see what we have to do better.”
What he’ll see when he looks at the 37-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts again won’t be pretty, and it might make him want to scream. Here are five observations:
1. With so many areas of deficiency, it’s awfully tough to single out one.
But the continued inability of the Jaguars to accomplish much on first down sticks out like a sore thumb. Through their first 14 snaps on first down against the Colts, they amassed a total of 14 yards.
The Baltimore Ravens were the only team faring worse on first downs during the first three weeks of the season, but without taking a look at the statistics from their game at Buffalo, they might have moved out of the basement simply by default.
The Jaguars weren’t much better on other downs either. Except for Blaine Gabbert’s 11-yard completion to Cecil Shorts III about five minutes into the game, they did not convert a third down in their first 10 tries.
This is an offense averaging but 224 yards through four games and has yet to score a touchdown at home or before halftime, even after going from Gabbert to Chad Henne back to Gabbert. But don’t expect another switch anytime soon. “I’m staying strong with Blaine,” Bradley said.
2. Jones-Drew went into the afternoon having topped 100 yards in five of his six most recent games against the Colts.
That was then, this is now. He was held to 23 yards on 13 carries to see his paltry 2.6-yard average per rushing attempt plummet even further.
This isn’t a result of any lingering effects from the foot injury of a year ago. Teams are loading up to stop him, especially after the Jaguars fall behind.
The clearest sign of that came in the series after the Colts took a 10-3 lead. On third and a yard to go, Jones-Drew ran into a brick wall up the middle, forcing the punting unit to come on the field.
That in turns leads to a defense that gives out due to overuse. The Jaguars ran only 26 plays in the first half. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw 27 passes over that same stretch.
“You can put the best defense out there,” Jones-Drew said. “If they’re out on the field for 70 or 80 plays, you’ll be able to exploit them a little bit. We haven’t been helping our defense out at all.”
3. Tight end Marcedes Lewis lasted just one series in his season debut before his calf acted up again.
That has been the extent of his involvement after the Jaguars’ first preseason game. This has all the appearances of being an injury which will linger all year long. None of Lewis’ backups had a catch until Clay Harbor’s 31-yard reception to begin the fourth quarter.
Given the current state of the offense, it will be small consolation getting wide receiver Justin Blackmon back this week after a four-game suspension. Then again, the Jaguars were so depleted at the position that they had to sign Jeremy Ebert and Tobais Palmer off the practice squad Saturday.
And Shorts, their only dependable receiver, bobbled a pass that became a 41-yard interception return for a score by Colts cornerback Darius Butler.
“I didn’t have the day I wanted today,” Shorts said. “But bad days happen. That’s just part of the game.”
4. The score would suggest otherwise, but the Jaguars did not catch Luck at his sharpest.
If not for defensive end Jason Babin being penalized for lining up in the neutral zone, the Colts’ first drive would have ended with an interception by cornerback Will Blackmon.
Luck wasn’t so fortunate on their next series as Blackmon’s pick — the first of the season by the Jaguars’ secondary — set up Josh Scobee’s 53-yard field goal. And cornerback Alan Ball almost came up with a deflection in the end zone early in the second quarter.
Luck’s best move in the first half was scrambling for 17 yards on a third-and-9 play to end the opening quarter. That’s longer than any run by the Jaguars this season.
5. The excitement which rookies Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson were supposed to add has been, to say the least, sorely lacking.
Sanders finally got to return his first punt after the defense stopped the Colts on the opening drive, but he was blanked as a receiver until turning a short toss from Gabbert early in the fourth quarter into a 27-yard gain.
With Justin Blackmon’s return, he figures to become even less of a factor on offense in the weeks to come.
Robinson, who no longer carries the odd position title of “offensive weapon,” strained a hamstring in the first half. The one time Gabbert threw the ball to him before the injury, he juggled a simple-looking dumpoff pass on a play the Colts thought was a fumble.
Next up: at St. Louis. The Rams will have the advantage of a longer week to prepare, although they hardly endeared themselves to their fans Thursday night in getting thumped at home by the San Francisco 49ers to fall to 1-3.