Flawed, flailing Jaguars among NFL's biggest disappointments
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) This was supposed to be Jacksonville's year. Promise would become production.
A lengthy rebuild would evolve into the cornerstone for sustained success.
Coach Gus Bradley's always-upbeat approach would pay dividends with a drastically improved roster.
Owner Shad Khan set the tone, saying a winning record was ''everybody's reasonable expectation.''
Reasonable? Maybe. Realistic? Not anymore.
The Jaguars (2-5) are among the NFL's biggest disappointments, failing to take the step many believed they would in Bradley's fourth year.
They have offensive woes, defensive issues, coaching concerns, discipline problems – and seemingly no clear means of fixing them in the second half of the season.
Bradley has received the brunt of the criticism. His career record (14-41) has become as integral to the state of the franchise as Blake Bortles' turnovers, sacks and flawed mechanics.
But it's hard to pin all the team's shortcomings on coaching even though Bradley fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson after an embarrassing loss at Tennessee last week.
''Just because there has been a move made or a switch has happened, it doesn't mean we are all of a sudden going to start putting up numbers offensively and winning games,'' Bortles said.
Especially when the team has as many deficiencies as Jacksonville.
Here are some key ones:
-Identity. Even after an entire offseason, four exhibition games and seven regular-season outings, the Jaguars are still trying to ''find out who we are and what we do well,'' Bortles said. New offensive coordinator Nate Hackett will try to figure it out beginning Sunday at Kansas City (5-2).
-Run game. The Jaguars rank 31st in the league in rushing, averaging 72.6 yards a game. They signed Chris Ivory to a five-year, $32 million contract in free agency to provide a 1-2 punch alongside T.J. Yeldon, but the offensive line hasn't had enough consistent push to create holes.
-Line play. General manager Dave Caldwell didn't do enough to improve the O-line in the offseason. He gambled on injured left tackle Kelvin Beachum in free agency, but counting on guard Luke Joeckel (out for season), second-year pro A.J. Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell appears to be the major misstep.
-Bortles. The third-year pro is playing like a run-of-the-mill rookie. He's blaming footwork and fundamentals for his inaccuracy and an elongated throwing motion that's allowing defensive backs to break on passes and defensive linemen to knock down balls. In a last-ditch effort to fix the flaw, Bortles brought in his offseason mechanics coach this week for a two-day refresher course.
-Pass rush. Of Jacksonville's 13 sacks, six of them came in London against Indianapolis' woeful line. Rookie Yannick Ngakoue has been a bright spot with four sacks and three forced fumbles, but the Jags clearly need more consistent pressure from Dante Fowler, Malik Jackson, Jared Odrick and others.
-Turnovers. Compounding their defensive dilemma, the Jaguars haven't gotten a turnover in three games. And that's against Chicago, Oakland and Tennessee.
-Discipline. Jacksonville leads the NFL in penalty yards a game (91.3), a big burden for a team with a small margin for error. Fowler has been Bradley's most egregious violator. He has been flagged seven times already, including four for lining up offside and two for personal fouls.
''When I'm out there, I'm just out for blood and everybody,'' said Fowler, who missed his rookie season because of a knee injury. ''I have to tame that and control that.''
Jacksonville's season appears to be spiraling out of control.
Khan hired Caldwell and Bradley in January 2013 and cautioned that the roster overhaul would take time. They took a huge swing the past two seasons by signing 10 starters in free agency and entered this season with playoff expectations.
But now, after nearly four years of buildup and two months of letdown, it's understandable to question whether Caldwell missed on three first-round draft picks (Joeckel, Bortles and Fowler) and whether Bradley's player-friendly process has produced more pitfalls than progress.
''It is a challenging time right now,'' Bradley said. ''(Khan's) unbelievable. What do I say? He wants results. … Both Dave and him feel that we can get this done. Whether other people believe it, I don't know. But I know that is his belief.''
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