Jaguars off to worst offensive start since 1995

The Jacksonville Jaguars were supposed to be better.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was going to learn from last year’s

experiences and show progress after a full offseason with coaches

and teammates. The offense was going to improve with the addition

of receivers Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon. The line was

going to be a strength, able to consistently open holes for Maurice

Jones-Drew.

Instead, the Jaguars (1-4) are off to their worst offensive

start since the team’s inaugural season – a woeful first five games

that should have new owner Shad Khan questioning the direction of

the franchise.

Jacksonville is averaging 241 yards a game this season, at the

bottom of the league again.

Coach Mike Mularkey, in his first season in Jacksonville,

remains optimistic things can turn around.

”I think the answers are in this building,” Mularkey said

Monday, a day after his team lost 41-3 to Chicago. ”I think they

are in that locker room. They are in that staff room back there.

They’re in the meeting rooms, on the practice fields, during our

preparation. I think the answers are all here, and we’ve just got a

find a way to get those to transfer over to games so we can play

complete games and play like we’re capable of playing.”

Mularkey’s last head-coaching stint also got off to a slow

starts. He was in Buffalo in 2004, when the Bills started 1-4, won

six consecutive games late in the season and finished 9-7.

”We didn’t change. We just stuck to the plan,” Mularkey said.

”That was not easy, either. It’s not an easy task. We stayed the

course, like I said here. We did some good things and what was

amazing about it is, when we started to do some good things, a lot

of good things just kept coming.”

A major difference, though, is that the Bills were competitive

in most of those early season losses.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, have lost three home games by a combined

score of 95-20.

”It’s embarrassing to lose like this,” running back Maurice

Jones-Drew said. ”It’s tough to swallow because it’s not like

we’re not working hard or not giving effort.”

The Jaguars have a bye this week, offering players a chance to

get away and forget about all that has gone wrong through five

weeks. The coaches, meanwhile, will spend the time evaluating

schemes, plays and tendencies while trying to pinpoint problems and

hone in on things that have worked.

One list will be considerably longer than the other.

The Jaguars have failed to get much going on offense. Mularkey

points to self-induced mistakes like penalties, dropped passes,

sacks and errant throws. But good teams tend to overcome those more

often than not.

For Jacksonville, the slightest problems have led to major

setbacks.

Against the Bears, everything unraveled after Charles Tillman

intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown and a

13-3 lead in the third quarter.

The defense faltered, and the offense sputtered even more than

usual.

The Jaguars gave up consecutive touchdown drives, and then

Gabbert had another interception returned for a score. Mularkey

considered turning to backup quarterback Chad Henne, but opted to

give Gabbert much-needed experience in the no-huddle offense. He

also reiterated that he has no plans to bench Gabbert, who has

completed 55 percent of his passes for 796 yards, with five

touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has been sacked 15

times.

Jacksonville wrote off Gabbert’s rookie season by saying he had

no offseason, a lame-duck coaching staff and not enough talent

around him. Now, after three dismal home games and several key

mistakes, Mularkey insists Gabbert will improve.

”Those are the lumps I am talking about that we have to take

sometimes,” Mularkey said. ”Not that we want them, but things we

have to learn from. Blaine is still a young player. I think each

game is going to make him a better player, and it has. We’ve got to

help him. I’m not going to say he’s where we want him. I don’t

think he will say that. He still has things he’s got to do

better.”

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