Jaguars showing little progress through 3 games
Nobody thought the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to be good this season.
Nobody thought they would be this bad, either.
The Jaguars (0-3) have been beaten soundly in each of their three games, generating little offense and facing double-digit deficits long before the final whistle.
The latest debacle was a 45-17 loss at Seattle on Sunday, a game in which Jacksonville trailed 24-0 at the break and 31-0 in the third quarter. The reality is the Seahawks are a playoff contender, and the Jaguars are in the early stages of a complete rebuild under general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley. Still, the Jaguars have shown few, if any, signs of progress.
They rank last in the league in total offense and last in run defense.
''It's a pretty clear picture,'' Bradley said Monday. ''But I don't want to say that in regards to saying, `OK, we're three years away.' That's not how we think. We're just trying to get these guys to play at their highest level. A team that plays with enthusiasm, effort, high intensity, guys that football is extremely, extremely important to, that's the No. 1 thing for me.
''That's what we're building.''
And it's going to take time - apparently lots of it.
It's evident the Jaguars need to address the interior part of their offensive line - guard Will Rackley may have started his last game - and are still in need of a legitimate pass-rusher.
The return of three offensive starters, two of them potentially this week, could help.
Blaine Gabbert will be back under center Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts (2-1), and tight end Marcedes Lewis could join him in the starting lineup. Gabbert missed the last two games after slicing open the back of his throwing hand and needing 15 stiches. Lewis has missed all three games with a nagging calf injury that also kept him out the entire preseason.
Receiver Justin Blackmon should be cleared to practice next week following his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Bradley doesn't want to use those missing pieces as an excuse for the offensive struggles. The Jaguars haven't gotten Maurice Jones-Drew going on the ground and haven't provided enough protection for either quarterback.
The most pressing issue has been first down. Of the 27 first-down plays the Jaguars ran against Seattle, they had zero or negative yardage on 17 of them. And through three games, the Jaguars have 18 three-and-outs on 41 possessions - failing to gain a first down on 44 percent of their drives.
Jacksonville's defense hasn't been much better. The unit has been gashed on the ground, which makes it even tougher on a young and inexperienced secondary.
The result? Jacksonville has been outscored 55-5 in the first half this season.
''That is an issue,'' said Bradley, who became the third Jaguars coach to lose his first three games. Tom Coughlin (1995) and Jack Del Rio (2003) also did it. ''We've talked like, `It's not how you start; it's how you finish.' And there's a lot of truth to that, but we need to do better.''
The Jaguars played three rookies - safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans as well as cornerback Demetrius McCray, a seventh-round draft pick - in the secondary against the Seahawks and got burned for several big plays.
''We're going to go through some growing pains with those guys back there,'' Bradley said.
Caldwell and Bradley are counting on those issues paying dividends down the road. It could take a while to get there - and Jacksonville is likely to have more lopsided losses along the way.
Dating to last season, the Jaguars have lost 10 of their last 18 games by at least 16 points.
''We've got to continue to go through this process, and we will,'' Bradley said. ''For now, as a coaching staff, we're trying to take a deep look at the things that we can do as quick as possible with some of our scheme stuff.''
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