Well, we are half done with the 2019 season and the Jacksonville Jaguars find themselves in a familiar position. A position that could’ve been different if 1 possession went the other way or we make 1 stop. After a really tough season last year and a above average draft, the hope was high not playoffs high but better than were we sit today.
As the standings show the Jaguars are once again at the bottom of the league. Our 1-6 record is right where it has always been but this reporter had our record at 4-3. We had very winnable matchups but the Jaguars can’t seem to find a way to get the defense and offense to play up to their potential at the same time. The only double digit loses this season have come by the two teams we expected it from, the Chargers and Panthers. Both teams have been in the playoffs and both made it to Championship level games, so it was understood that those games would be loses but what we didn’t expect was the 7 points or less losses coming to sub-par teams. I don’t mean to disparage any other owners but the Bucs, Jets, and Texans we all within our grasps but we just couldn’t get the stops we needed.
So with that being said let’s take a quick look into our player’s stats up to this point and see how we are doing.
Quarterback Conner Belton is off to his best season yet. We are only through the first 8 weeks of the season and he has already passed for more yards than he has in his first 3 season. He has more completions, more attempts, and is close to breaking his personal best in Yard Average, Completion percentage, and touchdowns. He is still making some bad decisions which accounts for his personal worst 15 interceptions but some of those we don’t count because they were drops or tips by our Wide-outs and into the hands of defenders.
Running backs T.J. Yeldon and Jaron Cole are putting up some yardage but with the Jaguars playing from behind, their asked to do so on less carries. Yeldon is on pace to barely get to 800 yards this season and he really needs to have a big game over the next 8 weeks to get there. He is getting the carries but our line just isn’t holding blocks long enough for him to get into the holes. His back Jaron Cole is poised to have a break out season. He has 90 less carries than Yeldon, but his yards per carry average is 7.1 might get him on the field more. There might come a point in this season where Yeldon takes a backseat to Cole but with Yeldon getting a huge contract this season it seems unlikely that he won’t be the feature back.
Our Wide Receivers have some surprises in it so far. Rookie Will Buchanan has exploded onto the scene in Jacksonville. He was not the Jaguars first choice at WR this draft and Buchanan has proven them to be mistaken. He is everywhere on the field, catches almost everything thrown at him, and can out jump most defenders that are near him. He has speed the Jaguars haven’t seen in a long time and his production is off the charts at this point in the season. His 25 catches lead the team; 521 yards lead the team by almost 200 yards. The kid is going to be a contender for Rookie of the Year if this keeps up. Larone Patrick is second on the team with catches and is still finding his role to be difficult because he is the number one WR and now has to face the best defensive back on each roster every week. He is dropping passes he needs to catch but when you’re just in your second season and asked to take on so much it is understandable to take a step back. Allen Robinson is now the slot WR and is OK with his role. He is still the leader and is helping out Patrick with his moves off the line, in order for him to win. Julius Thomas is still out there making plays even though it is understood that he will not be a Jaguar next season. Ownership feel that his production and this style of offense doesn’t equal the amount of money he has already been paid along with what Thomas was asking for. Thomas will be the most sought after offensive player this offseason and his contract will reflect that but the Jaguars just can’t spend that much money on a position they want to transition into a run block first, pass catcher second role.
Our offensive line has been sturdy all year long. Only problem is that they have focused too much on pass blocking around Belton and giving him all the time he needs to make reads, that they have somehow forgotten to run block. Yeldon is off to his worst start in 3 seasons, including the season that got him suspended. They need to get better and rumors are floating around that Jockel is not happy playing on the opposite side that he is accustomed too and the front office may move him back to his natural position in the next week or two. Outside of that we need to get smarter and not commit so many costly penalties but when you are playing in positions that you haven’t played since High School, there will be growing pains.
What can we say about our defensive line? Three words come to mind. “Feast or Famine”. At times Fowler is a dominate force, as was shown during MBLN Live game, where he recorded 3.5 sacks. Well since that game in Week 5, he hasn’t come near a QB during a game other than to shake his hand at the end of the game. Lopez needs to pick up his game opposite of Fowler but Donte needs to step up for our team to regain their strength. The longer the opposing QB has the more exposed our weak defensive backs are highlighted.
Once again our LB’s are key to our games. We stop the run and in coverage our guys Humphrey and Smith are solid. People are questioning our choice at MLB but he has proven that being smart on the field trumps skill sets at times. Cory Minor is continuing to grow and as the season progresses he is the only choice in the middle. This group plays as a team and is one of the closest knit groups in the league. They play off each other and look to make themselves as formidable as the LB on the old Bears teams, but until they can make others better around them, they might just be another group, like the Sam Mills lead Saints D from many years ago.
I wish that this was going to be easy but to keep it as simple as possible…. our defensive backs are a liability and will cost us games. Plain and simple. Flowers was our biggest FA addition in over 3 years and may go down as one of the worst signings in league history. His age and agility has been compromised and past 5 yards he starts trailing. In a game surrounded by speed and youth, Flowers may have played his last game in the league. He has given up more than 400 yards to opposing WR’s this season alone. He was benched one game for getting into a fight with DB’s coach and seems to be an issue in the locker room. Our young group of safeties are swapping sides for the last half of the season in order to help cover Flowers’ backside, pun intended, so Vaituitonga Phillips will move over to FS and Antonio Patrick will take over as SS. Hopefully this will fill some gaps but we desperately need a second corner.
I was going to go into a lot of detail here but it seems like the draft plan at the beginning of the season is now totally different. That is, before the vast improvement of Conner Belton and the catastrophe that is Brandon Flowers unfolded this season.
If the Jaguars decide to continue on with the plan to replace Conner Belton, look for a couple signal caller’s names to be on the top of the list. Carter Reed from Penn State, if the Jags go QB first, or Kurtis Scott from Delaware St in round two if the Jags go corner first.
If the front office keeps Belton and go with a corner first round, Deandre Jackson from UCLA and Cedric McGee from Miami, are both looking like day one additions to our struggling defense. And if Belton is still around we are losing some other keys on our defense due to age and contract issues, so the Jaguars could select Aleon Duncan from Ohio State in the second round.
It is early but the Jaguars have already started their short list for guys and names like, Terrell Pendleton WR from Florida State, Gavin Farris OL from Florida, Muhasibi Hanna OL from Texas AM, Zack Farmer OL from UCLA have also been rumored second rounder’s if Belton remains.
The season feels like it just got started and it’s a shame that once again it seems over before it began. But the Jags are in position to pick top 10 again unless something turns around. Our remaining games are all divisional games and we need to win them all to have a chance. There is a glimmer of hope left in our eyes and we hate to think that once again it will fade away but things are getting better each year.