DENVER -- A lot of the roster moves the Jacksonville Jaguars have made over the past two months have been to improve on special teams.
They really struggled during the first half of the preseason, but those signings helped stabilize the units. But the problems the Jaguars had on special teams during Sunday’s 35-19 loss to the Denver Broncos had nothing to do with personnel.
It was execution and one questionable decision.
"We went in with the mindset that we’re going to be aggressive in this game," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "Instead of [how] maybe some thought we would back off, we wanted to be the other way. We wanted to be really aggressive."
That’s why Bradley called for a fake punt on the Jaguars’ first possession. It was a gutsy call because the Jaguars were on their own 26-yard line. But it showed his players that he wasn’t kidding about being aggressive.
It was a sound call, too, because the Jaguars saw something on tape that they believed they could exploit. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. Not a bad gamble at all, considering the winless Jaguars had been 28-point underdogs.
But the fake itself was questionable at best. It was fourth-and-4 and fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou took a direct snap and tried to run up the middle. There was no room, just a pile of bodies. Not surprisingly, he gained just 1 yard, and the Jaguars gave Denver the ball on their 27-yard line.
"We felt like we had something," Bradley said. "[We] reviewed it and we talked about it and we felt like from the 20 to the 40 in that situation we could maybe steal a series."
Six plays later, the Broncos led 7-0.
The Jaguars’ two other big special-teams mistakes were because of poor execution. Rookie long-snapper Carson Tinker bounced a snap about a foot in front of holder Bryan Anger, who couldn't corral it and ended up being tackled for a 14-yard loss.
"Sometimes rookies make mistakes," Bradley said. "We talk about Josh [Evans] and Cyp [John Cyprien] and some other rookies that do it. You know, he’s a rookie, too. I guess sometimes that can happen at inopportune times."
The Jaguars got burned again late in the third quarter. The Broncos ran a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from their own 48-yard line, with David Bruton taking a direct snap and going around left end for a 35-yard gain.
It was perfect timing. The Jaguars were trailing by only 11 points, had just forced what they thought was a three-and-out and were thinking of possibly making it a one-score game. It was a well-designed play, too. Bruton is a safety, not a fullback. And he ran outside, not into the middle of the line. Nobody even saw him until he blew by the first-down marker.
Being aggressive was a sound plan, and it’s something the Jaguars should continue to do. But it’s not going to work if they continue to make small mistakes.