JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars’ special teams have struggled over the past five weeks, but head coach Gus Bradley said he has not lost any confidence in special teams coordinator Mike Mallory.
"No," Bradley said when asked that question. "I don’t know what to say when a guy is unblocked and right there and misses the tackle. It’s execution.”
Bradley was referencing the latest breakdown: Andre Roberts’ 55-yard punt return for a touchdown last Sunday in Detroit’s 26-19 victory. There is some controversy over whether Roberts signaled for a fair catch -- several Jaguars players insist he did -- but Bradley said it’s hard to focus on that when the Jaguars had several players in position to make the tackle, including rookie linebacker Myles Jack, and missed.
Regardless of whether the officials missed Roberts signaling for a fair catch, the Jaguars’ special teams have committed key mistakes over the past five weeks and are just as much of a reason for the team’s five-game losing streak as quarterback Blake Bortles and defensive miscues.
The special teams miscues have directly led to 19 points, but to put that on Mallory’s shoulders is unfair, because as Bradley said, the issue hasn’t been scheme. It has been players simply not doing their job.
Rashad Greene had a punt bounce off his thigh in the Jaguars’ loss to Oakland on Oct. 23. The Raiders recovered at the Jacksonville 17-yard line and eventually kicked a field goal.
Marqise Lee dropped a punt the following week against Tennessee, and the Titans recovered at the Jaguars 35 and went on to kick a field goal.
Bryan Walters didn’t have trouble catching a punt against Kansas City on Nov. 7, but he had the ball knocked loose on his return and the Chiefs recovered at the Jaguars 23. Two plays later, they scored a touchdown.
Bradley said there aren’t many changes the Jaguars can make personnel-wise on the special teams units because of the limited roster. Many starters are already playing key roles on those units, too. The staff is re-examining what they’re teaching and trying to figure out if they need to teach it differently, but it comes down to execution and that’s where the breakdowns have occurred.
"I think as a coach you always take responsibility for it, and the player will take responsibility," Bradley said. "You just keep painting a picture of how it should look like.
"Those tackles we have to make."