Jaguars' debacle in Tennessee further proof of how much work is needed

NASHVILLE -- Doug Marrone was hoping for a spark and more production out of the pass game when he fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and benched quarterback Blake Bortles.

What the Jacksonville Jaguars coach has gotten instead is two of the season's worst offensive performances -- and even further reinforcement that the offensive side of the ball had better be the franchise's top priority in the offseason.

Thursday night's 30-9 loss to Tennessee at Nissan Stadium -- the Jaguars' fourth in a row in the series between the AFC South teams and sixth in the past seven games -- was every bit as embarrassing as the team's 36-22 loss on "Thursday Night Football" in 2016. Maybe worse, because the offense at least put up some garbage-time yards and points in the second half in '16.

The defense was just as bad as the offense on Thursday. One week after putting together the kind of dominant performance that was a regular occurrence in 2017, the defense gave up multiple long touchdowns to Derrick Henry -- a 99-yarder in the second quarter and a 54-yarder in the third quarter. Henry, whose longest run of the season prior to Thursday night was 16 yards, finished with a Titans-record 238 yards and four touchdowns on only 17 carries.

That's a huge problem because there are eight starters who have made Pro Bowls on the unit, but Marrone didn’t fire coordinator Todd Wash two weeks ago and the only personnel change was benching strong safety Barry Church for rookie Ronnie Harrison. The Jaguars had been a top-10 defense most of the season anyway, even though they weren't pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers at the same rate they did last season.

The offense has been a mess since the first month of the season and was borderline nonfunctional on Thursday. The Jaguars are certainly dealing with limitations. They're on their fourth-string left tackle and are starting backups at left guard and center. Cody Kessler is nowhere near as mobile as Bortles and he has been getting pummeled behind the makeshift lineup. He nearly lost a fumble after a sack last weekend and did lose one against the Titans.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the only legitimate receiving threat at tight end, has been on injured reserve since Week 5 with a sports hernia. Marqise Lee, the Jaguars' top receiver, has missed the entire season with a knee injury. Second-year player Keelan Cole, whom the franchise believed was going to be a big-time player, was benched after dropping five passes and losing two fumbles in October.

Even with all of those injuries and problems, there's still no excuse for what the Jaguars did against the Titans and the weekend before against the Colts. The Jaguars had just 98 yards of total offense in the first half -- 1 yard fewer than Henry had on his second-quarter touchdown run. That came four days after they managed just 105 yards in the first half against the Colts and finished with 211, their second-lowest total of the season.

"We don't have the luxury of making any excuses," left guard Patrick Omameh said. "It's the nature of the league. Injuries happen. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us on the other side of the ball. When you get on the field you've just got to get out there and play."

The Jaguars managed only one touchdown against the Titans: Dede Westbrook's fourth-down TD catch with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter. That was the Jaguars' first touchdown since Westbrook's touchdown catch with 1:20 remaining in the 24-21 loss to Buffalo on Nov. 25.

They couldn't get in the end zone on five snaps inside the 7-yard line. The Titans stuffed Running back Leonard Fournette on fourth-and-goal from the 1 after Marrone bypassed a field goal that would have cut the Titans' lead to 7-5 midway through the second quarter.

"We didn't do a good job up front," Marrone said. "We got beat up front."

Marrone was talking about the entire game, but he might as well have included the previous game in that, too.

All they could manage against the Colts were a pair of field goals in a 6-0 victory. Fournette was suspended for that game, but he was on the field against the Titans and managed only 29 yards on 13 carries before the Jaguars went into hurry-up mode after the game got out of hand.

"They have us right now," Marrone said of the Titans (7-6). "It's the last time we play them this year, and next year it will be a different team."

Especially on offense.

Marrone fired Hackett, benched Bortles, and had quarterback coach Scott Milanovich call plays to shake the offense out of its malaise. All it did was highlight the fact that the franchise has a long list of issues to fix in 2019 if it's going to again be competitive in the AFC South.