JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After another dismal Sunday at TIAA Bank Field, one thing became perfectly clear: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft is definitely in play for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It didn’t look that way after the first two weeks after beating Indianapolis in the season opener and playing Tennessee tight in Nashville, where they’ve struggled to keep games close. There was optimism the Jaguars were going to be competitive and better than expected.
But that disappeared after the past three weeks and is more pronounced after Sunday’s 34-16 loss to the Detroit Lions. The Jaguars are definitely players in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
The 1-3 Lions were the Jaguars’ best chance to pick up a victory. Look at the rest of the schedule. At the Los Angeles Chargers? The Jaguars are 3-12 on the West Coast. Home against a Texans team whose only victory is against … the Jaguars? Maybe.
But home against Pittsburgh? At Green Bay? At Baltimore? At Minnesota?
The Jaguars entered the weekend with the third-best chance of earning the No. 1 overall pick in the ESPN Football Power Index behind both New York teams. Then they got routed by a Lions team that had blown double-digit leads in three of its first four games and led by a coach possibly on the verge of getting fired.
It also has become clear over the past month that Gardner Minshew II is not developing into the franchise quarterback the Jaguars had hoped. Since completing 95% of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions in the season opener, Minshew has thrown eight TD passes and five interceptions -- with five of the TD passes coming when the Jaguars were trailing by double digits.
He’s still struggling in the pocket and hasn’t been as accurate with his downfield passes, which had been one of his strengths. In fairness, there’s a lot of pressure on him and the offense to keep up with a defense that struggles to stop anyone, but franchise QBs are able to deal with that and, at times, thrive.
Most expect Lawrence to be that guy -- and the Jaguars look as though they could end up in position to get him.
Troubling trend: For the third week in a row, the Jaguars faced one of the NFL's worst run defenses. And for the third week in a row they had little success and ended up with less than 100 yards rushing -- and it got worse each time.
The Lions were giving up 170.3 yards per game rushing but the Jaguars managed 44 yards on 16 carries, including 29 yards on 12 carries by James Robinson. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he had given up on the run too soon against Cincinnati and Houston and pledged to stick with it, but that didn’t happen against the Lions. The game did get out of hand midway through the third quarter but before then the Jaguars were within two scores.
Troubling trend, Part II: The Jaguars have now given up at least 30 points in five consecutive games in a single season for the first time in franchise history. They had twice before given up at least 30 points in four consecutive games in a single season: 2013 and 2014.
They’re now giving up 30.2 points per game this season, which would break the previous single-season record if it were to stand (28.1 points per game in 2013).
Troubling trend, Part III: The Jaguars have missed at least one kick -- a field goal or PAT -- in every game this season. On Sunday it was Jon Brown, who had never attempted a field goal or PAT in a game at any level. He hit a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter -- which allowed the Jaguars to set an NFL record by having five different players attempt a field goal or PAT in five consecutive weeks -- but missed a 32-yard attempt in the second quarter. Coach Doug Marrone said last week he hoped Josh Lambo could come off injured reserve (hip) this week and play against his former team, the Los Angeles Chargers.