Friday, 18 Jan 2019

The Jaguars were supposed to be the next power of the AFC. Instead, they are a mess.

The Sunday's Eagles and Jaguars match in London was a stark clash when planning the reigning Super Bowl champions against the next AFC power.

Not so much, as it turned out.

Instead, it was more of a playoff game, even at the end of October. The winner would take a step forward to get back on his broken season. The loser could be considered the most disappointing NFL team in mid-season.

It was the Eagles who reassembled. And it is the Jaguars who are in trouble, their record dropping to 3-5 after their 24-18 loss at Wembley Stadium.

The announcement of the Jaguar season was fast. After reaching the AFC championship game last season before losing to New England, they beat the Patriots in the second week in Jacksonville this season to take their record to 2-0. The Patriots seemed in disarray at that time. The Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to do without Le'Veon Bell. There was every reason to believe that the Jaguars were about to become the best team in the AFC.

But that did not happen. Not even close. The Jaguars have gone 1-5 since. They are on a four-game losing streak at the start of their week off. They are not about to be out of the race series, at least not by the numbers – especially in the AFC South. But they have been a poor team for half of their season. There are few signs that they will be a good team afterwards.

The defense, so dominant last season, remains impressive in the league standings. The Jaguars were second in the NFL in total defense when entering the game. But this defense seemed far from dominant for a good part of the season. The Jaguars allotted 70 points to the mighty Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, who were not so powerful, in consecutive games during their losing streak. The defense was decent on Sunday, forcing Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz to make two early morning turnovers on a lost breakaway and an interception. But Wentz rallied while he was attempting a 286-yard performance and three touchdowns.

And the Jaguars' offense, as usual, could not keep pace. Back Leonard Fournette remains marginalized by his thigh injury and quarterback Blake Bortles could not do enough to keep the attack moving.

The Jaguars signed a new contract with Bortles during the off season rather than restarting at quarterback and attempting to improve the offense. It did not work. Bortles could be good enough when the defense is too powerful and the offensive takes place in front of opponents with Fournette. But it's a season of assists and dominant quarterbacks in the league. Bortles is not good enough to be the centerpiece of a pass-first offense.

There are also problems on the ground. The Jaguars players would have had a passionate exchange in the locker room after their loss to the Houston Texans a week earlier. This led to a meeting reserved for players last Monday. It does not seem that one of the problems discussed was the decorum out of scope. Four Jaguar players, including Barry Church, a member of security, and other high school members, were arrested and then released Saturday by police in London, for non-payment of a 46,000 bill or $ 64,000 in a nightclub. Players would face potential discipline on the part of the team.

The NFL's trading deadline is Tuesday. The Jaguars could possibly try to get quarterback Eli Manning of the New York Giants. This would bring Manning together with Tom Coughlin, Jaguars front-office executive, who coached him to win two Super Bowl wins with the Giants. Such an agreement would force Manning to give up its no-trade clause, and the Giants said they did not intend to trade with Manning.

But that would simply be exchanging a quarterback problem for another. Manning has not looked like a quarterback with a lot of good football left this season. No, the Jaguars are probably stuck with Bortles, and coach Doug Marrone will have to decide whether to keep Bortles at the starting position.

The return of Fournette after the departure of the Jaguars would be useful. But they have put themselves in such a delicate position that at least six wins in the second half of their season are probably needed to get back into the playoff race; a second half 7-1 might even be necessary. The Jaguars who took the field Sunday in London seemed far from being able to do this kind of race.

More coverage of the NFL:

L.A. is not an NFL city. Can the undefeated Rams make one?

Alabama players brought hardness – and Nick Saban-isms – to the Redskins


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