JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)Something is amiss with Jacksonville’s offense.
The Jaguars, who entered the season with thoughts of averaging 30 points a game, have looked mostly out of sync on third down, in the red zone, in short-yardage situations and on the scoreboard.
“It’s Week 2,” coach Doug Pederson said. “There’s a lot of football ahead of us. It’s a good football team sitting in that locker room right now, and we’re going to get this thing fixed and turned around and headed in the right direction.”
Maybe so, but the current trajectory is baffling considering Jacksonville returned nine of 11 starters on that side of the ball and expected progress in the second season of Pederson’s scheme and with Calvin Ridley added to the mix.
Instead, it’s been so out of sorts that offensive coordinator Press Taylor – in his second game as the team’s full-time play caller – dialed up a trick play near midfield while leading Kansas City 3-0 in the second quarter.
It backfired. Receiver Christian Kirk’s cross-field pass to running back Trevor Etienne lost a yard. Trevor Lawrence got sacked two plays later on a fourth-and-5 attempt – another head-scratching call – and gave the struggling Chiefs their best field position of the day. Kansas City scored a few plays later and led the rest of the way in a 17-9 victory that seemed to expose the Jaguars (1-1) more than it raised questions about the defending Super Bowl champion.
Jacksonville’s offensive line has been the early scapegoat. Rookie right tackle Anton Harrison, who dealt with a shoulder injury during training camp, has allowed three sacks and has been beaten way more often in two games. He appeared overmatched at times against Chiefs All-Pro defensive lineman Chris Jones.
Veteran right guard Brandon Scherff and second-year center Luke Fortner are playing through ankle injuries, and left guard Ben Bartch is less than a year removed from tearing two ligaments in his left knee.
The banged-up line has help on the way, though. Left tackle Cam Robinson is halfway through a four-game suspension for violating NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Once Robinson returns, the Jaguars are expected to send Bartch or Harrison to the bench.
“I got all of the confidence in the world in Anton,” Pederson said.
Pederson says the same about his sluggish offense despite Lawrence getting sacked six times and his completion percentage being down, along with Etienne’s yards per carry. The most pressing concerns are third-down conversions (25%), fourth-down conversations (20%), red-zone scoring (50%) and ball security. The Jaguars have put the ball on the ground six times already, resulting in two lost fumbles to go with an interception.
“We’re better than that,” Lawrence said. “We’re a better team. We’re a better offense than that. What’s disappointing is when you know what you’re capable of. … We got to be able to put points on the board and score. That’s just kind of embarrassing.”
Jacksonville hosts Houston (0-2) on Sunday.
The Jaguars have been decent defensively. The unit held Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes mostly in check until two fourth-quarter drives totaled 132 yards, eight first downs and a field goal.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Harrison could use some help on the edge, something he rarely got against Indianapolis or Kansas City. The Jags might want to consider putting a tight end next to him to chip or have a running back hovering nearby to pick up the slack.
Backup linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, in the final year of his rookie contract, sacked Mahomes in the second quarter. It was his first of the season and the fourth of his career. He already has matched his sack total from each of his first three years in the league.
Zay Jones finished without a catch for the first time in two seasons in Jacksonville. Lawrence targeted Jones six times, including three in the end zone. Jones came close to scoring once but failed to get both feet inbounds.
LB Josh Allen, who had three sacks in the opener, played through an injured right shoulder against Kansas City but had to have a teammate help him put on his shirt in the locker room after the game.
77.8 – Jacksonville’s win rate in pass-blocking situations through two games, the worst rate in the NFL.
After dropping nine straight (and 15 of 18) to AFC South rival Houston, the Jaguars can win back-to-back games against the Texans for the second time since 2013.
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