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Analyzing the Descent of the Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars came within a play of making the Super Bowl last year, but now they have found themselves at the bottom of the league with a 3-8 record following their loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been fired and Blake Bortles has been benched in favor of Cody Kessler for the Jaguars’ week 13 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. This was a team that had Super Bowl aspirations at the start of the season but have come up well short in the 2018 season.

The Jaguars are 3-8 because they have not had a consistent running game. The plan for the Jaguars was to run a smash mouth offense with Leonard Fournette leading the way. This offense worked well for them last year, but Fournette has missed six games this year and the offensive line has been banged up. This forced the Jaguars to rely on Blake Bortles, and that has not been successful. Fournette rushed for 1,000 yards last season and played a big factor in the Jacksonville offense. He has been absent this year leading to a reliance on Blake Bortles and that has not worked out.

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08: Leonard Fournette #27 of the Jacksonville Jaguars dives into the end zone for a 2 yard touchdown in the second quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Bortles played well last year because he had a running game to play off of, but that has not happened this year. Blake Bortles cannot be relied on to run an offense and make big throws. He needs a dependable running back to set up quick and easy throws. In the five games that Fournette has played in this year, the Jaguars have scored a total of 114 points. In the six games that Fournette has been absent in, the Jaguars have only mustered 83 points. It is clear that Fournette plays a big part in this offense and is the main contributor to the Jaguars’ success.

The Jaguars were a team that were built to run the football. They invested heavily in their offensive line and spent the 4th overall pick in the 2017 draft on RB Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars let Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson walk in free agency leaving the Jags without any big threat receivers. They hung onto Marqise Lee, but he went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason. This has led the Jaguars to rely mostly on first year and second year receivers, which has not turned out well. A lack of star receivers is also a reason for Jacksonville’s 3-8 season.

The Jacksonville defense could also be at fault for the 3-8 season. They are still a top five team in yards allowed per game, but they have taken a major step back in other defensive stats. They rank 27th in total sacks with 21 sacks this year compared to the 55 sacks they had last year that was good for 2nd best in the league. Interceptions have also gone down as they sit 22nd in total interceptions with 8 compared to last year’s 21 interceptions that was also good for 2nd in the league.

Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports

While the defense may not be allowing a lot of yards per game, they have lost their big play factor that made them so successful last year. They very easily killed drives and set the offense up with short fields last season. Takeaways and sacks have not been so easy to come by this season and that plays a factor in the 3-8 season just as much as the diminished running game. The Jaguars’ defense played like an old school Chicago Bears defense last year, but they have not played anywhere near that this season.

The Jaguars’ 2018 season is a lost cause at this point as they are staring at another top five draft pick. This may not be bad for Jacksonville as it could give them a second opportunity to land a franchise Quarterback. Blake Bortles has not panned out to be the guy that they used the 3rd overall pick on in the 2014 draft. The 2019 draft could give the Jaguars a chance at continued success if they make the right pick this time around. The running game should be back in 2019 and the Jags still have a core of young players on defense, so they are still a team that can return to the playoffs. The 2019 draft will play a big part in whether or not the Jaguars can return back to their 2017 form.

A decline in the run game as well as fewer big plays on defense have led the Jacksonville Jaguars not on a rebuild, but on a makeover for the 2019 season.

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