Jacksonville Jaguars: Can This Team Rise Above Mediocrity in the NFL?

David Levin@@davidlevin71Senior Writer IIOctober 2, 2012

September 30, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; The Bengals and the Jaguars line up during the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-US PRESSWIRE

ESPN Radio talk show host Colin Cowherd once said (years ago) on one of his broadcasts, “The NFL is a league of 8-8 teams. Some teams’ reach 12-4 and some fall to 4-12.”

Right now, the Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping they can reach 4-12. The way things are and the way the team played in its 27-10 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, four wins would be a welcomed sight. The Jaguars could not muster much of a running game against a defense ranked as one of the league’s worst at stopping the run. Maurice Jones-Drew had to be licking his chops at the idea of running through and over the interior defense. After all, he ran for 177 yards the previous week against Indianapolis.

He gained 38 yards on just 13 carries for the game.

At the quarter post of the season, a 1-3 Jaguars team now faces a Chicago Bears team that has a strong running game, a decent passing offense and a defense that is built for battle in the NFC North division. With that in mind, the Jaguars could be looking at a 1-4 record heading into their bye week.

That is definitely not the record Jaguars’ brass, the local media and the hometown fans had envisioned for this team coming out of preseason, when quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked more like Drew Bledsoe and rookie receiver Justin Blackmon looked like the second coming of Jimmy Smith.

Now, with what they have shown on the playing field, four “real” games on the books and constant calling for general manger Gene Smith’s job by the fans on sports talk radio, will there be major changes in the future for this team? Will team owner Shad Khan tear this team down and build it back up?

There are too many questions right now about this team from a player perspective and a team perspective. Unfortunately, they all center on Smith, Khan, head coach Mike Mularkey and a brand of football that looks all too reminiscent of the Jack Del Rio days just a year ago.

According to Rotoworld.com, Mularkey, during his Monday afternoon press conference, conceded Jones-Drew should have gotten more touches during Sunday’s game. The Pro Bowl runner finished the game with only 18 total touches for the contest.

There were glaring weaknesses on the offensive and defensive lines as well, and the Bengals exploited the Jaguars' lack of continuity on the offensive side by sacking Gabbert six times, with the first one coming on the initial snap to start the game. According to John Oehser, senior writer for Jaguars.com, “Mularkey said the sacks were partly technique error, and partly communication error.”

If the Jaguars have issues stopping one of the worst defenses in the league, then how will they fare against the likes of Houston, New England and the New York Jets?

To make matters worse, Laurent Robinson sustained his second concussion in as many weeks, this according to Oehser’s report. 

“He had a blow to the head and is back in the concussion program and we’ll monitor him this week,” Mularkey said Monday. “Obviously that’s two weekends in a row, so it’s a little more of a concern this time than it was last week.”

Now, the team must focus on the game Sunday with the Bears. While the atmosphere around the city and team may be tenuous at best, there is still football to play. More aggression at the point of attack is needed on both sides of the ball. The team has two sacks in four games and while defensive ends Jeremy Mincey and Andre Branch were pushing offensive linemen into the Cincinnati backfield at times, Andy Dalton, the Bengals quarterback, left the game with a clean jersey.

Above everything else, Mularkey and the team must play like the game Sunday, their second consecutive home loss, was an aberration.

“I think some of the things you’ve seen happening in all four games – we have not made some plays. We’ve missed making some plays…I’d just like to see if something positive happens in our favor, which it hasn’t really in four games,” he said in the Jaguars.com article by Oehser.

To be honest, the fans, the media and the executive management of this organization, want the same thing.