Jacksonville's Terrible Offensive Performance: Who's to Blame?

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Jacksonville's Terrible Offensive Performance: Who's to Blame?
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New general manager. New head coach. New offensive scheme and weapons. Zero offensive points against a team that went 2-14 last year.

What happened?

The Kansas City Chiefs defense doesn't look a whole lot different from last year, and the Jacksonville Jaguars offense was supposed to be an improvement over the inept unit we saw last year, but the offensive stats speak for themselves: 178 total yards, 12 first downs, six sacks, 11 punts and zero offensive points.

In fact, due to an interception return for a touchdown by Tamba Hali, the Chiefs actually scored more points than the Jaguars while the Jaguars had the ball.

We were promised this would be a rebuilding process as opposed to a supposed "quick fix," so the ineptitude shouldn't shock anyone. What is surprising, however, is just how badly they played. Let's take a look at the different aspects of the Jaguars offense to try to determine the cause of Sunday's flop.

 

The Quarterback

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Every struggling offense starts with the quarterback, and Sunday's performance by the Jaguars was no exception. Blaine Gabbert was cringeworthy all game. He looked nervous in the pocket, threw passes that ended up nowhere near his receivers and flung a couple interceptions directly to Chiefs defenders.

Gabbert was so bad, many Jaguars fans were clamoring for Chad Henne. He did almost nothing to help the Jaguars win, and it showed on the scoreboard. He also managed to injure his hand late in the game on a scramble.

This performance wasn't entirely Gabbert's fault, though. Credit also goes to...

 

The Game Plan

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars' game plan was underwhelming at best. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch came out of the gate with a handful of bubble screens and runs up the gut, and the day's game plan involved leading receiver Cecil Shorts consistently lining up against Chiefs star corner Brandon Flowers, who rarely switches sides of the field.

Fisch's halftime adjustments weren't much of an improvement. The Jaguars managed a pitiful 49 total yards in the first half and followed that up with just 129 total yards in the second half, many of which were picked up in garbage time.

The Jaguars were unable to run the ball all game, picking up just 71 yards on 23 carries for a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. They managed an even more pathetic total of 107 passing yards on 41 attempts for a horrific average of 2.6 yards per attempt.

Going forward, Fisch needs to find a way to stretch the field vertically. The Jaguars offense seemed to have trouble running any pass plays that went outside the "TV area"; almost every pass play they ran was within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Sunday's terrible performance doesn't fall solely on Gabbert or the game plan, though...there's also the matter of...

 

The Offensive Line

The Jaguars' offensive line allowed the Chiefs' defensive line to spend the entire game in its backfield. Gabbert had little to no time to throw and was sacked six times. The Chiefs also hit Gabbert 10 times and had seven passes defensed.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the second overall pick on right tackle Luke Joeckel, we were promised a much-improved line. However, Joeckel missed a large chunk of camp and the preseason with a hip flexor injury, and it showed. He had trouble squaring up against the speed rush and was abused by Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston, who piled up three sacks and three quarterback hits against the Jaguars' rookie tackle.

Guard Will Rackley missed time due to injury prior to the season as well, and he and the Jaguars' interior line had issues keeping defensive tackle Dontari Poe out of the offensive backfield. Poe had 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits and also knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

The Jaguars were unable to move the Chiefs defenders off the line of scrimmage, giving Maurice Jones-Drew and the ground game nowhere to go. The longest run of the game was a 10-yarder by MJD.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe held his own against Tamba Hali and kept him off the score sheet, but I'll be surprised if anyone besides Monroe receives a positive grade for Sunday's performance.

The offensive struggles were about more than the game plan, Gabbert or the line, though; there's also the matter of...

 

The Missing

Wide receiver Justin Blackmon was the Jaguars' second-leading receiver in 2012, racking up 865 yards and five touchdowns on 65 catches. He was targeted a team-leading 133 times and led the Jaguars in first downs with 41. Blackmon didn't play Sunday due to a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end Marcedes Lewis was the Jaguars' third-leading receiver in 2012. He amassed 540 yards and four touchdowns on 52 catches and was third on the team with 25 first downs. In addition to his receiving ability, Lewis is also an asset as a run-blocker. Unfortunately, Lewis was inactive Sunday due to a calf injury suffered in practice.

It's hard enough to have success offensively with sketchy quarterback play, a conservative game plan and a porous offensive line, but it's even harder when your second- and third-best receivers aren't available.

Blackmon and Lewis aren't the only receivers on the team, but it doesn't help when another factor that contributed to the Jaguars' offensive ineptitude was...

 

The Receivers

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Even when the offensive line gave Gabbert enough time to deliver the ball and Gabbert gave his receiver a chance to make a play, the Jaguars receivers still had trouble holding on to the football.

Notable drops by tight end Allen Reisner and rookie receiver Ace Sanders were momentum-killers, and Cecil Shorts appeared to run a completely different route than the one Gabbert expected him to run on Brandon Flowers' first interception.

It's hard to tell from the TV feed, but it appeared the Jaguars receivers had trouble getting open against the Chiefs secondary. Cecil Shorts spent most of the day locked up with cornerback Brandon Flowers, and when the ball arrived at its intended receiver, it always seemed like a Chiefs defender was right there.

The Jaguars had enough trouble moving the ball with the play of their offensive line and Gabbert combined with the absence of their second- and third-best receiving targets. They needed their receiving corps to pick up the slack, but the Jaguars receivers dropped the ball.

 

So Whose Fault Was It?

The offensive ineptitude was a team effort.

The Jaguars couldn't open up space in the Chiefs defense with their play-calling. They weren't able to give Blaine Gabbert time to throw, and when they did, he was panicky and inaccurate. The Jaguars receivers couldn't get open against the Chiefs secondary and couldn't hold on to the football. Justin Blackmon and Marcedes Lewis were in street clothes.

 

The Verdict: It Was Everyone's Fault

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Hopefully, the Jaguars offense can create some positive momentum next week against an Oakland Raiders defense that allowed a fourth-quarter comeback to the Colts Sunday. One thing is for sure: If the Jaguars offense continues to play the way it did in Week 1 all season, Jacksonville will be the hands-down favorite to land the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

Let's hope a week makes all the difference. The Jaguars need to get better...fast.

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