Jacksonville fell to 0-4 this week, piling up mistakes in a 37-3 loss to the rival Indianapolis Colts. Penalties, big plays allowed, and offensive ineptitude were the story yet again as the Jaguars continued to disappoint in 2013.
The Jaguars seem to have a realistic shot at an 0-16 season. As we detailed last week, they are on pace to be one of the league's worst teams of all time, and this week's performance didn't do anything to discourage that possibility.
Though this game was essentially over in the first half, there was still much to take away from the Jaguars based on their Week 4 performance.
In the first quarter, the Jaguars had an interception by Will Blackmon negated by an offsides penalty by Jason Babin.
Jordan Todman picked up a penalty for using the crown of his helmet on a Colts defender after a great play by Cecil Shorts, completely erasing a 15-yard gain.
Near the end of the first half, the Colts lined up for a 51-yard field goal...only to have it turn into a 46-yard try when Tyson Alualu lined up offsides on the attempt. Adam Vinatieri nailed the shorter field goal to make it a 20-3 Colts lead.
Not to be outdone, penalty aficionado Babin picked up a careless roughing the passer call early in the second half. The play caused Gus Bradley to yank Babin out of the game. He later committed another offsides penalty and was again pulled from the lineup.
The Jaguars helped the Seahawks sustain two drives last week with stupid penalties, and the carelessness continued today.
The Jaguars aren't going to be competitive until they can put an end to the stupid penalties and play responsibly.
Cecil Shorts was targeted 12 times and caught seven balls for 61 yards against the Colts.
Those totals seem fine and dandy until you realize Shorts was also responsible for two Blaine Gabbert interceptions.
On the first pick, Gabbert threw a back-shoulder pass downfield. Shorts stopped behind Vontae Davis and went up to get the ball, but it hit him in the hands and landed in the arms of a very surprised Davis.
Later in the first half, Gabbert looked Shorts' way on a third-down play. Vontae Davis almost jumped the route, but the ball was on target and found its way to the hands of Shorts. However, the pass hit Cecil in the hands and went straight to Darius Butler, who walked into the end zone for an easy touchdown.
In the third quarter, the Jaguars were able to drive inside the Colts' 10-yard line after a nice catch and run by Ace Sanders. Shorts was targeted twice in the end zone, and both passes should've been caught for touchdowns, but they simply bounced off his hands.
If Cecil Shorts wants to be considered one of the league's best wide receivers, he simply can't hand the ball to the opposing team.
Shorts' deflected interceptions aren't any better than a running back fumbling the ball. He'll never join the league's elite until he can consistently catch the ball when it hits him in the hands, and he'll always be on the outside looking in if he continues to turn the football over.
Blaine Gabbert ended the game against the Colts with a line of 17-of-32 passing for 179 yards, but those totals were padded in garbage time. It wasn't as "pretty" as those stats suggest.
Gabbert was intercepted three times, two of which deflected off the hands of receiver Cecil Shorts. He scrambled out of clean pockets multiple times and had trouble finding open receivers.
He looked overmatched.
The problem is that the Jaguars' other quarterback, Chad Henne, spent the last two weeks looking completely overmatched himself. Henne looked for nothing but short passes and had issues with accuracy. He spent too much time running for his life as well.
One thing Gabbert did that Henne didn't do over the past two weeks was look for receivers downfield when he had time. Though he rarely had the space or awareness to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield, he did look for receivers past the first-down markers on numerous occasions and made a couple plays further than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
It's pretty clear neither Gabbert nor Henne is the answer. Gus Bradley said he's sticking with Gabbert for the time being, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com, but it might be time to free Matt Scott before we reach the end of the 2013 season.
The scoreboard doesn't agree (yet again), but the Jaguars defense played an impressive game against Indianapolis.
There were numerous plays when they were almost able to intercept Andrew Luck, and the defensive front was able to get significant pressure on him. Luck spent much of the game moving around in the pocket trying to find space to get rid of the ball, and he was often off-target.
Luck threw at least four passes in the first half that could've been intercepted. Only one of them was actually caught by a Jaguars defender, but there were several other throws into coverage that should've resulted in turnovers.
The aspect of the defense Jacksonville needs to fix is its propensity to allow big plays. In the first half, Donald Brown broke free for a 50-yard run, and Reggie Wayne had nothing but open space ahead of him on a 31-yard catch-and-run.
If the Jaguars can continue to play tough against the run and fly around in the secondary like they did today, they should be competitive in the majority of their remaining games.
Blaine Gabbert spent much of the game running for his life. His pocket awareness is still suspect at best, but the Jaguars' offensive line gave him next to no time to throw and forced him to resort to quick throws in order to get rid of the ball before getting hit.
Indianapolis outside linebacker Robert Mathis was in the Jaguars' backfield all game. He racked up three sacks and four quarterback hits and generally caused havoc. The Colts ended the game with four sacks and nine quarterback hits.
In addition to the pass protection woes, the Jaguars' offensive line was unable to get any push in the running game. Despite switching from their new zone-blocking system back to a more familiar power-blocking scheme this week, Jacksonville was only able to pick up 40 yards on 18 carries for an average of 2.2 yards per carry.
The Jaguars entered Week 4 29th in the league in rushing with an average of 52 yards per game, and their average of 2.3 yards per carry was dead last. This week's performance won't help either of those rankings.
If Jacksonville's offensive line can't keep opposing defenders out of the backfield and can't get a push in the running game, the Jaguars have a chance to surpass some league records for offensive futility.
The Jaguars picked up Will Blackmon right before the 2013 season. The cornerback was waived by the Seahawks on August 27th after spending the preseason with Seattle, and Jacksonville pounced on the chance to upgrade the secondary.
The Jaguars started the season with rookie Dwayne Gratz and former Texans defensive back Alan Ball as their starting corners, but a high ankle sprain forced Blackmon into action and he hasn't disappointed.
Against the Colts, Blackmon was credited with four passes defensed and intercepted Andrew Luck once as well. He also made a fantastic diving interception on a pass by Luck that was negated by an offsides penalty by Jason Babin.
Even when Gratz returns from his injury, Jacksonville should leave Blackmon in the lineup. His play to this point suggests he deserves a starting cornerback spot. The Jaguars may have found themselves a hidden gem.
Jacksonville is 0-4, and Maurice Jones-Drew is a free agent after the season.
If the Jaguars let him walk at the end of the season, the Jaguars should be able to land a 2015 compensatory pick based on the contract he receives in free agency.
However, Jones-Drew might be worth more to the Jaguars if he's traded during this season than if he plays out the string this year and leaves in the offseason.
Trent Richardson was just traded to Indianapolis a week-and-a-half ago, but that's not a good value comparison for MJD; Richardson is just 22 years old and still has a couple years left on his rookie deal. Jones-Drew is on his second contract and will turn 29 next year.
That doesn't mean, however, that Jones-Drew doesn't have trade value.
There are plenty of teams that could use a do-everything running back even if he is starting to slow down. Arizona, St. Louis, Cleveland, Miami and others could make better use of MJD than Jacksonville for the 2013 season. If the Jaguars ask for a third-day pick, would that make a deal happen?
It'd be tough to make it work with Jones-Drew's high base salary, but Jacksonville should be shopping hard to make a deal happen. He has almost no value to the team this season since he will undoubtedly leave next year, but a trade would allow the Jaguars to add a 2014 pick and get a player with experience a full year earlier than if they let him walk and wait for a compensatory pick.
Look up in the sky! It's a speck! It's a dust bunny! It's...an airplane with a sign that says "Tebow-Jags, why not?" flying behind it. They sure got close to the stadium, eh?
We've reached the height of ridiculousness. "Why not?" is simply horrendous logic for a professional sports franchise to use when making personnel decisions.
"But," they say, "it couldn't get any worse."
Sure it could. The Jaguars had 205 total yards against the Colts...what if they'd ended with 100? Zero? Negative yardage?
The reason Tim Tebow is not on the Jaguars is because Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley don't feel he's a good enough football player to help the team. It doesn't matter where he went to high school. It doesn't matter where he went to college or how good he was there. He's not good enough...period.
If "Why not?" is reason enough to start somebody sitting at home watching the NFL on TV over your current options, sign me up. I'll happily start at quarterback for the Jaguars at a fraction of what they'd pay anyone else. Zero yards? I can make that happen. Hey, why not? It couldn't get any worse.
Tim Tebow would add nothing to the Jaguars but a handful of bandwagon Tebow fans with Broncos and Jets jerseys hanging in their closets. Trust in the front office. Let them get their quarterback and build a roster before deciding whether or not they're the group to lead the Jaguars to relevance. It's time for the absurdity to end.