Monday, October 8, 2012
Jaguars off to worst offensive start since 1995
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were supposed to be better.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was going to learn from last year's experiences and show progress after a full offseason with coaches and teammates. The offense was going to improve with the addition of receivers Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon. The line was going to be a strength, able to consistently open holes for Maurice Jones-Drew.
Instead, the Jaguars (1-4) are off to their worst offensive start since the team's inaugural season -- a woeful first five games that should have new owner Shad Khan questioning the direction of the franchise.
Jacksonville is averaging 241 yards a game this season, at the bottom of the league again.
Coach Mike Mularkey, in his first season in Jacksonville, remains optimistic things can turn around.
"I think the answers are in this building," Mularkey said Monday, a day after his team lost 41-3 to Chicago. "I think they are in that locker room. They are in that staff room back there. They're in the meeting rooms, on the practice fields, during our preparation. I think the answers are all here, and we've just got a find a way to get those to transfer over to games so we can play complete games and play like we're capable of playing."
Mularkey's last head-coaching stint also got off to a slow starts. He was in Buffalo in 2004, when the Bills started 1-4, won six consecutive games late in the season and finished 9-7.
"We didn't change. We just stuck to the plan," Mularkey said. "That was not easy, either. It's not an easy task. We stayed the course, like I said here. We did some good things and what was amazing about it is, when we started to do some good things, a lot of good things just kept coming."
A major difference, though, is that the Bills were competitive in most of those early season losses.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have lost three home games by a combined score of 95-20.
"It's embarrassing to lose like this," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "It's tough to swallow because it's not like we're not working hard or not giving effort."
The Jaguars have a bye this week, offering players a chance to get away and forget about all that has gone wrong through five weeks. The coaches, meanwhile, will spend the time evaluating schemes, plays and tendencies while trying to pinpoint problems and hone in on things that have worked.
One list will be considerably longer than the other.
The Jaguars have failed to get much going on offense. Mularkey points to self-induced mistakes like penalties, dropped passes, sacks and errant throws. But good teams tend to overcome those more often than not.
For Jacksonville, the slightest problems have led to major setbacks.
Against the Bears, everything unraveled after Charles Tillman intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown and a 13-3 lead in the third quarter.
The defense faltered, and the offense sputtered even more than usual.
The Jaguars gave up consecutive touchdown drives, and then Gabbert had another interception returned for a score. Mularkey considered turning to backup quarterback Chad Henne, but opted to give Gabbert much-needed experience in the no-huddle offense. He also reiterated that he has no plans to bench Gabbert, who has completed 55 percent of his passes for 796 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has been sacked 15 times.
Jacksonville wrote off Gabbert's rookie season by saying he had no offseason, a lame-duck coaching staff and not enough talent around him. Now, after three dismal home games and several key mistakes, Mularkey insists Gabbert will improve.
"Those are the lumps I am talking about that we have to take sometimes," Mularkey said. "Not that we want them, but things we have to learn from. Blaine is still a young player. I think each game is going to make him a better player, and it has. We've got to help him. I'm not going to say he's where we want him. I don't think he will say that. He still has things he's got to do better."
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