The Detroit Lions kick off the “easy” part of their schedule this week as they head down south to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was a tumultuous offseason for the Jaguars, and their 1-4 start to the season comes as no surprise given the amount of talent they have lost over the past two years.
That being said, this is an opponent that the Lions may not match up particularly well with. The Jaguars have a rookie running back who is just outside the NFL top 10 leading rushers. They have a rookie receiver who leads the team in yards. And they have a second-year quarterback who is beginning to look more and more comfortable as a starter.
We know how bad the Lions defense has been, so could the Jaguars really give them trouble this week? Let’s take a closer look at Detroit’s Week 6 opponent.
6-10 record (4th in AFC South)
26th in points scored, 21st in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 28th (24th on offense, 29th on defense)
Though their final record doesn’t suggest it, 2019 was an abject failure for the Jaguars. On defense, they continued to regress from the 2017 team that was so impressive on that side of the ball. On offense, the Nick Foles contract turned into a horrible mistake just a week into the season, when he suffered an injury that landed him on IR. He would return to the lineup later, only to be benched in favor of sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew.
Though they managed to win six games, it was clear this franchise was kicking off a full rebuild.
Key free agent additions: LB Joe Schobert, TE Tyler Eifert, DT Al Woods
Key losses: QB Nick Foles (trade), CB A.J. Bouye (trade), DE Calais Campbell (trade), DT Marcell Dareus, DE Yannick Ngakoue (trade)
2020 NFL draft picks:
Round 1: CB CJ Henderson
Round 1: LB K’Lavon Chaisson
Round 2: WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
Round 3: DT DaVon Hamilton
Round 4: OT Ben Bartch
Round 4: CB Josiah Scott
Round 4: LB Shaquille Quarterman
Round 5: S Daniel Thomas
Round 5: WR Collin Johnson
Round 6: QB Jake Luton
Round 6: TE Tyler Davis
Round 7: CB Chris Claybrooks
The Jaguars’ offseason strategy was clear: Clean house. Although some of it was made necessary by discontented players like Yannick Ngakoue or salary cap crunches like Calais Campbell, Jacksonville embraced a look toward the future. Unfortunately, that meant turning the page on all of the talent that nearly got them to the Super Bowl three years ago.
Instead, the Jaguars now have an extremely young group of players that haven’t quite reached their peaks yet. They spent two first-round picks and a third on defense to join last year’s top-10 pick Josh Allen. They’re starting to rebuild their offensive weapons, too, adding wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. in the second round to complement last year’s breakout star DJ Chark Jr.
The vision is clear, but it’s still going to take some time.
2020 season thus far (1-2)
- 26th in points scored, 24th in points allowed
- 26th in DVOA: 9th on offense, 32nd on defense, 28th on special teams
The Jaguars aren’t just 1-4, but they’re 1-4 with one of the easiest schedules to date. They handed the Dolphins, Bengals and Texans each their first wins of the season, and it wasn’t particularly close in the cases of Miami and Houston.
Defensively, this team is understandably a mess. They basically got rid of everybody and replaced them with someone young and inexperienced. As a result, they’re allowing the second-highest passer rating in the league (111.8), the highest yards per pass attempt (8.8), and they have the fewest sacks (5).
- The offense is a little harder to figure out. Gardner Minshew has a solid passer rating of 99.4 and is averaging a perfectly fine 7.3 yards per attempt. As a team, they’re rushing for 4.6 yards per run. Yet, for some reason, they’re scoring just 21.8 points per game.
A deeper look into the stats reveals their issues on offense: they barely ever have the ball. They currently rank 25th in average time of possession. That really appears to be their major problem on offense, because their per-drive rate stats are all actually very good:
- 40.7 yards per offense drive (8th in NFL)
- 2.5 points per drive (13th)
- 5.3% three-and-out percentage (2nd lowest)
- 5.64 points per red zone trip (6th)
So, this offense is actually pretty good but the defense is just absolutely killing them. Oh, they also have big issues at kicker, where they’ve now gone through four different kickers in five weeks. Combined, they are 7-of-10 on field goals and 10-of-12 on extra points.
- IR: CB D.J. Hayden, K Josh Lambo, S Andrew Wingard
- Current injuries: CB CJ Henderson, EDGE Josh Allen, LB Myles Jack, WR DJ Chark, C Brandon Linder
The Jaguars are hurting at some key positions right now. Henderson, Allen and Jack all missed Week 5’s game against the Texans. Among those, Allen seems like the least likely to play, as he did not practice at all last week. Henderson and Jack were limited, but couldn’t get healthy enough to play against the Texans.
The other significant injury here is receiver DJ Chark, who left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and did not return. At the moment, it’s unclear how severe the injury is.
Biggest strength: Interior offensive line
A big reason undrafted rookie running back James Robinson has played so well through five games is the work being done by the big men up front. Left guard Andrew Norwell (74.8), center Brandon Linder (76.8), right guard A.J. Cann (71.8) all rank in the top 13 at their positions by PFF grade.
Something to keep an eye on, however, is that Linder briefly left Sunday’s game to be evaluated for a concussion. He was cleared and returned to the game, but symptoms are often delayed.
Biggest weakness: Pass defense
Here are the statlines of the five quarterbacks who have faced the Jaguars thus far.
- Week 1 - Philip Rivers: 36-of-46, 363 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 88.7 passer rating
- Week 2 - Ryan Tannehill: 18-of-24, 239 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 145.7 passer rating
- Week 3 - Ryan Fitzpatrick: 18-of-20, 160 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 133.3 passer rating
- Week 4 - Joe Burrow: 25-of-36, 300 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 92.4 passer rating
- Week 5 - Deshaun Watson: 25-of-35, 359 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 109.1 passer rating
Just about every quarterback has completed 70 percent or more of their passes against the Jaguars, and that’s not exactly a list of NFL quarterbacks playing great football right now.
With the injuries to cornerbacks Henderson and Hayden along with Wingard at safety, the issues will only continue.
Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 3.5