Jaguars closer to No. 1 pick in draft

By John Reid
The Florida Times-Union/TNS

Only two games remain, and it can't come soon enough for the Jaguars' horrendous season to end.

The Jaguars were manhandled Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens in a 40-14 loss that extended their losing streak to 13th consecutive games.

Fortunately, the Jaguars' fan base still had something to celebrate about three hours or so after their team's pitiful performance in Baltimore. Mayor Lenny Curry took to Twitter Sunday, writing that the New York Jets delivered an early Christmas present to Jacksonville.

Indeed, the Jaguars are now in the driver's seat to land Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft because of the Jets upset the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 Sunday to notch their first win of the season.

Although the Jaguars and Jets now have identical 1-13 records, the Jaguars own the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker for the No. 1 overall pick.

Now all they need to do is lose the final two games against Chicago Bears this upcoming Sunday at TIAA Bank Field and the Indianapolis Colts in the season finale.

Considering the circumstances, maybe it is time for Coach Doug Marrone to give James Robinson a well-deserved break for his tremendous season.

Or perhaps, Marrone might want to see if offensive guard A.J. Cann can excel at fullback or see how well wide receiver DJ Chark can perform at safety for the first time.

It is probably unlikely Marrone would put players in new positions to avoid winning either one of their final two games so they can remain ahead of the Jets in the Lawrence sweepstakes. But heck, the season is lost anyway.

This Jaguars team doesn't need to blow a prime opportunity to start the building blocks of their rebuilding around their first drafted franchise-caliber quarterback.

'''No one has advised me anything different than to go out there and win,'' Marrone said Monday. ''I understand, I guess from a standpoint of I was young growing up you know and I had a favorite team and was excited to see where they were going to pick.''

Lawrence is a transcendent talent, but he is not a savior. It's going to take time to fix this mess. All of it was on display again at M&T Bank Stadium, the Jaguars got physically whipped up front and defensively they were repeatedly out of position to make plays.

After possibly drafting Lawrence next spring, the Jaguars' new general manager's next order of business should be bringing in better talent on the offensive line.

This offseason, Marrone and former general manager Dave Caldwell both said they liked the offensive line's existing talent. They disregarded that it was a unit that committed 48 penalties for 371 yards in 2019 that led to becoming the second-most penalized team in the NFL with 132 penalties for 1,169 yards.

The Ravens exposed the Jaguars offensive line for what it is - not good enough. The Jaguars offensive line gave up five sacks and couldn't provide running lanes for tailback Robinson, who finished with 35 yards rushing, his second-lowest total this season.

In his first start since Oct.25, quarterback Gardner Minshew passed for  226 yards and two touchdowns for a 120.8 passer rating. Minshew, however, had only 58 yards passing in the first half when the Ravens put the game out of reach with a 26-0 lead.

''I think that upfront they (Ravens) were big, physical - they played better than we did,'' Marrone said. ''I mean, we were getting one or two yards in the play-action game, we weren’t able to make plays. Either not pulling the trigger, or not being in good position, or pressure coming - it gets to you. It’s a lot of things. When you don’t play that well, Mike, it’s not one thing, it’s everything.''

The Jaguars don't have enough talent to compete against playoff-contending teams like the Ravens or Steelers. In their past two games against the Titans and Ravens, the Jaguars have been outscored 71-24.

And it doesn't matter who is taking snaps behind center if both tackles can't hold their blocks long enough before he attempts a throw. Marrone is not likely to keep his job after this season and one of the problems that prevented his success was sticking too long with defensive coordinator Todd Wash.

For three seasons, Wash's defensive units have not shown any signs of progress.

Early in the second quarter Sunday, on a red zone play, Wash had his linebackers stacked on the right side, thinking that with running back J.K. Dobbins going in motion, the play would go that direction.

However, Dobbins lined up and then went back in motion on the left side, with quarterback Lamar Jackson handing the ball off to him for a 2-yard touchdown. Safety Andrew Wingard playing in the box, misread the play, going too wide that left a wide-open lane and linebacker Myles Jack couldn't fill in time,

Those are the chess match moves that offensive coordinators throughout this season have been able to expose from Wash's defensive scheme. Regardless, if the Jaguars lose their final two games, at least they will still end up with the prize of landing the No. 1 overall pick. 

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) looks to pass in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. Clemson won, 34-10.