JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The quarterback and offensive coordinator changes hasn’t exactly jump-started the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ offense.
They have actually made it worse.
The Jaguars (4-9) have scored just one offensive touchdown in the two weeks since coach Doug Marrone benched Blake Bortles for Cody Kessler, fired Nathaniel Hackett and gave quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich playcalling duties. They’ve also put up just 466 combined yards and made only four trips into the red zone in the two games.
“We’re all responsible for that,” Milanovich said. “It’s my job to get these guys in position to make plays, and when they are in position to make plays, they have to execute them. It’s been a little bit of all that. We’ve got to do our jobs, each and every one of us — coaches, players — and when we do that a little better, hopefully we’ll see the results.”
Kessler has been efficient in his two starts, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 390 yards and one touchdown. He has been sacked seven times, though, and his only scoring pass — a 7-yarder to Dede Westbrook — came late in the third quarter of last Thursday’s loss to Tennessee. The Jaguars trailed 30-2 at the time, and the Titans were playing soft coverages.
All Kessler and the offense could manage the previous game was a pair of field goals, but that proved to be enough because the defense put together one of the best performances in franchise history to shut out Indianapolis and quarterback Andrew Luck.
The offense has been hurt by drops (two) and penalties (eight) and has managed just four explosive plays (rushes 15 yards or longer and passes 20 yards or longer) in the two games. The Jaguars also have struggled on first and second downs the past two weeks: They average 3.7 yards on first down (31st) and 4.7 yards on second down (24th).
All those things are keeping the offense from finding any consistency, but Marrone said it’s the lack of explosive plays that are the main reason the Jaguars are having trouble scoring.
“You look at all scoring drives and there are one or two big plays in all of them,” he said. “You have the ball on the minus-25-yard line, and you see a team go down the field. Very rarely do you see 4 yards, 3 yards, 4 yards, 3 yards all the way down the field. What you are going to see is one or two plays, whether it is the run game or the pass game of plus-18, plus-20. Something to that effect.
“I think if we can try to create an explosive play, which means 11 guys have to do their job, then you have better opportunities of scoring.”
That means Kessler has to have more success downfield. He has completed just 2 of 8 pass attempts of 20 or more yards in the past two games, per ESPN Stats & Information. He went 0-for-2 against Indianapolis and 2-for-6 against Tennessee.
“I thought he looked a lot more comfortable in his second start,” Milanovich said. “Made some throws. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do. But that comes with time a little bit and developing a relationship with a quarterback — what he likes, what he’s good at. That takes time, but we’re coming.”
But the points aren’t, and that has to change starting on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) against Washington (6-7) at TIAA Bank Field, Kessler said.
“We have to put up more points,” he said. “That starts with me making the right reads and getting the right plays and helping out in protection and getting to the right guys. That’s something I’ll work on improving this week, and I think continuing with me, especially, getting in a rhythm with those guys and getting comfortable with the offense.
“Last week, I think we had some good flashes and had some good things happen, but we just have to put points on the board.”