JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars have nowhere to run. Inside, outside, regardless of down and distance, the Jaguars are getting stuffed on just about every carry.
It’s a significant problem that plagued coach Gus Bradley’s team last year and failed to get fixed in the offseason.
Now, after three feeble games on the ground, the Jaguars (0-3) are having conversations about whether to “get big to run” or try to spread defenses out in hopes of creating some extra space.
Either way, Jacksonville needs to improve its rushing attack. Quarterback Blake Bortles’ success might even depend on it.
“I do think running the ball would help him,” Bradley said Monday, a day after a 19-17 loss to Baltimore. “Obviously, it would take some pressure off of him. I think sometimes when you can run the ball, it can open up some of those play-action passes.
Opponents “are not honoring the run very much. Then it is tough to run play-action when they are not honoring the run. A lot of times your explosive passes come off of play-action. I think they go hand-in-hand. I think we can take more of a burden off of him by finding a way to run the ball.”
Nothing has worked so far for Jacksonville, which travels to London this week to face AFC South rival Indianapolis (1-2) at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
T.J. Yeldon has 84 yards on 34 attempts, averaging 2.5 yards a carry. That’s actually decent compared to Chris Ivory, who missed the first two games of the season because of a “general medical issue” that required a hospital stay. Ivory ran 12 times for 14 yards against the Ravens, averaging 1.2 yards a touch.
Jacksonville ranks 31st in the league — only Minnesota is worse — in rushing. Take away Bortles’ scrambles and the Jags are averaging 2.4 yards a carry. The issue really became obvious during two late drives against the Ravens, with Jacksonville leading 17-16 and trying to run down the clock. Ivory got the ball three times on first and second downs and didn’t net a yard.
“We have to be able to be a team that can run it when they know we’re going to run it,” Bradley said. “If you look at the penetration, (it) hurt us. You saw more purple jerseys on our side of the ball than we anticipated. Sometimes that happens with zone schemes. It was just happening too frequently.”
Although Bradley won’t use it as any excuse, his line was shuffled significantly Sunday. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (concussion) and center Brandon Linder (knee) missed the game, forcing center Tyler Shatley and guard Chris Reed to make their first career starts. Bortles was sacked four times, and Jacksonville ran 21 times for 48 yards.
Not being able to get much going on the ground, it was up to Bortles to make plays. And he came up short — again.
Bortles completed 24 of 38 passes for 194 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s clearly pressing and trying to do too much, evidenced by his seven turnovers and nine sacks in three games.
“Any time you get the run game going, it kind of opens up everything,” Bortles said. “But I don’t think one way or the other it bothers me. I get excited every time he calls a pass play. I think it’s something we have to continue to work on and continue to do. That’s three games in row now that we’ve started pretty slow, pretty poorly. If I knew what we were doing wrong, we wouldn’t be doing it.”