JACKSONVILLE – This is a critical time.
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue knows it, and said as much early Monday afternoon in the wake of the Jaguars’ second consecutive one-sided road loss to start the 2018 season’s second quarter.
“This is the most adversity we’ve faced, but adversity builds character,” Ngakoue said.
Such was the tone in the Jaguars’ locker room a day after a 40-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“The guys will truly bounce back and get this thing headed in the right direction,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. “We’ve got mature guys who know how to handle adversity, and adversity is definitely in this locker room right now.”
The Jaguars, after winning their first two games and three of their first four, have reversed that with two consecutive losses and three losses in four games. Their last two losses came in similar fashion, falling behind 20-0 at halftime in a 30-14 Week 5 loss at Kansas City and trailing 24-0 at halftime in Sunday’s loss.
“We’ve just got to regroup from the mistakes we made yesterday,” said Ngakoue, whose two third-quarter sacks Sunday gave him four for the season. “We’ve got to fix those things and go on from there. … We’ve got the guys to do it in all three phases. We just have to find that juice again, find that spark again.”
The Jaguars struggled in multiple areas Sunday, managing 204 yards and 10 first downs offensively. Quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 149 yards and a second-half touchdown with an interception, and a Jaguars running game playing a fourth game in five weeks without running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries.
After leading the NFL in rushing last season with 141.2 yards per game, the Jaguars were ranked 17th after Sunday’s games with an average of 103.3 yards per game.
The Jaguars, who entered Sunday ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense, allowed the Cowboys to score on their first four possessions. The Cowboys entered the game averaging 16.6 points a game; they scored their 17th point Sunday less than six minutes into the second quarter.
“It’s definitely uncharacteristic for us to get beat like that,” Gipson said. “I believe we have the guys in here to turn it around. Nobody’s panicking right now. Are we frustrated? Are we pissed off? Absolutely, but nobody’s panicking right now. There’s not a panic button.”
Gipson reiterated what Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone and several players said immediately after the game – that communication was at the core of the defensive issues Sunday.
“That was the story, honestly,” Gipson said. “I’ve never seen nothing like it, truthfully, since I’ve been here. You’re going back to 2016 when we didn’t even have this many playmakers … so many miscommunications. Every guy on this defense was involved in a big-play miscommunication Sunday. That’s very uncharacteristic. It’s the NFL. Guys are going to make a bust or two, but every time we had a bust they were exploiting it.
“For the score to be 40-7 to the Dallas Cowboys and that offense? You can’t do it and say you’re the best defense.”
*The Jaguars maintained a share of first place in the AFC South despite the loss. The Tennessee Titans (3-3) lost to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, and the Houston Texans (3-3) – who visit TIAA Bank Field Sunday – beat the Buffalo Bills. “Everybody in the division is 3-3 besides the [1-5 Indianapolis] Colts,” Gipson said. “Anything can happen. We’ve got time. We’ve still got 10 games left. Guys understand how the season’s going, but we don’t want it to get out of control.” …
*Left tackle Ereck Flowers on Monday called signing with the Jaguars “a fresh start.” Flowers, the No. 9 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, was released by the Giants last Tuesday. He had started 48 of 51 games in three-plus NFL seasons. Josh Walker on Sunday started for the Jaguars, becoming the third player to start at the position this season. The Jaguars placed left tackle Cam Robinson on injured reserve following a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in a Week 2 victory over New England. Robinson’s backup, Josh Wells, sustained a groin injury at Kansas City and was placed on injured reserve last Friday. Flowers played for Tom Coughlin when the Jaguars’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations was the Giants’ head coach in 2015. Jaguars offensive line coach Pat Flaherty served in that position with the Giants in Flowers’ rookie2015 rookie season. “Hundred percent,” Flowers said when asked if familiarity would help the transition. “Anytime you’re with anybody you’ve played with before it’s a little more comfortable. They’re saying come in and work hard. Nothing’s promised.”