JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — All that preseason hype surrounding Jacksonville’s defense has come to a hasty halt.
“It’s definitely uncharacteristic of us to get beat like that,” safety Tashaun Gipson said Monday. “But at the end of the day, that’s the only answer I can give you because that’s what I believe in. Truthfully, deep down inside, I believe that we have the guys in here to turn it around.
“Nobody’s panicking right now. We’re frustrated. We’re (ticked) off. Absolutely, but nobody’s panicking right now and that’s the thing. I don’t know of any type of answer that people are looking for, know there’s not a panic button. At least there’s not a panic button in my mindset, and I don’t see the guys in here” panicking.
Jacksonville hosts Houston (3-3) on Sunday, with the winner getting at least a share of the AFC South lead as the season nears the halfway point.
After the last two weeks, no one knows what to expect from Jacksonville.
Injuries have ravaged the offense, with inconsistent quarterback Blake Bortles playing behind a third-string left tackle and without his top receiver, No. 1 tight end and bruising running back Leonard Fournette. Not coincidentally, the Jags have struggled to get anything going on that side of the ball.
The bigger surprise has been the play of the defense, which is mostly healthy outside of nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe) missing the last four games.
Jacksonville is getting little steady pressure on opposing quarterbacks, creating few turnovers and giving up way too many rushing yards. Not only is the unit failing to carry the beleaguered offense, it’s not even holding its own.
“We’re looking at a lot of different things because obviously it’s not good enough,” Marrone said. “A lot of times people will want to (say), ‘Is it this person?’ If it was just as simple as this or this or this, you know, it would be easy. We would make those decisions and move on. But when you’re playing poorly as a team or coaching poorly, you have to take a good look at yourself.”
Defenders pointed to miscommunication as the main culprit in a 40-7 loss to the Cowboys , guys unsure who’s doing what after the snap. It was an uneasy feeling for a unit that returned 12 of its top 14 players from last year’s team that finished second in the league in points, yards, sacks and interceptions.
“Is it a concern? Yes,” Marrone said. “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Hey, everything’s fine. We’ll be OK.’ We’re not. But in saying that, the only way you go ahead and get through this stuff is you’ve got to work harder, you’ve got to put more in, you’ve got to make the plays, you’ve got to be able to perform.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know we’re not a well-coached team right now, and that starts with the coaches; that starts with me first. I’m accountable to all of it.”
Marrone insisted there would be no knee-jerk reactions.
After all, the team was 3-3 after six weeks in 2017 before winning of seven of eight to take control in the division.
But given the sky-high expectations, especially for a defense that lined up with Pro Bowl players at every level, this start doesn’t feel the same.
“When you look back and you go, ‘Hey, we were 3-3 last year.’ But it was a different type of 3-3. It’s not the same as where we are right now. And right now we need to, like I said before, pull up those bootstraps.”