In The Know is an ongoing series with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, J.P. Shadrick of Jaguars Radio Network and Jaguars.com gives insight on the Texans upcoming opponent. *
A little over a week ago, quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett was named offensive coordinator. Give us a sense of what went into that decision and the timing behind it.
Shadrick: Yeah, that tells you a little bit about the state of the Jaguars right now. That happened after back-to-back performances by the offense after a 2-3 record. The Jags kind of climbed out of those three holes, didn't perform well in the game against the Oakland Raiders this year, and then just laid an egg on Thursday Night Football against the Tennessee Titans. They did not perform well at all, shut out 27-0 in halftime and all sides of the ball. The offense was really, really a disappointment of those two weeks. I guess Bradley thought about it on Friday and finally made the decision on Saturday to send Greg Olsen away bring up Hackett from the quarterback coach position, and maybe just to shake up.
I don't know how much you could actually put in new in that short of a time in an offense. It is the offense, it's what they installed throughout the year. You're not going to change a lot. Maybe the certain timing of when you call plays or formations can change, and that showed against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jags ran the ball the best they've run in years, actually. 205 yards on the ground – the first 200-yard game for the Jags since 2010. You know, Blake Bortles has looked a little better, just a little cleaner over all, but the four turnovers hurt in that ball game.
So that's an execution and a player issue, but the offense looked just a little better – wasn't Hackett, wasn't the players executing. It was a little of both. I think that's the shakeup they needed.
Blake Bortles is now in his third season. How much of what he does changes with this new offensive coordinator taking over and what are expectations for Bortles like in Jacksonville right now? Shadrick:**
Well, expectations for him are sky high right now but unfortunately, he hasn't really met those expectations this year. After putting together an all-time great season in Jaguars history a year ago, he hasn't come close to that. He's been inconsistent, the fundamentals and mechanics of throwing just haven't been there. He had his personal quarterback coach in last week. That tells you where things are going. So Adam Dedeaux came in. For a couple days, they worked by themselves on the practice field to try to get some footwork right again, and that's very rare in the middle of the season.
He's not going to be a pinpoint type of guy, but this is a big season for this organization and this is his third season in the NFL. It's a big season to figure out if you want to give him a fifth-year option as a first-round pick. That comes up before next season, so he's got to play better football. He's been throwing it to the other team a lot, and just being inconsistent, hitting guys in the feet and just not on target and just not right. The way to get passed that is to play through it, fight through that, having the run game there – if it's there still next week against Houston – that'll help it. Expectations are sky high, but he has not come close to reaching those sky high expectations this year.
Before Sunday's game, the Jaguars ran the ball less than any other team in the NFL and then had that 200-yard performance on Sunday against the Chiefs, most of which was Chris Ivory. Do you think Chris Ivory is making a push for that starting role over T.J. Yeldon after his game last week? Shadrick:
I think, that was the idea at the start of the season, that they were really going to rotate that. It was even going to be maybe one week T.J. starts and then Ivory starts the next week. Well, Ivory was hurt the first couple of weeks and had a surgical procedure, and was not available. So, T.J. Yeldon was the guy, has been the guy, but they just haven't found any consistency from the offensive line in terms of blocking for that. Ivory has started to find his way now and then run game finally, maybe… we'll see.
It's a one-week thing. I don't know if they're going to put Ivory in as a starter now and leave Yeldon. I don't think they have a true guy. Now, let me run for 107 yards over defensive backs like he did the other week, it's hard to keep that guy out of the "starting lineup," but they rotate anyway. I don't think who the first guy on the field matters too much. It's who's the most effective on the field and, at least last week, finally it was Chris Ivory.
T.J. had a pretty good game too in the short time he was in there, but they hadn't run the ball much because they are down by so much. I mean, you're down 27-0 in Tennessee, the running game goes out the window. You're trying to climb back into the ball game and, unfortunately, that's been part of the issue early in the season.
The defense really kept the Jags in the game last week. They did a great job of stopping the run, held the Chiefs to only 62 yards on the ground. What was the difference for them?Shadrick:**
The defense has actually had a pretty good season over all. There was a couple, the weird game in Tennessee where things weren't going right. That was all sides of the ball, but early in the season. The Packers game, the Jags defense got a stop play to get the ball back to the offense to have a chance to win. The Raiders game, similar setup.
The Bears game was a fantastic game for this defense. There were a few instances where the defense has made plays late in the game to give the Jaguars a chance to win. The offense just hasn't been able to do that.
They did it again last week. Remember those four turnovers for the Jags offense and one on special teams, three on offense? Well, they set up short fields for the Kansas City Chiefs. There were five scoring drives: they had a touchdown and four field goals. The average starting field position on those drives was Jacksonville's 32-yard line. So, they are set up, backed up in their own end, quick, sudden-change situation and the defense gets them off the field for a field goal.
It could have been 35-7 at one point. Instead, it's 19-7. The Jags are kind of rounding the game and have a chance to win. So, the yardage wasn't there because the short field but even when they had regular starting field position, the Jags defense did a very good job in stopping the run and Nick Foles didn't have the best day, backing up Alex Smith. All that combined, solid day for the defense and we'll see coming up, is that a real thing? It seems to be for the most part of the season what this defense is made of.
You mentioned the turnovers. It's something the Texans have struggled with as well. The Jags are minus-12 in turnover margin, five takeaways and 17 giveaways. Do you think that's just really been the difference for Jacksonville being 2-6? Shadrick:**
Yeah, thanks for the reminder! They are last in the league for turnover margins, and that's not winning football. This defense has to do a better job at that. That is one thing this defense has not done. It's take the ball away. I believe they have four turnovers takeaways, one on special teams this year on a recovery. That's got to improve.
They dropped one last week in Kansas City. It was a wide open interception and the two guys ran into each other, couldn't bring it in. They got to do a better job at that. That's certainly got to be a focus going forward. It always is on offense, and I guess that's why Bradley was so upset with the game – a number of reasons – but that was a big reason why.
Protect the ball is rule number one around here, and they haven't done that a lot. That's when it gets really frustrating. When that's the one thing that made you lose the game and that's your number one priority every week. That's a problem.
What are some of the storylines you are working on this week heading into Sunday's game?Shadrick:
We'll see if Blake Bortles can carry a little momentum. He looked better, you know. He had the personal coach in here, the change in coordinator. Can the offense continue to grow a little bit? That would be nice to see. Can they run the football? Can the Jaguars continue what they did last week against a very good Texans defense? That's something to see, and how does the Jaguars defense defend Hopkins on the outside? There's Jalen Ramsey to follow Hopkins. That's going to be a fantastic matchup if it happens. Can they rattle Brock Osweiler? We'll see. All that can kind of be combined. It's going to be a great week, and I'm looking forward to this game. It's a big game for this Jaguars team and division, and just to get back on track over all.
Check out the best photos from Wednesday's practice as the Texans got back to work after the bye week.