Jaguars/Colts Preview: Race to Maturity Needs to be Fast
by Sam Kouvaris
Posted September 20, 2014
No doubt it was a tough week for Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley. After being overwhelmed in Washington, Bradley's charge was to "fix it" and fix it fast. After giving up 10 sacks, the offensive line was the first place to look. So after looking at video of the game, Bradley announced some changes on the line among the starters and cut Cameron Bradfield, the player who started at right tackle just two days prior.
"It's hard," Bradley said this week of making those changes. "Guys come in here, work hard, do what you ask and then things change and you have to do something so yeah, it's hard. But everybody understands it's the NFL and we'll move forward." It is a harsh reality sometimes that the league is built on performance and if that disappears, so does a playe'rs spot on the team. Bradfield had been a good swing guy for the Jaguars, playing in several spots. But he was obviously beaten on some of those 10 sacks and based on the "accountability" mantra espoused by Bradley; somebody had to be held accountable.
That leaves Sam Young at right tackle, Brandon Linder at right guard, Luke Bowanko at center, Zane Beadles at left guard and Luke Joeckel at left tackle. They have differing amounts of experience but pretty much any way you cut it, the Jaguars are starting four rookies up front.
So where does that put the team in Bradley's goal of a "Race to Maturity? Agreed, these players have talent and as the head coach has said a couple of times this week, the "look the part." And they do. At about 6'5" and 320 at each position, when they stand there, they look the part. But playing the part is a different story. Perhaps if you're going to have growing pains, why not have them all together. Bradley agreed that there's a way to look at these guys progressing as a positive.
"They all want to get there fast, and maybe doing it together will create some camaraderie," the head coach noted when asked if they could all get to maturity together.
Getting their offensive line to play solid and consistent football is a priority for the Jaguars because for what they want to do on offense, without and offensive line doing their job, they can't get anything done.
Throw the inexperience at wide receiver in the mix and you don't have much of a chance for production on offense. With Cecil Shorts nursing a hamstring, the team has relied on mostly rookies and second year Mike Brown as the receiving corps. Shorts might return this week and Alan Hurns is also listed as probable. Marquis Lee has already been declared out. So again, not much experience at wide receiver could hurt the passing game performance. Subtract Marcedes Lewis from the equation because of the high ankle sprain, and the who offense remains in question.
So for all of the problems they've had in the last six quarters, quarterback Chad Henne has performed as well, if not better than expected. Although he took responsibility for a couple of sacks last week, the pressure Henne has been under has been daunting. Nonetheless, he's stood in there and for the most part, thrown the ball to the open receiver. He's had numerous drops, and wrong routes run by receivers but he hasn't complained, despite the pounding.
Calls to put Blake Bortles in the game are premature, considering the state of disarray the rest of the offense is currently in. Getting something consistent and something you can lean on will allow the coaches to put Bortles in the game to start the process toward what they hope is consistent winning.
"When it's time to put Blake in the game, you'll know it," I said to Bradley during the taping of his show.
"That's right," he said, confident that he'll recognize the right situation.