The Jacksonville Jaguars are at a point where the head coach praises things like “effort” and “want-to” in a loss. That’s not an envious state for any professional franchise.
But that’s life for the Jaguars, consistently among the worst teams in recent years. They haven’t been to the playoffs, or had a winning season for that matter, since 2007. It’s something second-year coach Gus Bradley is trying to change, and the process has been slow so far.
Bradley made his NFL coaching debut last season and began with his team losing its first eight games before getting a win and finishing 4-12. This year has been just as rough, with the Jaguars off to a 1-8 start, although they are at least showing signs of hope for the future.
Blake Bortles is a young, promising quarterback, and Denard Robinson is making a nice transition at running back.
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The Jaguars have always been known for dependable running backs, from Fred Taylor to Maurice Jones-Drew to Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback.
Robinson has been right around the 100-yard rushing mark the past three games and is averaging almost 6 yards per carry in that span.
“He’s been running really well, and the offensive line has been blocking really well,” Bortles said. “He’s been hot, and we’ve been riding him. He’s been able to produce and run confidently. It’s been really good for our offense to run the ball like that.”
But the Jaguars remain an inexperienced team learning how to win in the NFL. They were within three points midway through the fourth quarter last week at Cincinnati before fading in the final minutes, and had two one-possession losses earlier this season.
That gives them confidence going forward that they are a team on the rise, not the decline.
“Oh, yeah,” Robinson said. “When you watch the film, you see it. If you know football, you know how close it is. We’ve just got to finish — finish games, finish drives.”
• The Jaguars have yet to score more than 24 points this season, so it’s no surprise they are the lowest-scoring team in the NFL, averaging 15.7 points per game.
• Jacksonville has the fifth-worst run defense in the AFC, and matched its season-high by allowing 191 rushing yards to the Bengals. Look for the Cowboys, the NFL’s top rushing team, to try to take advantage of that Sunday.
• The Jaguars placed cornerback Will Blackmon (broken finger) on season-ending injured reserve and signed rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt off the Bengals’ practice squad to their 53-man roster.
“You’ve got to figure out ways to win. That’s definitely the next thing to get over that hump. As an offense, defense, special teams, every category we could’ve done better and we still had a chance at the end. So we’ve got to go in there, watch film and get ready for Dallas and try to improve on what we did good this week.”
— WR Cecil Shorts III
By the numbers
32-73 Jacksonville’s record since 2007, its last playoff year