Patriots

5 things to know about the lowly Jaguars, who have lost 7 straight games

The Patriots are heavily favored in Sunday's matchup.

Trevor Lawrence has had an up-and-down season for the Jaguars. Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

As the Patriots (9-6) welcome the lowly Jaguars (2-13) to Gillette Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m., the expectation is that New England will snap a two-game skid and either strengthen its playoff odds or officially clinch a berth.

Anything else would be a surprise and a major disappointment to a team in serious need of a win. With a Week 18 matchup with the Dolphins looming, the Patriots have to first get by a Jaguars team with an up-and-down rookie quarterback, head coaching drama, and little direction as a franchise.

Here’s a closer look at the Jaguars, who have looked decent at times but haven’t been able to string wins together this season.

They’re getting some much-needed help.

The Jaguars activated seven players from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday: defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Allen, tight end Luke Farrell, linebacker Myles Jack, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., defensive end/outside linebacker Jordan Smith, linebacker Damien Wilson, and running back Travis Etienne Jr.

Advertisement:

Etienne Jr. returns to injured reserve, but several of those players should play a key role Sunday. Shenault has 56 catches for 544 yards in 14 games and is the Jaguars’ second-leading receiver after Marvin Jones Jr. Wilson is first on the team with 99 tackles and Jack is second with 97, and Allen has a team-high 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. 

The Jaguars still have 20 players on the list as of Friday afternoon. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged that there’s some “uncertainty” about who will play but said it’s nothing they haven’t dealt with over the past several weeks.

“We’re ready to go on their full roster, whether it’s players coming back off that reserve or whether it’s practice squad players,” Belichick said. “They’ve signed some players this week that are new to the roster, so we have to be prepared for the whole group.”

They’ve had some bright spots but no consistency.

The Jaguars are toward the bottom in almost every statistical category, which makes sense given their record, but they have shown some promise in flashes.

They beat both the Dolphins, 23-20, and Bills, 9-6, which has indirectly helped the Patriots. They stayed within striking distance against the Cardinals, lost to the Bengals by three, and fell to the Colts by six. Of course, there are no moral victories in the NFL, but they have had some respectable results along the way.

Advertisement:

Their pass defense is in the middle of the pack (15th, 229.7 yards per game), they’ve shown they have an intriguing young nucleus, and rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has played interception-free football in six of his last eight games, among other positive developments. Lawrence did throw four picks against the Titans, and he’ll be in for a challenge against an elite Patriots pass defense.

Undrafted second-year player James Robinson, who has had a strong season, has positioned himself to be the running back of the future. However, he’s out for the year after tearing his Achilles.

Trevor Lawrence has had ups and downs in his rookie season.

Lawrence was the consensus No. 1 pick coming into the NFL Draft, and the Jaguars made the safe and logical choice in selecting him.

So far, though – certainly in part because of the pieces they each have around them – No. 15 pick Mac Jones has outplayed Lawrence. Lawrence has more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes (nine) and has completed 58.7 percent of his passes, while Jones has 18 TDs to 12 INTs and has a completion percentage of 67.2. 

The Jaguars are averaging just 14.5 points per game, which is last in the NFL, but Belichick managed to compliment Lawrence and Co. Friday morning.

Advertisement:

Belichick said the Jaguars’ offense played with a “good level of execution” and did well mixing in a variety of passes against the Jets. He said Lawrence continues to get better and will be a “solid NFL player, maybe great.”

“I think he’s gotten more comfortable as the season’s gone on,” Belichick said. “He’s gotten comfortable with the offense, and I’d say the offense has probably gotten comfortable with the things he does best.”

They made a splash hire, but it didn’t work out.

The Jaguars fired Urban Meyer in mid-December and named offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell interim head coach. 

Meyer was involved in several off-field sagas, including hiring a strength and conditioning coordinator who was accused of making racist remarks and bullying Black players. There are also reports of tension between Meyer and his staff, and dysfunction was reportedly the norm as they sputtered to a 2-11 record in his short tenure. He reportedly kicked kicker Josh Lambo in the leg and had a heated exchange with Jones Jr. as well.

A video of a woman who was not his wife dancing close to his lap also surfaced in October.

“I explained everything that happened and owned it,” Meyer said at the time. “Just stupid. Should not have myself in that kind of position.”

They’re expected to interview former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, and former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, to name a few. Bevell has expressed interest in the job but isn’t being publicly considered at the moment.

Advertisement:

“I’ve not had any conversations about that up to this point, you know, up to this point,” Bevell said earlier this week. “Right now, we’re mired in this COVID-19 stuff, you know, just trying to get a team out there. But as far as being interested, I would be, yes.”

They’re a franchise in search of some stability.

The Jaguars, who finished 1-15 in 2020, have struggled for the majority of the last decade. They had one winning season in 2017, but their record since 2012 is 41-118 (.258). 

With Lawrence in the mix at quarterback and some experienced playmakers around him, the expectation was that the Jaguars would take a step forward this season. 

While that’s technically true, as they’ve increased their win total by a game thus far, the growth hasn’t come nearly as abundantly as a fan base collectively longing for a pick-me-up hoped it might.

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com