JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's time for another Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag. Each Saturday morning, I answer a representative question, hitting a topic that drew the most fan interest. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco. Please use the hashtag #jagsmail.
We're in the playoffs as it stands now, but can this team really get anything done in January with an absolutely demolished WR group? #jagsmail— JaxCat 🐆🏈 (@JagsHypeTrain) November 17, 2017
@ESPNdirocco: You are correct. If the season were to end today, the Jaguars would be in the playoffs. However, there are seven more games to play and that's a lot of football. I'm not trying to damper your enthusiasm, but this team is dealing with several issues -- including the one you mentioned -- that it will need to handle in order to get to January.
The biggest problem is a battered offensive line. Right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee) could barely run last week, didn't practice at all this week and likely won't play on Sunday. Left guard Patrick Omameh, who has a quad injury, was pulled from last week's game and didn't practice all week. I'm not expecting him to play on Sunday, either.
Also, left tackle Cam Robinson has been dealing with a sprained ankle for weeks and clearly was impacted by the injury last Sunday.
Parnell has arguably been the Jaguars' best lineman all season, especially in the run game. Omameh has solidified a spot that was a major question mark when the season began. Josh Wells replaced Parnell and Tyler Shatley replaced Omameh last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, and the offensive line played its worst game of the season. The Chargers had the 31st-ranked rush defense entering the weekend, but the Jaguars offense managed just 79 yards rushing (Corey Grant's 56 yards came on a fake punt), which is less than half the team's season average (163.0).
The Jaguars have to be able to run the ball effectively or the offense ends up looking a lot like it did in 2016. If the run game falters, they'll have to turn the game over to quarterback Blake Bortles. They did that last week in the second half, and Bortles looked really good in the third quarter: 8-for-14 for 120 yards and a touchdown.
However, he was bad in the fourth quarter: 7-for-21 for 61 yards and two interceptions, both of which came in the final two minutes of regulation. That, unfortunately, has been Bortles' career. Inconsistency plus turnovers. He's thrown 58 interceptions since he entered the league, which is more than all but one quarterback (Philip Rivers has thrown 59). It's a gamble each time the Jaguars are forced to ask Bortles to carry the offense.
Now, to your question about the receivers. That is a big issue and it certainly factors into Bortles' chances of carrying the offense. Allen Hurns is out this week with an ankle injury; he was still in a protective boot and using a scooter on Friday. Expect the injury to linger for multiple weeks, which means rookies Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook (once he's activated) as well as first-year player Jaydon Mickens have to become more than just role players.
There have been signs over the past three weeks that Cole is making progress (eight of his 14 catches have come over that span). Plus, the Jaguars can scheme guys open with picks and motion and formations. Tight end Marcedes Lewis, who will make his 150th career start on Sunday, has to be more of a factor in the pass game. And the Jaguars can use the backs as well.
However, there's nothing the Jaguars can do along the offensive line to offset missing two starters. They can put multiple tight ends on the field to help, but Lewis is the only one who's a capable blocker. They tried that last week and it didn't help much against the Chargers.
Injuries at receiver are a concern, but the banged-up offensive line is the Jaguars' No. 1 problem right now -- and the No. 1 issue that will determine whether the team will remain in the playoff hunt.