JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone certainly got people’s attention on Tuesday when he said he was fired up about the remaining nine games and he plans to go outside the box to try to overcome the team’s 1-6 start.
“I’m sure people are going to mock me for that or say whatever the hell they want, but I really don’t give a s---,” he said. “I’m fired up. I’m going to go after it and however it falls, it falls, but it’s open for me. I’ve done crazy s--- before.”
Marrone didn’t go into detail of what specific crazy, er, stuff, he had in mind, but here are a few suggestions...
Use LB Myles Jack as a running back
Jack has battled an ankle injury this season, but if he’s able to return completely healthy, give him some carries. Undrafted rookie James Robinson has been the workhorse, gaining 481 yards on 107 carries, but there isn’t much behind him. Chris Thompson is the only other running back with a carry, and he’s got six and is coming off the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Jaguars have had rookie receiver Laviska Shenault carry the ball 11 times and they do need to get him more touches, but get Jack some work, too. Remember, Jack was the Defensive and Offensive Freshman of the Year at UCLA in 2013, when he rushed for 267 yards and seven touchdowns in five games, including 59 yards and four TDs in a 41-31 loss to Washington.
Don’t forget that Marrone said in September 2019 that he considered using Jack as a running back in 2018, when injuries and a suspension limited Leonard Fournette to eight games.
Use DE Josh Allen at tight end
The Jaguars’ tight ends have combined to catch 26 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown. That’s just 9.2 yards per catch, which ranks 25th in the NFL. Now that Tyler Eifert is on IR, there’s just one tight end with a catch: James O'Shaughnessy (15 for 47 yards).
Allen began his high school career as a receiver and as a junior was a Class 3A All-State player at Abbeville (Alabama) High School with 1,150 yards and 11 touchdowns receiving. Allen transferred to Montclair (New Jersey) High School for his senior season and in addition to leading the state with 22.5 sacks, he caught 23 passes for 500 yards and five touchdowns.
Allen is now 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, which would make him the biggest tight end on the roster. His athleticism and length would make him an intriguing target.
Give Laviska Shenault reps as a pass-rusher
Don’t laugh. It’s something that Colorado coach Mel Tucker told Bleacher Report he actually considered doing.
“People would be saying, ‘What are they doing? Are they crazy?’” Tucker told Bleacher Report. “But I’m telling you right now he’d get five or six sacks, at least. Wouldn’t that be nuts?”
Yes, it certainly would, but it might be worth trying. The Jaguars entered Week 8 ranked dead last in the NFL with six sacks. Allen leads the team with two in five games (he has missed two games with a knee injury). The entire defensive line has combined for five sacks.
Shenault is a receiver built like a running back (6-foot-1, 227 pounds) who runs like a fullback. It would be fun to see a running back try to pick him up as a blitzer at full speed.
Run more unconventional plays
The Jaguars had initially planned to use Shenault more as a ball carrier this season, but offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he backed off that because Robinson has played so well. Go back to it.
Whether it’s Shenault taking Wildcat snaps or putting him in the backfield with Robinson and another player (Chris Thompson or Devine Ozigbo, maybe?) to run the option or veer, try something unusual. Get the defense confused, which increases the chances for a big play.
Use some double passes. A flea-flicker. Double reverse. End-round passes. Fake punts (which worked pretty well in 2017). Fake field goals. Try something, anything.
The Jaguars are actually blitzing more this season than they ever have under defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Per ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars are sending five or more rushers 10.6 times per game, one more time per game than their previous high (9.6 in 2019). That’s tied for 11th in the NFL.
Double that. Maybe even more.
Teams have thrown for 575 yards against the Jaguars’ blitz (fourth-most in the NFL) and the opposing QB’s yards per attempt (8.98 yards) is the second-highest in the league. So what? The Jaguars are already tied for last in the NFL in sacks and they’re allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 76.1 percent of their passes (the highest mark in the NFL).
It’s certainly risky to blitz that much. If it’s picked up, there’s a greater chance of giving up a big play. But it also can force mistakes -- early throws, off-target throws, bad decisions -- and that also means a greater chance of coming up with a turnover. The Jaguars aren’t very good at doing that, either: just six total turnovers and only one fumble recovery (they’ve forced just two).
Go for it on fourth down
The Jaguars under Marrone have converted 49.3 percent (34-of-69) of fourth downs, which ranks 18th since the start of the 2017 season. However, when the Jaguars have gone for it in their opponents’ territory, the percentage is a little higher: 52.3 (23-of-44, not including kneel-downs).
That might not sound like much, but think of it this way: If the Jaguars faced four fourth downs in opponent territory, they statistically could extend two of those drives -- which could potentially end in touchdowns. For a team that’s scoring just 21 points per game on offense (which ranks 26th this season), that could be significant.
Yes, it means you may give the opponent good field position if you fail. And, yes, it also means likely passing up almost a sure three points (Josh Lambo has made 94.9 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 11-of-12 from 50 yards or longer, since he joined the team in 2017). Lambo would probably be pretty unhappy about it, too.
So what? The Jaguars have won just once and it’s unclear if or how long Gardner Minshew will be out with a right thumb injury. Gamble.