Nine games down with seven to go for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sitting in third place in the AFC South at 4-5, the Jaguars have to address an important question as the season winds down. And it is not just the recent decision of who will be playing quarterback in week 11. If the Jaguars hope to make a push for the playoffs either as a Wild Card or divisional champion, the offense must score inside the red zone.
Breaking Down the Jacksonville Jaguars Red Zone Woes
Numbers Do Not Lie
Through the first nine games, the Jaguars have struggled to score touchdowns inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (Red Zone). In fact, they have been downright lifeless far too many times. Currently the Jaguars sit third to last in the league in team red zone scoring percentage for touchdowns at 34.48 percent (league average is 54.8 percent). Compare that to last year when the offense was stagnant but still converted 44.12 percent touchdowns in the red zone.
In fact, the Jaguars have reached the red zone 11 times in the last three games, but only managed three touchdowns (27.2 percent). Therefore leaving the coaching staff searching for answers to the red zone woes, without any results. Too much finger-pointing and not enough execution or creativity.
The lack of red-zone touchdowns for Jacksonville also influences other metrics. According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars are in the bottom tier of the league, averaging 0.147 touchdowns per drive. The league average is 0.216 touchdowns per drive, which suggests obvious room for improvement.
Granted, the offense has been able to have some quick touchdown scores with big splash plays featuring receiver D.J. Chark. But once in the red zone, the unit sputters, and they are forced to rely upon the right leg of placekicker Josh Lambo. Yes, Lambo has been absolutely sensational this season. However, settling for field goals (0.216 field goals per drive; third in the league) will continue to haunt the Jaguars for weeks to come if answers are not provided.
Fixing the Problem With Creativity and Aggression
It starts with more creative play-calling by offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. No more sweep tosses to running backs inside the five-yard line. Spread things out and put pressure on the defense. Maybe run a jet-sweep to a receiver or call a play-action bootleg. Utilize the big-bodied tight ends. But first one of the tight ends needs to emerge? Josh Oliver, are you listening?
Some aggression and accountability across the offensive line is also a must. The red zone is an opportunity for an offensive line to impose their will on a defensive front. There is a lack of push or even a lean in the trenches for this unit. Too often a lineman or two are being blown off the ball causing disruption in the backfield for the running game.
Running back Leonard Fournette has only been able to tally one rushing touchdown through nine games. Lack of vision by Fournette? Perhaps. But there’s also no running room. It’s high time for offensive line coach George Warhop to get back to basics. Emphasizing the need to engage at the point of attack and maintain the engagement until the whistle blows.
Last Word on Red Zone Woes
With the return of quarterback Nick Foles, the Jaguars will turn to his confidence and experience. The biggest challenge for Foles will be his ability to lead the offense to convert touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone. If he is able to be a spark in the red zone, the Jaguars are destined to play meaningful games into December.