The Jacksonville Jaguars should consider themselves to be downright lucky to be playing .500 football right now and not because they still haven’t figured out how best to use rookie running back Leonard Fournette or because quarterback Blake Bortles continues to be so erratic.
It’s because they’ve been so horrible on third down.
Jags beat man John Reid did a great job of breaking the issue down for Jacksonville.com, but one look at the NFL stat sheet tells you just how miserable a job the Jaguars are doing trying to cash in on what the NFL calls the “money down.’’
As Week 5 action was slated to begin on Thursday, the Jaguars had converted just 16 of 52 third-down tries for a conversion rate of the 30.8-percent that ranked 29th in the NFL, ahead of only San Francisco (0-4), Cleveland (0-4) and Miami (1-2).
What’s most amazing is that the Jaguars have actually been at their worst in terms of converting third downs in their two wins, going 3-for-12 in those situations during both their 29-7 victory over the Texans on opening day and their 44-7 victory over the Ravens in London two weeks ago.
Here’s another interesting nugget: Since Week 1, Fournette is 0-for-3 on third down conversion attempts. Bortles, meanwhile, has completed just 16 of the 39 passes he’s attempted on third down for 154 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 50.6.
Like we said, though, the problem is not all a result of how the Jaguars have been using Fournette or the way Bortles has played. Jaguars receivers have dropped some very catchable third-down passes and Bortles protection has often broken down on third down as well.
“There have been a lot of mental errors,’’ Bortles said of the issue earlier this week. “It’s not necessarily that the plays aren’t working It’s guys kind of doing some dumb stuff and really, everybody is involved, myself included.’’
The struggle runs across all distances, too. The Jaguars are 5-of-14 (35-percent) on third-and-3 or less; 5-of-20 (25-percent) on third-and-4-7; and 6-of-18 (33.3-percent) on third-and-long. None are any good obviously but it’s the former that really has coach Doug Marrone most perturbed.
“That is the thing that really gets you because you fight so hard to put yourself in good down and distances,’’ Marrone said. “But we haven’t converted on that and that is where I think the issues (are) so that is one of the things we have been focusing on this week.’’
It’s a focus that’s needed.