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Gene Frenette: Nick Foles’ heart in right place, but Jaguars not a good team

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nick Foles was trying to stay positive Sunday in the aftermath of a terribly negative situation. It was an ad-lib response by the Jaguars’ quarterback to a question about whether his timing might have been off against the Indianapolis Colts, given his two-month layoff from game action.

He went through fairly typical player-speak about watching film and the team sticking together despite a dreadfully embarrassing 33-13 loss to an AFC South rival. And then Foles added: “We got our butts beat pretty good. That’s a good team, we’re a good team.”

Sorry, Nick, everybody knows you mean well and don’t want to offend the Jaguars’ brotherhood. But this is not a good team. They’re good guys, sure. And the talent, coupled with two extra first-round picks over the next two years, looks adequate enough to become a good team in the future.

But right now, and for most of this 2019 season, the Jaguars are not a good team. The players’ honest intent is to be that, but the results plainly suggest the black and teal are nowhere close to a good team.

For instance, a good team doesn’t get outscored 59-16 in back-to-back games against division rivals, with the benefit of a bye week to prepare for the Colts’ game.

Remember this, too, about Indianapolis. It had never beaten anyone in its previous nine games by more than a touchdown, yet the Jaguars lost by 20 to a team that couldn’t beat the Miami Dolphins at home the previous week – albeit with backup Brian Hoyer playing quarterback, not Jacoby Brissett.

Part of being a good team also requires physicality and toughness, which the Jaguars certainly lack on defense when it comes to stopping the run. Allowing 134.6 yards rushing per game, and a pitiful 5.3 yards per attempt, is not the mark of a good team.

Before Sunday, the Jaguars or anybody watching outside of Arkansas fans had probably never heard of Jonathan Williams. And why would you? The Colts’ fourth-team running back, thrust into action due to starter Marlon Mack suffering a broken hand and Jordan Wilkins being inactive, had two carries for one yard all season.

Yet against this Jaguars’ powder-puff run defense, Williams more than doubled his NFL career output over four seasons with 116 yards on 13 carries. That’s the second time this season Todd Wash’s unit has allowed a no-name back, preceded by the Carolina Panthers’ Reggie Bonnafon (5 carries, 80 yards), to have a career game.

So tell me, does that at all sound like a “good team” when the defense, twice in a span of six weeks, lets backs nobody has ever heard of run over and by them as if they were Adrian Peterson or Frank Gore in their prime?

“I mean, if you look at it, whether it was missed tackles, out of gaps, whether we’re not splitting things,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “Pretty much when a team rushes for that many yards, it’s not going to be one thing, I can tell you that. It’s going to be multiple things and it seems like we could never get it stopped.”

Now let’s flip to the Jaguars’ own shrinking run attack, where Marrone and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo have made Leonard Fournette – the NFL’s sixth-leading rusher – disappear the past two games. He has all of 11 carries in combined first halves against the Houston Texans and the Colts, both contests in which the Jaguars trailed by six and three points, respectively, at intermission.

What good team abandons a ground attack that had been working pretty efficiently all year at the very moment it’s playing in season-defining games? Marrone admitted Monday he dropped the ball against Indianapolis by not running it more, though he said in his postgame presser that “we just felt good and comfortable throwing the football and it didn’t work.”

Again, a good team doesn’t have its head coach issuing a mea culpa the day after a game for second-guessing his own game plan. It also doesn’t have a pass-run ratio of 47-9 in a contest where things didn’t get out of hand until late in the third quarter.

“That was a big mistake by me because a two-score game (Jaguars trailing 17-7 in the third quarter) and I just felt the way that they were running the ball, I thought we needed to score points in a quicker fashion and I think that’s what led to the increased pass attempts,” Marrone said. “That’s on me as the head coach and I know we need to be more balanced moving forward.

“I know that we’re frustrated. I know Leonard’s frustrated. The line. He wants to make plays and help us win the game and, again, I think that was the mindset and I was wrong and I made a mistake.”

What also made the lack of Fournette (8 carries, 23 yards) touches so appalling is the Colts had the NFL’s 15th-ranked run defense (104.3 yards) entering the game. So it’s not like the Jaguars needed to get pass-happy. They weren’t facing the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

If the Jaguars have any chance to salvage what’s left of a season on the verge of going completely south, then Marrone needs to start trusting each element of his offense to be productive. The defense has to stop being such a pushover against the run. And the players need to play every remaining game with a real sense of urgency.

Nothing is a greater indicator of the 4-6 Jaguars being a mediocre team in 2019 than this maddening trend – lose two games, win two games, lose two games, win two games, lose two games.

When Foles suggested the Jaguars were a “good team” after the Colts debacle, he was probably just trying to steer the narrative away from the forthcoming unpleasant outside noise. It was also St. Nick showing his team some love in the season’s lowest moment.

At any rate, we all know the truth.

The Jaguars haven’t earned the right to be called a good team by anybody.

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles (7) throws in first half action as the Indianapolis Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Sam Riche/Tribune News Service/TNS)

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles (7) throws in first half action as the Indianapolis Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Sam Riche/Tribune News Service/TNS)

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