Bumbling offense should concern Jaguars after loss to Chiefs

Calvin Ridley and the Jaguars couldn't quite find the end zone in Sunday's loss to Kansas City. Morgan Tencza/USA TODAY Sports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Trevor Lawrence, Christian Kirk and Evan Engram all pretty much said the same thing after the Jacksonville Jaguars lost 17-9 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday: It’s unacceptable.

Not losing to the defending Super Bowl champs, but playing so poorly on offense that they failed to reach the end zone for the second time in their last 23 games. It was a malfunction in all areas and unexpected from what was supposed to be one of the NFL’s best offenses.

“We're better than that and we're a better team,” said Lawrence, who completed 22 of 41 passes for 216 yards and did not throw a touchdown pass. “We're a better offense than that.

“... We’ve got so many weapons we’ve got to be able to put points on the board and score and that's just -- it's kind of embarrassing.”

It should be. Nine starters returned from last year’s offense, which ranked 10th in scoring and yards per game. The message throughout the offseason was this year’s unit should be better because this is their second year in coach Doug Pederson’s offensive system. That’s what happened in Philadelphia in 2017, when Pederson turned Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate in Pederson’s second year with the Eagles.

Even though Pederson has ceded all playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Press Taylor in 2023, that shouldn’t have had any significant impact because Pederson called plays in the first halves of games and Taylor the second last season.

Plus, the Jaguars added receiver Calvin Ridley, who looked impressive in camp and the season opener despite a nearly two-year layoff because of mental health reasons and a gambling suspension. He was one of the best receivers in the NFL in 2020, catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns.

Yet the Jaguars (1-1) managed only 271 yards of offense and failed to score a touchdown on three red-zone trips against the Chiefs. They converted only 3 of 12 third downs, went 0-for-2 on fourth down, and averaged just 4.2 yards per play. Lawrence went 0 for 7 passing in the red zone, the most red-zone attempts without a completion since Brett Favre also went 0-for-7 in 2006, per ESPN Stats & Information.

“We’re way too good to go out there and put together something like that and put that out there,” said Kirk, who caught 11 passes for 110 yards. “We need to look ourselves in the mirror and be very harsh on ourselves.”

Said Engram: “We’re better than this.”

Everyone asked about the offensive woes cited the same thing: lack of execution. Everywhere. There were drops by Kirk and Ridley, a fumble by Jamal Agnew, and numerous breakdowns by the offensive line. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Lawrence was pressured on 13-of-48 dropbacks and went 2 of 7 for just 20 yards on those 13 dropbacks. He also was sacked four times.

If this were a one-off, it wouldn’t necessarily be as concerning, but the offense also didn’t function at a high level in the Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. The Jaguars scored 31 points, but the offense went 3 for 12 on third down (they’re now 6 for 24 through two games), went 1 for 3 on fourth down, and Lawrence was sacked twice.

There’s the potential to get the offense rolling this Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX) against Houston (0-2), which has given up 56 combined points in losses to Baltimore and Indianapolis.

“I'm not concerned, but it's something we’ve got to fix,” Lawrence said. “It's definitely an issue. We’ve got to all look in the mirror and be accountable and be critical of ourselves. It’s all of us.

“... We’ve got to make those plays and that's what the good and great teams do and we didn't do it today.”

Though it may feel like things are falling apart after what happened Sunday, Pederson doesn’t see it that way. The players need to execute better and the coaches (himself included) need to be better, he said, but there’s no need to overreact -- especially after the way the Jaguars’ 2022 season unfolded with the offense catching fire in the second half of the season to send the Jaguars to the playoffs.

“It’s Week 2,” Pederson said. “My gosh. Week 2. We’re 1-1. We’re in a great spot. You know, we lost to a good football team today. We didn't play great. Guys know that guys are going to rally, guys are going to bounce back. We're going to be better next week. [There’s] a lot of football ahead of us.

“Those guys are ticked off in there [the locker room]. They're mad and they know it, but it's so early in this season that one game is not going to define who we are and it's not going to define our season.”