Not a lot was expected of the 2012 Jaguars outside of Jacksonville. And yet the team has still fallen short of expectations.
This season was supposed to be all about quarterback Blaine Gabbert's development. It's been minimal through six weeks. This is not going to be the first 1-5 team to make the playoffs since the format expanded. That's why the Jaguars are the second team we're sticking a fork in for 2012 (at least they outlasted the Chiefs).
What went wrong
This post isn't about the injuries running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Gabbert suffered against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday (although the Jaguars would have won that game if healthy). It's about an offense that remains the least explosive group in football. Gabbert is dead last in the NFL in yards-per-attempt again. No team has thrown fewer passes over 20 yards.
The run game is average, not sensational. First-round draft pick Justin Blackmon has caught only 14 of 37 passes sent his way. The team was 1-for-15 in third downs against the Raiders. In earlier games, Gabbert too often fell back into bad habits of seeing the pass rush and not making tough throws. Big free-agent pickup Laurent Robinson wasn't terribly effective at wide receiver before suffering a serious concussion.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's defense has ultimately been more disappointing. It carried the team last year but is 26th in points allowed despite facing a soft schedule. Their defensive ends have two sacks total this year. The team has five. Cornerstones like Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton and Andre Branch have been benched.
What went right
What still matters
New coach Mike Mularkey needs to develop some young players like Austen Lane and Blackmon that can help him for the future. This season was all about Gabbert before it started, and that remains true. Mularkey also has to show that his maddeningly conservative offense can work. It says something about the coaching when the offense completely fell apart after Gabbert was hurt in Oakland.
What changes are coming?
It will be fascinating to see how patient owner Shad Khan is with this team. They aren't just unsuccessful, they are tough to watch. There isn't a lot of hope in the way of future stars on the horizon. General manager Gene Smith is on a very hot seat despite getting a contract before Khan came aboard. Smith even admitted the talent base he built is lacking.
If Smith is let go after the season, all bets are off with Mularkey. Instability reigns.