Jaguars implode in locker room after latest lopsided loss
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The doors opened briefly and closed a few seconds later, but the glimpse into Jacksonville’s locker room told the story of the team’s third consecutive loss.
Calais Campbell was holding back fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, a carry-over from the screaming, shouting and finger pointing that ensued after a 20-7 loss to AFC South rival Houston (4-3) on Sunday.
“You all walk in here, you all see how it is in here, you all see how we vibe with each other, you all see how we vibe toward the coaches, you all see how it is,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “It is no secret what’s going on here right now. Ain’t nobody going to say it because we can’t. But it ain’t no secret what’s going on and it ain’t right right now.”
Ngakoue declined comment, as did safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback A.J. Bouye.
Their silence spoke volumes for a team that appears to be in upheaval following a third straight lopsided loss that has seemingly derailed a season that started with Super Bowl expectations.
“I don’t speak on locker room business,” linebacker Telvin Smith said. “Don’t ask me locker room questions.”
The Jaguars (3-4) looked slightly more composed on the field, although the result was similar to road losses against Kansas City and Dallas.
Jacksonville failed to score in the first half for the third consecutive game — the first time that’s happened in franchise history — and the defense allowed 141 yards rushing and sacked Deshaun Watson once.
Blake Bortles fumbled on the third play of each half, leading to 10 points and his benching.
Coach Doug Marrone said Bortles was upset with getting yanked after the second turnover — his eighth in the last three games.
“We’ve got to do something,” Marrone said. “Like I said before, the one thing you do with that position, doesn’t matter the name, doesn’t matter who it is. When you make a move to get a spark, everyone goes on notice. Everyone.”
Cody Kessler replaced Bortles in the third quarter and threw a touchdown pass that energized the home crowd. But Kessler also fumbled on a sack and threw an interception off T.J. Yeldon’s hands with a little more than five minutes remaining.
Marrone confirmed afterward that the quarterback job is up for grabs as Jacksonville prepares to play Philadelphia in a “home game” in London next week.
“It’s open,” Marrone said. “Who’s the starter at right tackle? Who’s the starter at center? Who’s the starter at receiver? Who’s the starter? Everything is open. We’ve lost three straight games and we can’t stop shooting ourselves in the foot for lack of a better expression.
“We’ve got to do something, but the first thing we’ve got to do is stop turning the damn ball over. Period. That would be the positive of how we can build.”
The Jaguars are minus-12 in turnover differential on the season, including minus-8 during the three-game losing streak.
Most of the problems stem from an offense that’s missing its top two left tackles, its top two tight ends, two of its top three running backs, and its leading receiver from 2017. But the defense has failed to pick up the slack.
“We’re a team,” Smith said. “I’m not going to point fingers. I’ll just keep the one pointed at myself, continue to make sure that I get better, continue to make sure I bring my energy, continue to make sure I bring my effort, my mentality to this team. I think the guys that continue to feed off it and grow from it.
“That’s one thing we cannot do is point fingers, and I ask you all, don’t ask us to point fingers.”
Campbell holding back Ngakoue in a combustible locker room showed it’s already happening privately.
“Frustration’s a part of the game, and we’re emotional people and this is an emotional game,” Campbell said. “At the same time, I think these guys, this group of guys, we have a different kind of heart to us. At the same time, losing sucks, you know, especially losing three in a row. Stacking losses, that’s not who we are, that’s not what we want to be.
“But it is who we are ’cause that’s what’s going on right now. I do believe that we will get it fixed. We have no choice but to get it fixed.”