Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 25, 2018 at 12:12 am.

Jaguars hope London begins turnaround

About 20 minutes after the Jacksonville Jaguars lost their third consecutive game, this one a 20-7 defeat to Houston last Sunday, head coach Doug Marrone was asked who the starting quarterback was. Blake Bortles, who has started 68 consecutive games since the fourth game of his rookie season in 2014, was pulled from Sunday’s game early in the third quarter after he lost his second fumble in the game. That brought in backup Cody Kessler who was somewhat productive, passing for 156 yards and one touchdown, though he also had an interception and he too fumbled but teammate Josh Walker recovered.

As for Marrone’s response to who the starting quarterback would be, he responded this way: “It’s open. 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. For us, the focus is going to be on that. 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.”

Marrone may well have been taking a shot directly at Bortles. The Jaguars quarterback has eight turnovers during the three-game slide – five interceptions and three lost fumbles.

But the “open” competition for the quarterback position lasted less than 24 hours, without the Jaguars taking the field. Monday afternoon Marrone declared that Bortles would continue as the starter.

He said, “I made a decision to go with Blake and like I said, looking at his leadership, looking at a lot of things that he can do and we’re excited about that and going. I think we have a good understanding of what needs to be done.”

The Jaguars may have picked the right time, the right place and the right opponent to try and end their three-game losing streak. Consider:

–Right time: It’s the week before the Jaguars bye week which means an extended time off for the players following this game. As bad as the three-game losing streak is, the Jaguars know that if they beat the Eagles, they’ll improve to 4-4 on the season and at worst, be just a game behind the Texans for first place in the AFC South.

–Right place: The Jaguars have made London their home away from home and will be playing in Wembley Stadium for the sixth consecutive year. They lost their first two appearances there but have since won three in a row. They know the routine of traveling overseas and the adjustments it takes with the time difference and the long airplane ride. They’ve also developed a strong fan base there which gives them the support of a home game.

–Right opponent: The Eagles have never made a trip to London for a game so they’ll be adjusting on the fly. The Eagles have also struggled more than they anticipated after winning the Super Bowl a year ago. Like the Jaguars, Philadelphia’s offense has been inconsistent as evidenced by their 22nd ranking in scoring (22 points a game) and 19th in total yards (362.9 average). Quarterback Carson Wentz has also had trouble holding on to the ball with six fumbles (four lost) in the five games he’s played.

But the Jaguars have their own problems and no one knows that better than Marrone. He continues to harp on the belief that everyone – players and coaches and especially himself – must raise their performance if they hope to end the losing streak and remain in contention for a playoff berth.

“I always say the first thing that comes to mind is, ‘I have to do a better job and it comes to me.’ For me, that’s what I have to do. I have to do a better job with this team in all areas – coaching all-around.

“We all need to take our level up. I showed them a couple clips this morning about, ‘Hey, listen, this is the team that we want to be from this year.’ Pictures of when we’re excited, we’re going and we’re making plays. We’re not playing like we want to play or should play. Obviously, the thing that has been getting us – the first one is obviously takeaways and giveaways. For us, we’re going to spend extra time and put it in the practice schedule to make sure we’re putting more of a major emphasis on that. It’s something that – you guys know me well enough – we have emphasized since the first day I have gotten this job. I have always emphasized it every time I’ve been a coach and especially when I’ve been the head coach. That’s what we have to do; we have to get out there with a lot of enthusiasm.

SERIES HISTORY: 6th regular-season game. Jaguars lead series, 3-2. The five-game series with Philadelphia matches the fewest games played against an NFL team by the Jaguars. They have also played just five games against Arizona, the L.A. Rams and San Francisco. Jacksonville won the first three games in the series but the Eagles have claimed the last two (2010 and 2014). Jaguars haven’t beaten the Eagles since Oct. 29, 2006 (13-6 at Philadelphia). This is the Jaguars sixth game in London, the Eagles first such venture to Wembley Stadium. Jacksonville lost on its first two trips here but has since won three in a row including a 44-7 blowout of Baltimore last year.