JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars did this to themselves.
General manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone wanted to revamp their defense, choosing to part with four starters in hopes of cleaning up the locker room and the salary cap. They jettisoned dynamic pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Ronnie Harrison.
Those moves, compounded by a few opt outs, left Jacksonville with a young unit that includes more than a dozen first- or second-year players on the depth chart.
And when a few injuries happen — the Jaguars played without pass rusher Josh Allen, linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback CJ Henderson in a 30-14 loss at AFC South rival Houston on Sunday — the inexperience really shows.
“We can’t really hide the fact that this was a big one,” veteran defensive tackle Abry Jones said. “It was a division one. … I don’t want to stress nobody out, go out there yelling and pointing fingers and things like that because I know how hard this game is and I know how hard our guys are trying.”
The Jaguars (1-4) were gouged for the fifth straight game, another defensive debacle that exposed the team’s depth and surely had to leave Caldwell, Marrone and defensive coordinator Todd Wash feeling uneasy about their job security on the flight home.
With Houston and Atlanta already cleaning house, could Jacksonville be next? No one would be surprised after the team’s latest disappointing start, which includes consecutive losses to three previously winless teams.
The Jaguars have allowed 30 or more points in four straight games for just the third time in franchise history. They also did it in 2013 and 2014, which were Caldwell’s first two years and the start of a major rebuilding project.
He insisted that wasn’t the case this time around, believing this team would surprise outsiders. Marrone even suggested this group could be special.
Instead, the Jaguars look much more like what oddsmakers envisioned when they installed them as the longest of long shots to win the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville will try to end its four-game skid against Detroit (1-3) on Sunday.
“I think you get to a point where you basically pulling, you know, I’m pulling for these guys,” Marrone said. “I’m pulling for these three phases to come together. We’re working on that and we talk about that. But we’re not able to do that play in and play out right now. …
“And it’s not like we don’t have opportunities. There’s opportunities out there. We just haven’t been able to take advantage of it.”
Safety Jarrod Wilson and cornerback Sidney Jones each had interceptions, giving Jacksonville its first two-turnover game since the opener. Those helped the defense keep Houston mostly in check for three quarters.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Jon Brown will be Jacksonville’s fifth different placekicker in as many weeks. The team cut Stephen Hauschka on Monday after he missed two field goals against Houston and promoted Brown from the practice squad.
Brown has spent time with Cincinnati and San Francisco.
Josh Lambo (hip) remains on injured reserve, and Marrone says the earliest he might be able to return would be next week at the Los Angeles Chargers. Since Lambo’s injury in Week 2, the Jaguars have gone with rookie Brandon Wright (Week 3), Aldrick Rosas (Week 4) and then Hauschka. Wright and Rosas also missed kicks.
Rookie receiver Laviska Shenault, a second-round draft pick from Colorado, has 12 catches for 165 yards in the last two games. He’s quickly becoming a dependable threat opposite DJ Chark, who left Sunday’s loss with a sprained ankle.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden had another head-scratching call on a key down. Trailing 13-7 late in the third quarter, Gruden tried a halfback option with rookie James Robinson on fourth-and-1 from the Houston 8. Robinson had nowhere to run and fumbled as he tried to throw.
It was the clearest sign yet that the Jaguars don’t have complete trust in quarterback Gardner Minshew.
The Jaguars hope to get Allen, Jack and Henderson back against the Lions. Chark was being re-evaluated Monday along with tight end Tyler Eifert (neck). The team placed backup safety Andrew Wingard (abdominal strain) on injured reserve.
127 — number of points Jacksonville has allowed through five games, the fourth most in the AFC.
Find a way to end the 10th losing streak of at least four games since owner Shad Khan bought the team in 2012.
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