The Jacksonville Jaguars finished the first half of the season with a 3-5 record. Here's a look at how they have fared and what's ahead:
First-half rewind: Injuries have decimated the offense. Running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) has missed six games, the Jaguars are on their third-string left tackle (who is a guard), and tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins (core muscle) and Niles Paul (knee) are on injured reserve. Plus, the remaining four offensive line starters have battled nagging injuries at various points. However, quarterback Blake Bortles has struggled (11 turnovers in eight games), the offensive line hasn't played well even when healthy (coach Doug Marrone said he had no confidence in its ability to create space in Jacksonville's last game), and there are no consistent outside playmakers. Despite all that, the Jaguars are still alive in a jumbled AFC South, and the season is not lost -- yet. Grade: Below average
What needs the most improvement? Two things, really. The offensive line has to play better or it won't matter when Fournette returns. Marrone's comments last Sunday were harsh, but true: The Jaguars want to be a power-run offense -- they built their identity around that -- but can't because they have no confidence in the guys up front, especially in short-yardage situations. Bortles has to be better, too. He is a streaky player, and when he's in a funk it can be really bad. He needs to consistently avoid turnovers, not miss open guys, hit a few big plays and generally play like an above-average quarterback.
MVP: There's been only one player who has consistently made a difference when it comes to scoring points. Kicker Josh Lambo has made all 12 of his field goal attempts this season, and that includes a 4-for-4 performance against Philadelphia last Sunday (including a 57-yarder), which extended his streak of consecutive field goals made to 23. That is a franchise record. Since signing with the Jaguars in October 2017, Lambo has made 31 of 32 field goal attempts. If the offense's struggles of the past month continue (11.5 points per game), Lambo is the Jaguars' best shot at scoring points in the second half of the season.
Biggest surprise: The defense hasn't created many big plays. Jalen Ramsey picked off Carson Wentz in the end zone and Marcell Dareus forced Wentz to fumble last Sunday, but those were only the sixth and seventh turnovers the Jaguars have forced this season. They finished second in the NFL last season with 33, and 12 of the top 14 players returned from that unit. Big plays usually go hand in hand with pressure on the quarterback, and though the Jaguars aren't on the same pace for sacks as last season, they do rank second in the NFL in pressure percentage on opposing quarterbacks. Too many dropped interceptions and a few unlucky bounces have kept the defense from making the impact plays it did last season.
Hurdle to overcome: Bortles has to stop being a Jekyll-and-Hyde quarterback. No fluctuations between the way he played against New England or the New York Jets and the way he played against Dallas and Houston. Find a middle ground and stick there. If Fournette comes back and the Jaguars can run the ball, they can win with an average Bortles. They nearly made the Super Bowl last season doing just that.