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Not-so-opportunistic Jaguars need to reverse turnover trend

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are having problems forcing turnovers, so there’s naturally some frustration.

Or not. It depends on which player you ask, really.

What is not in doubt, however, is the fact that things have to change. The defense has forced just one turnover in five games -- the only other came on special teams -- and that’s not good enough. With its best player (cornerback Jalen Ramsey) missing games with a back injury and the problems with the run defense, creating turnovers would significantly help a defense that can no longer be considered elite and could be on the verge of becoming a liability.

“We’re in position, but we have to be able to get the football; that’s another point of emphasis,” defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. “We do talk about hopefully they’re going to start coming in bunches. We’re getting there. We’re getting to the quarterback. We’re getting the ball on the ground. We just have to be able to recover it.”

The Jaguars forced 33 turnovers in the 2017 regular season -- second in the league behind Baltimore’s 34 -- and that was a major reason they made a run to the AFC Championship Game. Since then, however, the Jaguars have forced just 19 turnovers in 21 games, three of which have come on special teams. The Jaguars have just one on defense this season: Ronnie Harrison’s interception against Denver.

They have had chances for more turnovers, though. Opposing offenses have fumbled six times and the Jaguars haven’t been able to recovery any of them.

Yet players remain optimistic that they’ll start getting a lucky bounce or two, which is why Harrison says he doesn’t believe anyone is discouraged.

“The ops are there,” Harrison said. “We’ve just got to keep playing, keep playing fast, getting to the ball and they’ll come.

“Nobody’s frustrated for real. Just trying to play our game. You can’t go out reaching for plays like that because then you’ll start to give up plays, so you’ve got to kind of let them come to you.”

Cornerback D.J. Hayden, however, said he does think people are frustrated, especially because getting one in each of the last two losses might have been enough to turn those games around.

“It’ll be more frustrating for a defensive coordinator than us [players], but for us we do want to make plays, but we haven’t made them yet,” he said. “We’ve got to keep fighting, keep swinging, and eventually it’s going to come our way.”

Forcing turnovers on defense, as well as eliminating them on offense, was head coach Doug Marrone’s main message in the Wednesday team meeting that kicked off preparations for Sunday’s home game against New Orleans. The Jaguars are minus-4 in turnover ratio, which is third worst in the league.

The Jaguars have turned the ball over six times: four fumbles and an interception by quarterback Gardner Minshew and a fumble by running back Leonard Fournette. Minshew’s four lost fumbles, as well as his seven total fumbles, are tied for the most in the NFL.

“We just talked to players and we said, ‘Listen, we want to protect the football, yes, and we want to take takeaways, but hey, listen, let’s just be even [in turnover margin],’” Marrone said. “‘Let’s just be even and go out there and play and see how the game goes and give ourselves a 50-50 chance of winning.’”