Jaguars hoping for better offensive effort against Bengals, probably without trick plays

John Reid
Florida Times-Union
Jaguars lineman Andrew Norwell (68) has the ball thrown to him as he runs through drills with the rest of his teammates during minicamp.

Three days ago, Jaguars starting left guard Andrew Norwell looked confused on the field. Instead of making a push to stay in front of Arizona defensive lineman J.J. Watt, Norwell stepped back and intentionally spun like a dancer.

By the time Norwell attempted to block Watt, it was too late.

Watt already had broke through enough to pressure Trevor Lawrence into throwing off his back foot on a flea-flicker play after Carlos Hyde pitched the ball back. 

The Jaguars had a 19-17 lead before the play, and they never regained it after Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy stepped in front of tight end Jacob Hollister to pick off Lawrence's pass and return it 29 yards for a touchdown.

That was momentum Arizona needed to rally to a 31-19 victory, drop the Jaguars to 0-3 and extend Jacksonville's losing streak to 18 consecutive games since last season.

Even if a spark is needed Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, it is probably unlikely Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be sending in another trick play for Lawrence to execute from their 25-yard line as he did against the Cardinals.

New team:Jaguars trade CB CJ Henderson to Carolina Panthers for TE Dan Arnold, third-round pick

Another chance:Defense determined to avoid a repeat of Joe Mixon's steamrolling

Gene Frenette:Jaguars' flea flicker flop falls on both Trevor Lawrence and coaches

Despite a quick turnaround, Bevell's botched flea-flicker play call continues to draw attention. Bevell didn't defend his ill-advised call in his first public comments since Sunday's game. However, he acknowledged Norwell did everything correctly on the play.  

''I don't want to give everything, but yeah, there's different styles and protections that you can use, and on that flea-flicker he was probably the big deal is he's running this whirly-bird technique on the backside and he was doing it correct,'' Bevell said Tuesday. ''We didn't do a very good job with the rest of the execution.''

Norwell spun to help sell the play as if it was going toward the right side to help clean up the protection but Watt, who is likely going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer after he retires, wasn't fooled. 

''Yes, he was not confused (Norwell),'' Bevell added. ''We all have to come harder on the right.'' 

As Urban Meyer heard the play call sent from his headphone, he had reservations about the play but didn't overrule Bevell's call. After the game, Meyer said: ''It's going to be hard to get out of my mind.''  

Desperate for a win, Bevell is likely to stick more with the ground game and take advantage of Lawrence's improvement on check-downs to take more advantage of intermediate throws across the middle instead of relying too heavily on deep passes.  

Lawrence has thrown seven interceptions and lost two fumbles after three games. He was picked off twice against the Cardinals, though his first interception came after tight end Jacob Hollister bobbled the pass over the middle.  

Needing more production at tight end, the Jaguars acquired former Carolina Panthers tight end Dan Arnold in a trade Monday in exchange for 2020 ninth overall pick CJ Henderson. Arnold flew to Jacksonville after the trade and practiced with the team Monday. Remarkably, Arnold is expected to make his debut Thursday night.

''I think I have had four bad decisions for turnovers. But I feel like every game I have got better," Lawrence said. "I think I've gotten better at getting through all my progressions. I thought I did a pretty good job getting through my reads, not holding the ball too long. I thought I was more accurate."

After three games, Lawrence has completed 64 of 118 passes (54 percent) for 669 yards and five touchdowns. He has been sacked five times, three occurring last week against Arizona.

In the first two games against Houston and Denver, James Robinson wasn't utilized much despite rushing for 1,040 yards last season. He had only 16 carries after the first two games for 72 yards. But Robinson gained a game-high 88 yards on 15 carries, including scoring a 4-yard run for the Jaguars' first rushing touchdown of the season.

"Balancing your offense is one — we did better (against Cardinals),'' Meyer said. ''We’re not where we need to be, but we were better. That was closer to what we envision.”

The Jaguars are not going to catch a break against the Bengals. Coming off a 24-10 victory over Pittsburgh on the road, Cincinnati is tied for fourth in the league with 10 sacks after three games. Defensive tackle B.J. Hill leads the team with three. The Bengals sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger four times Sunday.      

"I think their first seven is where they start, they do a nice job," Bevell said. "They want to get pressure with those guys. They want to want to stop the run with those guys."