Beleaguered Jaguars dealing with more injuries on defense

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have a three-game losing streak and one of the worst defenses in franchise history, a unit that could be down three more starters at winless Houston.

The D was mostly inept in a 33-25 loss at Cincinnati in which the Bengals scored on seven of their final eight possessions. Their lone drive that didn’t end with points was stopped in the end zone when linebacker Myles Jack wrestled the ball from tight end Drew Sample.

Cincy finished with a whopping 505 yards Sunday and easily could have topped 50 points had it been better on third down (4 of 11) or in the red zone (1 of 4).

“Being a vet on this team and being pretty much the old head in the room, I have to find a way to motivate these guys,” defensive tackle Abry Jones said. “It’s too much talent out here that’s not getting their name called on Sundays for doing what they do best.

“I really don’t have a secret formula for you. That’s just the good old football, blue-collar grit. Go back to the drawing board, grind it out and make the results come on Sunday.”

Coach Doug Marrone insisted the effort was there, essentially pointing to talent and discipline. The Jaguars (1-3) simply don’t have enough on that side of the ball thanks to injuries, opt outs and trades.

And it’s hard to fathom since Jacksonville used significant draft or free agent capital on seven defensive regulars: Jack, cornerback CJ Henderson, defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, pass rusher Josh Allen, defensive tackle Taven Bryan, linebacker Joe Schobert and nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden.

But now more backups could be thrust into the starting lineup against the Texans (0-4), who will try to join Miami and Cincinnati as teams that earned win No. 1 against the slumping Jags.

Jack (ankle), Henderson (shoulder) and Hayden (hamstring) were having tests Monday to determine the extent of their injuries.

Jacksonville already was playing without safety Jarrod Wilson (hamstring) and linebacker Leon Jacobs (knee). Wilson could return this week, but Jacobs is out for the season. The team also gets defensive lineman Carl Davis back after a four-game suspension for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers.

But Davis is unlikely to solve Jacksonville’s pass rush woes, which stem from trading former Pro Bowl starters Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue as well as losing defensive tackles Rodney Gunter (heart condition) and Al Woods (opt out). The Jaguars have four sacks, tied for the second fewest in the league.

WHAT’S WORKING

Rookie running back James Robinson has become Jacksonville’s most consistent offensive player. He ran 17 times for 75 yards against the Bengals and had four receptions for 32 yards. It’s the third straight game he’s topped 100 yards from scrimmage.

Robinson also had a 30-yard run called back early in the third quarter by a holding penalty.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Jacksonville already has missed more kicks (three) through four games than it did last season (two). Newly signed Aldrick Rosas was wide left from 48 yards against Cincy. He rebounded by making his next four field goals and an extra point.

But a team with such a small margin for error needs to take advantage of every scoring opportunity. The Jaguars have done that better than most thanks to Josh Lambo, who has made 74 of 78 field goals (94.9%) since 2017.

Lambo (hip) was placed on injured reserve following Week 2, and Jacksonville has had little luck replacing him. Rookie Brandon Wright strained a hamstring in his NFL debut against Miami and was waived/injured. The Jags signed Stephen Hauschka last week, but he developed soreness in his right knee after his tryout and was inactive against Cincinnati.

It could be Hauschka or Rosas at the Texans.

STOCK UP

DJ Chark (chest/back) returned from a one-week absence and was once again Gardner Minshew’s go-to guy. Chark caught eight passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, including a toe-tapping grab in the back of the end zone.

STOCK DOWN

Defensive tackle Taven Bryan continues to baffle coaches and teammates. He’s been mostly ineffective in every game this season, failing to get a sack or a tackle for loss. The 2018 first-round pick is the team’s biggest defensive disappointment.

INJURED

Left tackle Cam Robinson (knee) and rookie receiver Laviska Shenault (hamstring) also were being re-evaluated Monday.

KEY NUMBER

25 — combined points the Jaguars have scored in four consecutive losses to the Texans.

NEXT STEPS

Jacksonville can end two losing streaks this week: a three-game skid on the season and a four-game slide to AFC South rival Houston.

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