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Beat the Streak: Jaguars look to end three-game skid against visiting Buccaneers

Jaguars return home for the first time in 34 days on Sunday
Credit: AP
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles passes against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)

"Five more games."

That was the constant refrain from Jaguars' executive vice president Tom Coughlin at his previously unannounced press conference Tuesday, in which he encouraged Jaguars fans to not give up and pledged his team's commitment to righting the ship in 2019. 

It's hard to believe that, the last time the Jaguars (4-7) played at TIAA Bank Field, they improved to 4-4 on the season with seemingly everything still to play for. However, in one month's time, that window has closed almost completely shut, with the Jags dropping their last three games, all to AFC South foes -- and all by 20 points. 

Three of those five games will be played within the friendly confines of TIAA Bank Field during the final month of the 2019 season. It's five more chances for the Jaguars coaching staff and front office to prove they are the group for the job in bringing the Big Cats back to the postseason. 

Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. 

Stopping the Run

During this three-game skid, perhaps the biggest culprit behind the Jaguars' struggles has been their run defense. Jacksonville has allowed 200+ rushing yards in each of the last three game, including four individual, 100-yard rushers (the Colts had two 100+ yard rushers, the first time that has happened in franchise history). 

Since defensive tackle Marcel Dareus was placed on Injured Reserve following core muscle surgery, the Jaguars have statistically been the worst run-defense in the NFL. And their ranks will take another blow this weekend.

Safety Ronnie Harrison (concussion) has already been ruled out for Sunday's game, and linebacker Myles Jack (knee) and cornerback Tre Henrdon (shoulder) are both questionable. Jack has received a bulk of the blame for Jacksonville's run-defense woes, but the fourth-year pro has no true back-up: Donald Payne played seven snaps at middle linebacker against the Titans when Jack was injured, the first seven snaps of his career on defense. 

Seemingly to prepare for Jack's possible absence -- the first missed game of his career -- Jacksonville activated Jake Ryan from the Injured Reserve on Friday. 

Can Foles Shake Off the Rust?

Since returning from a broken collarbone, quarterback Nick Foles has struggled to get much going on offense outside of garbage time. Foles was 33 of 47 for 296 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against the Colts; he was 32 of 48 for 272 yards and no touchdowns last week against the Titans. 

In that loss to the Colts, the Jaguars ran the ball just nine times, with head coach Doug Marrone citing "playing from behind" as the reason the Jags turned to Foles and not running the ball. Although they played from behind most of the way the following week in Nashville, Leonard Fournette had 24 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns. 

In his availability this week, Coughlin reinforced that the Jaguars' locker room remains focused and positive. 

Scouting the Bucs

The two biggest weapons for Bruce Arians' club both play wide receiver: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Both have eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in 2019, with Evans catching seven touchdowns and Godwin nine in 11 games this year.

 The Buccaneers (4-7) have averaged 386 yards of total offense per game in 2019, good for fourth in the NFL. They are 2-2 in their last four, but have averaged 29 points a contest. In contrast, the Jaguars have scored 29 points just once this year, and never more than that. 

The biggest question mark for Tampa remains at quarterback. James Winston, now in his fifth year in the league, continues to be turnover prone, throwing for 22 touchdowns this year as compared to 20 interceptions. He has completed 59.9% of his passes in 2019.

Knowing the Jaguars' struggles containing the run, expect a heavy dose of lead Tampa running back Peyton Barber. The one positive for Jacksonville: the Bucs are averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground as a team. 

Quick Hits

- Despite struggling against the run, Jacksonville remains in the Top-10 in Passing Defense. Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen are the only trio in the league with 5+ sacks and 2 forced fumbles each.

- In activating Ryan to their roster, the Jaguars released running back Tyler Ervin. That leaves just three tailbacks on their active roster. 

- Although his availability for Sunday remains in doubt, Tre Herndon has impressed since taking over as the Jaguars' starting cornerback. He has allowed a QBR of just 63.7 and a completion percentage of 44.8%

- The Jaguars will honor military members as part of "Salute to Service" Sunday, including Purple Heart recipient Christian Willard