Many Jaguars players are convinced that part of the team’s second-half struggles are related to their practice habits and the way rookie NFL head coach Urban Meyer has worked them dating back to the summer, according to numerous sources close to the situation.
Meyer, whose brief tenure with the team has been filled with abundant controversy, has been under fire within that locker room for a myriad of reasons and has struggled to build trust and respect with the players. Sources said that players have indicated to members of the staff since training camp that they did not believe there was sufficient recovery being built into the schedule and that the nature of their practices was not conducive to navigating through a lengthy season. That, coupled with questionable halftime adjustments, has led both players and coaches to theorize about Jacksonville’s -45 second-half scoring differential, tied for second-worst in football and a key factor in the club’s 0-5 start. They have been outscored by just 14 total points in the first half of their five games.
“Just ask anyone down there about how the players feel on game day,” said one source with direct knowledge of the situation. “They have dead legs. It’s become a real problem. It’s not just one or two guys. It may sound like an excuse, but to the players it’s real.”
Sources said staff members have discussed their practice schedule among themselves at various times, concerned that they might be worked too hard at times and more in a manner fitting a shorter college season than the NFL grind. Meyer, who was given extreme power and responsibility throughout football operations when hired as coach in early 2020, has no NFL background, and his adjustment to the pro game has been rocky to say the least.
“I’ve heard the dead legs thing consistently since the summer,” said another source close to several Jaguars players. “They think it’s why they fade in these games. They aren’t fresh enough.”
Meyer’s comment last week about his desire to run for 250 yards and pass for 250 yards with consistency was another source of comedic relief in the locker room, sources said — it would be a historic accomplishment even in moderation — and there is growing frustration that Meyer does not lean heavily enough into the running game, which is the obvious strength of the team. Jacksonville ranks second in the NFL, behind only Cleveland, in yards per carry (5.30, over a yard above the league average) but has run it only 122 times (24th in the NFL), despite having a rookie quarterback who is still learning and adapting to the pro game and an offensive line more adept at run blocking.
The Jaguars host the Dolphins today in London before going on their bye week.