AFC South: Brad Meester

David GarrardGary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Jacksonville Jaguars history. On Monday we featured Morten Andersen’s missed field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale that sent the Jaguars to the playoffs. On Tuesday we featured Mark Brunell’s touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith to clinch the 1996 AFC divisional playoff game over the Broncos.

Score: Jaguars 31, Steelers 29
Date: Jan. 5, 2008 Site: Heinz Field

The Jaguars have won just one playoff game since their run to the 1999 AFC Championship Game, and it came thanks to a gutsy play call, a couple of good blocks and a holding penalty that wasn’t called.

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The Jaguars appeared headed for an easy victory over Pittsburgh in a 2007 AFC wild-card game after beginning the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead and the Steelers facing a fourth-and-12 at the Jacksonville 37-yard line. But Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes hooked up for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh’s comeback got jump-started.

The Steelers eventually took a 29-28 lead with a little more than six minutes to play. After the teams traded possessions, the Jaguars drove into Pittsburgh territory but faced a critical fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 43 with 1:56 remaining.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t choose a pass play or a run by Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew. He called a quarterback draw out of the shotgun formation, putting the season on David Garrard’s feet.

Four players threw key blocks: Center Brad Meester sealed linebacker James Farrior on the inside, left guard Vince Manuwai drove defensive end Brett Keisel backward, right tackle Maurice Williams took down nose tackle Casey Hampton and tight end Marcedes Lewis turned safety Troy Polamalu outside.

That opened a huge hole for Garrard, who put a move on safety Tyrone Carter and ran by him at the 30 before Carter finally ran him down at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. That play set up Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining, and defensive end Bobby McCray sacked Roethlisberger and forced a fumble that defensive tackle Derek Landri recovered with 20 seconds to play to give the Jaguars a 31-29 victory.

Except it shouldn’t have happened.

Officials missed a pretty blatant hold by left tackle Khalif Barnes on linebacker James Harrison. Barnes got his feet crossed as Harrison went outside and then back inside and grabbed Harrison’s jersey by his shoulders. By the time Barnes let go, Garrard was already past the first-down marker.

Steelers players and fans were irate about the noncall. Their complaints were eventually validated when the NFL’s head of officiating admitted the following spring that the crew working that game missed the holding call.

There was obviously nothing the NFL could do about the outcome. That remains the last time the Steelers lost a playoff game at home.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars took the first step toward rebuilding the interior of their offensive line pretty quickly in free agency by reaching an agreement with former Denver Broncos guard Zane Beadles.

Beadles
The deal, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan, is worth $30 million over five years with $13 million guaranteed.

The offensive line was the Jaguars' top priority in free agency because of the retirement of center Brad Meester and the release of right guard Uche Nwaneri last week. The team obviously wanted an upgrade over Will Rackley, Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and Drew Nowak.

It's a good move by Jaguars general manager David Caldwell. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Beadles is a tough, durable player who has started 62 of a possible 64 games in the regular season since the Broncos selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. The Broncos led the NFL in total offense and were 15th in rushing (117.1 yards per game) last season.

UPDATE: Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said Beadles was the team's primary offensive line target.

"He’s very intelligent, he’s very competitive and he’s very smart," Caldwell said. "We did a lot of work on him in Atlanta when he was coming out. He’s had a heck of a career to-date. I think he’s played in every game possible in his four years in Denver. He played in the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s a guy with a proven track record. He’s still only 27 years old. He’s very passionate about football. I think he checks the box for everything we look for in a player and I think you guys know what that is in this culture.”

Beadles, who will play left guard, is a good fit for the Jaguars because like the Broncos they also use a zone-blocking scheme.

Interior offensive line is the Jaguars' biggest need after quarterback and pass-rusher. The group struggled early in the 2013 season with the transition to a zone-blocking scheme and the Jaguars eventually mixed back in some man-blocking schemes.

The strength of a team's running game comes from the center and two guards and those spots weren't very productive in 2013. The Jaguars finished 31st in the NFL in rushing (78.8 yards per game) and running back Maurice Jones-Drew's 3.4 per-carry average was the worst of his career. Meester was in his 14th season and not playing at the same level as he had in the past several seasons. Nwaneri played through torn cartilage in his knee in 2012 and dealt with the lingering effects from the injury in 2013 and Rackley battled a knee injury throughout the 2013 season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars are going to spend the next 7 1/2 months trying to do something they haven't had to do in 14 years: Find a center.

Brad Meester was an ironman throughout his 14-year career with the Jaguars, starting and playing in a franchise-record 209 games. He was a sure a thing as you can have in football, which is why the Jaguars never invested much effort throughout his career to find another center.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Brad Meester
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackThe Jaguars may find a replacement for newly retired center Brad Meester on their current roster.
Since Meester was drafted in 2000, the Jaguars drafted only one other player with the intention of giving him a look at center: Will Rackley, who played guard and tackle at Lehigh. They signed nine other free agents, including undrafted free agent Mike Brewster, who was a center at Ohio State but has been a guard with the Jaguars.

There are 19 centers who are scheduled to be free agents this offseason, with the top of the class being Cleveland's Alex Mack. New England's Ryan Wendell and Denver's Dan Koppen are also big names that could be available. It'd be a bit surprising if the Jaguars went the pricey route and signed Mack, who made $3.832 million this season and will likely be asking for $4-plus million a year.

A cheaper alternative -- and one that seems the most likely right now -- would be to look on the roster to see if there's a replacement. The Jaguars have options. They could move Brewster, Rackley or guard Jacques McClendon to center. They also recently signed Matt Stankiewitch, a former Penn State standout who signed as an undrafted free agent with New England last summer, was waived in the final cuts of training camp, and spent the 2013 season out of football.

McClendon played in three games and started two others at guard this season, but he also played one snap at center when Meester moved outside and caught a pass in his final home game.

"Gus and I kind of talked about a little bit of a quick wish list," GM David Caldwell said. "I said obviously we can't fill all of our needs through free agency and through the draft but we can we fill our needs with with people that are here right now and who will anticipate filling that center role, right guard, role, or left guard role, or whatever it might be.

"I think we need to really sit down with our coaches and say, ‘Who can we fill this need with this year?' Let's use our resources, whether it's a draft pick or free agency, to go fill another need that's more of a pressing issue."

The more pressing issues are quarterback, pass-rusher, outside linebacker, and receiver. The Jaguars are unlikely to address the quarterback situation in free agency other than to re-sign Chad Henne.

Finding a center may be something the Jaguars haven't done in a while, but the solution may already be on the roster.
Each day for the next two weeks we'll review how each position group performed in 2013, and take an early look at 2014. Today we'll examine the offensive line. We did quarterbacks on Monday running backs on Tuesday, tight ends Wednesday, and wide receivers on Thursday. We will do the defense next week.

Offensive line

Breakdown of starts: C Brad Meester (16), G Uche Nwaneri (16), T Austin Pasztor (12), T Cameron Bradfield (11), G Will Rackley (11), T Luke Joeckel (5), T Eugene Monroe (4), G Mike Brewster (3), G Jacques McClendon (2).

Recap: The Jaguars finished 31st in rushing (78.8 yards per game) and gave up the second-most sacks in the league (50). All the blame for those poor stats doesn't fall on the offensive line, but a good bit does. Injuries played a large role because several players started the season banged up and three ended up finishing the season on IR.

Only two players who started the season opener were in the starting lineup for the season finale: Meester and Nwaneri.

The group really struggled in the first month adjusting to the new zone-blocking scheme and it wasn't until Monroe was traded that things started to get better. The timing was a bit unusual because Monroe is regarded as one of the better young tackles in the game and Joeckel lasted less than a half at left tackle because of a season-ending ankle injury.

Nwaneri and Rackley were banged up with knee issues early in the season but as they got healthier the middle of the line played better.

The biggest surprise, though, was the play of Pasztor. Bradfield had started 12 games at right tackle in 2012 so he was experienced enough to handle things at left tackle after Joeckel got injured. Pasztor had started just three games at left guard as a rookie in 2012 but he did a solid job at right tackle over the final 12 games of the season. He was promising enough that coach Gus Bradley and GM David Caldwell are willing to give him a further look at that spot to see if he can develop into the team's answer at right tackle.

Rackley missed the final four games because of a concussion. Brewster was supposed to be his replacement but he suffered a fractured ankle as well and that forced McClendon into the lineup.

Looking ahead to 2014

Players under contract: Nwaneri, Joeckel, Rackley, Brewster, McClendon, G Stephane Milhim, C Patrick Lewis, G Drew Nowak, T DeMarcus Love, C Matt Stankiewitch.

The skinny: The top priority is finding a center because Meester retired after 14 seasons. It may be someone already on the roster -- McClendon also can snap -- but it also may be someone the Jaguars sign in free agency (Cleveland's Alex Mack is regarded as the top center that could be a free agent).

Upgrading at left guard and making sure things are settled at right tackle are on the list as well. Pasztor may end up being the starter against but he has to show progress and prove he can handle the quicker rushers.

There are still questions about Joeckel. He looked good in his first game at left tackle (his natural position), but he was only on the field for less than a half before he got injured. He should be healthy in time for OTAs.

The Jaguars are likely going to add several free agents and draft picks in the interior. The run game has to improve and that starts with the center and guards.

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 29, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 30-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

What it means: The Jaguars finished 4-12, doubling their victory total from last season and likely securing the No. 3 draft pick. The Houston Texans (2-14) and Washington Redskins (3-13) have the top two picks, but the Redskins traded their pick to St. Louis, so the Rams will pick in their spot.

Stock watch: Two young players stood out. Safety Johnathan Cyprien has steadily improved this season and broke up three passes to go along with six tackles. The team’s second-round draft pick out of Florida International also did a much better job of patrolling the seam and keeping Colts tight ends Coby Fleener and Weslye Saunders from doing a lot of damage. Fleener caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting between the teams but had just one catch for 25 yards on Sunday. The Jaguars have been limited at receiver since Justin Blackmon's suspension and Cecil Shorts' groin injury ended his season. However, Kerry Taylor has stepped up over the past three weeks. He caught a team-high eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Colts and has 16 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown over the past three games. Not bad for a guy who didn’t join the team until Nov. 4.

Farewell? This might have been the final game in a Jaguars uniform for running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and it wasn’t exactly a memorable one. He had averaged 100.9 yards per game rushing against the Colts in his career, but had just 39 yards on 13 carries Sunday. He also fumbled on the game’s third play a turnover the Colts turned into an early 7-0 lead. That was Jones-Drew’s first fumble lost in more than two years (against Baltimore on Oct. 24, 2011). It definitely was the final game for center Brad Meester, who is retiring after 14 seasons in the NFL.

What’s next: General manager David Caldwell will begin the process of evaluating the roster and making decisions on which players are worth re-signing, specifically quarterback Chad Henne and Jones-Drew. Both are unrestricted free agents.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 16

December, 23, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

Lewis
Keeping Lewis involved: Marcedes Lewis caught a touchdown pass in his fourth consecutive game and finished with four catches for 50 yards. He has been much more involved in the offense over the past month, which has really helped the Jaguars overcome an injured and now-missing Cecil Shorts. He should have been more involved earlier in the season but he needed time to adjust to the system after missing so much time because of a calf injury. His past month also highlights an interesting decision the Jaguars have heading into 2014: Do they keep Lewis, who is scheduled to make $6.7 million in base salary next season and $6.65 million in 2015? He has proved he is still a productive player and probably could catch 50 passes in Jedd Fisch’s offense in a full season, but that’s a lot of money to devote to a player who will be 30 next year and isn’t part of the team’s long-term plans.

Meester’s TD: It was a feel-good move for offensive coordinator Fisch and head coach Gus Bradley to try to find a way to get center Brad Meester, who is retiring after 14 seasons, a touchdown. Although Meester didn’t score, the play call will pay off in an even bigger way: It further cemented the players’ belief, respect and admiration for Bradley. That he’d be willing to do that for Meester has won him the locker room for years. How could a player not want to play hard for a coach like that? Very few coaches would be willing to do that. I asked one former Jaguars player after the game whether former coach Tom Coughlin would have done that. His response: “Hell no. He wouldn’t have even considered it.”

QB situation: Chad Henne played a solid game -- 24-of-34, 237 yards, two TDs, one interception -- and the way he has played the past two months also presents the Jaguars an interesting possibility. His contract expires at the end of the season but he is definitely worth re-signing, especially if the Jaguars aren’t going to draft a quarterback in the first few rounds. Henne has shown he can function within the offense and not put the team in bad situations. If the Jaguars decide to go defense with the first several picks and take a quarterback late, Henne is good enough to be a caretaker for another year.

Farewell MoJo? Sunday could have been the final time Jaguars fans see running back Maurice Jones-Drew wearing teal and black. His contract expires after Sunday’s season finale at Indianapolis. He said in the locker room after the game that he’d like to be back, but it will depend on whether he and the Jaguars can reach an agreement on both a salary and length of contract that would allow him to possibly finish his career in Jacksonville. "If it is [my last game as a Jaguar], it is, and if it isn’t, then I had a great run," said Jones-Drew, who has 8,032 career rushing yards. "This is just part of this game. We all know that. It’s the business aspect of it that nobody wants to talk about. It is the pink elephant in the room. Sometimes you have to walk away and sometimes you can stay. Hopefully I can be like Meester and be back. We have a couple months to figure that out after next week. We’ll see how it goes."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When the call came in from the sideline, Jaguars center Brad Meester got nervous.

But not because he was going to get a chance to score a touchdown in his final game at EverBank Field in front of his family.

He was worried he would embarrass himself in front of 60,559 people.

"The thing that ran through my head was, 'Don't drop the ball,'" Meester said following the Jaguars 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans. "I knew I would catch a lot of flak if I got open one time in my life and I dropped the ball. That was the one thing I was focusing on is catching it."

You can understand his uneasiness. Offensive linemen don’t get to catch passes or score touchdowns very often. Tackles sometimes do when they line up as extra tight ends. But centers never do.

Until Sunday, when offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and head coach Gus Bradley decided to give Meester a shot as a way to say “thank you” for being a vital part of the Jaguars franchise for the past 14 seasons. They put the play -- called Pass 5 Weak Screen to Brad -- in the game plan and practiced it all week.

On second-and-8 from the Tennessee 13-yard line late in the first quarter, they called it.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Brad Meester
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCenter Brad Meester made his first NFL catch in the final home game of his 14-year Jaguars' career.
Left guard Jacques McClendon moved to center and Drew Nowak, who was just activated from the practice squad this week, went in at left guard. Meester lined up to the right of tackle Austin Pasztor.

He went about 3 yards down field, turned around, and caught the pass from Chad Henne, just like he had done all week. Every time they practiced the play he caught it. Not a single drop. Even if he had been tackled immediately he would have been a hero to his linemen teammates.

"Have you seen his hands?" Pasztor said. "His fingers are all bent every which way. It is remarkable that he can hold onto the ball."

The rest of the play was an example of why offensive linemen don’t catch passes. Meester ran into the back of right guard Uche Nwaneri, tried to juke a defender, and cut inside instead of outside, where Pasztor was waiting to make a block. Had he done that, he may have scored.

"He’s a lineman. You think he’s going to see that?" Nwaneri said. "He’s just like, ‘RUN! RUN!' That’s how I would have been."

Meester admitted he maybe sort of panicked.

"I couldn't figure out what to do," he said. "Am I going outside? Am I going inside? Is he moving? I stuck there for a while and finally went inside, and there were a couple of guys waiting for me."

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew said he probably would have cut outside.

"Yeah it was [free outside] but his speed and my speed are a little different," he said. "I think he’s running 7s not 4s."

Jones-Drew, though, is partly to blame. At no time this past week did he give Meester any tips on reading blocks. It’s not like that’s something an offensive lineman is supposed to know.

"If you ask Drew [Nowak] he would say he played running back so he’d probably tell you he does know how to read blocks," Pasztor said. "I think the majority of us probably don’t."

Meester eventually was tackled after a 9-yard gain, giving the Jaguars a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Henne hit Marcedes Lewis on the next play for a touchdown.

Meester wasn’t bummed about not getting to score. He said it’s a play he’ll always remember, not only because it was a chance to live out every offensive lineman’s dream but because it was a sign of how the coaching staff and franchise feels about him. He’ll also never forget the crowd after the play, either.

"It also meant a lot when after the catch they started cheering, ‘Meester.’" He said. "That was pretty cool. I never had anything like that happen in my life, except maybe at the house."

Had he scored, though, it would have been pandemonium, Jones-Drew said.

"The whole team was ready to get a penalty so it was kind of good that he didn’t score because I think everyone was going to run on the field if he got in," Jones-Drew said. "The bench probably would have emptied."

The catch, as it no doubt will go down as in Meester’s household, was part of a bigger tribute to the 14-year veteran, who announced earlier this week that this will be his final season. He was the only Jaguars player introduced before the game and the team held an on-field ceremony after the game in which he and his family were presented with four framed No. 63 jerseys.

That was a fitting tribute to a player who owns the franchise record for most games played and started (208) and the two longest streaks of consecutive starts (92 and 89). Meester was grateful for the pregame and postgame honors and for Bradley and Fisch giving him a chance to live every offensive lineman’s dream.

"I didn't break down and cry," Meester said. "I did get emotional. It was an emotional time. It really started to get me when I went out for pregame warm-up. I could hear people yelling at me and I could see some signs out there. That was awesome. I never had a sign for myself and there were several.

"There was even a Fat Head out there, which my kids have outside and are excited about."

Probably more than had their dad scored a touchdown.

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 22, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: The Jaguars (4-11) were unable to overcome a slew of injuries and pick up their second victory at EverBank Field this season. It's just the second time in franchise history the Jaguars have won just one game at home. They went 1-7 at EverBank last season and 1-6 this season (they played a home game against San Francisco in London).

Stock watch: The Jaguars' group of no-name receivers did a solid job against the Titans. Injuries have left the Jaguars with little experience at the position. Entering the game, the team's four active receivers (Ace Sanders, Kerry Taylor, Mike Brown and Lamaar Thomas) had a combined 75 catches this season. None of them have more than a year of experience in the NFL. The group responded, especially Brown and Taylor. Brown caught five passes for 71 yards and one touchdown while Taylor had four catches for 45 yards.

Honoring Meester: The Jaguars had a quick postgame ceremony to honor center Brad Meester, who is retiring at the end of the season after 14 years with the team. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch tried to send him out in style by calling a screen pass for Meester that was designed to get him a touchdown. Meester made the catch but cut left instead of right and got tackled at the 4-yard line. Hard to criticize him for making that wrong cut, though. As former Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli joked at halftime, it's not like offensive linemen regularly read blocks.

Depleted defense: The Jaguars were already without three starters (linebackers Russell Allen and Geno Hayes and defensive tackle Roy Miller) and they lost two more key players during the game: defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick (elbow) and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle). That forced the Jaguars to use defensive tackle Jordan Miller, who was active for the first time this season, and start inexperienced linebackers J.T. Thomas and John Lotulelei. You could see the drop off. The Titans ran for 182 yards and had most of their success in the passing game in the middle of the field.

What's next: The Jaguars end the 2013 season at Indianapolis on Sunday.

Five things to watch: Jaguars-Titans

December, 21, 2013
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Here are five things to watch in Sunday's Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.:

Stopping the run: The Jaguars’ improved rush defense in the second half of the season started against the Titans, who managed just 83 yards on the ground. Chris Johnson had 30 yards on 12 carries and fumbled early in the game. The Jaguars slipped a bit last week and gave up 198 yards on the ground to the Bills. Can they rebound against the Titans and corral Johnson, who is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball?

Fitzpatrick Part II: Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was forced into action in the last meeting when Jake Locker went down with a foot injury and he carved up the Jaguars’ secondary and nearly led the Titans to a comeback victory. He’s coming off a 400-yard, four-TD performance against Arizona and the Jaguars have given up an average of 301.8 yards passing in the last five games. It looks like safety Johnathan Cyprien will be able to play, so that should help some, but the Jaguars are going to have to get pressure to slow down Fitzpatrick.

MoJo’s health: Maurice Jones-Drew is questionable with a hamstring injury and is going to test it on Sunday morning to see if he can go. Even if he does play, it’s likely he won’t have a full load, which means we’ll see more Jordan Todman. He filled in pretty well for Jones-Drew last week (109 yards rushing).

TE play: From the Jaguars’ perspective, it’d be best to see more of Marcedes Lewis and less of Delanie Walker. Lewis has caught a touchdown pass in the last three games and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he wants to see Lewis more involved in the passing game now that Cecil Shorts is done for the season. Tight ends have hurt the Jaguars all season and Walker caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting. Can they limit his damage in this game?

Goodbye Brad: This will be the last home game for center Brad Meester, who announced earlier in the week that this would be his final season. The 36-year-old Meester, who is in his 14th season, owns franchise records for games played (207) and game started (207) as well as the two longest steaks of consecutive starts (92 and 88). The Jaguars selected him in the second round of the 2000 draft out of Northern Iowa and started at left guard the first three seasons before moving to center to begin the 2003 season. The team is going to have a post-game ceremony to honor him.

Jags unsure of Jones-Drew, Cyprien

December, 18, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It won’t be until Friday -- or possibly later -- before the Jaguars will know whether running back Maurice Jones-Drew or safety Johnathan Cyprien will be able to play in Sunday’s game against Tennessee.

Both players missed last week’s game against Buffalo and the plan is for each to not practice this week and test their injuries on Friday. Jones-Drew has a hamstring injury and Cyprien has a thigh injury.

“Both are in good spirits,” Bradley said. “You can tell they’re going the right direction but just how fast we don’t know yet.”

Jordan Todman started for Jones-Drew against Buffalo and ran for 109 yards and caught four passes for 44 yards in the 27-20 loss. Winston Guy started for Cyprien and had a strip sack and six tackles.

In other injury news, the Jaguars placed linebacker Russell Allen on injured reserve with a concussion.

Linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder) did not practice Monday. Defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, and center Brad Meester were given a veteran’s day off.

Reserve receiver Jeremy Ebert, who has three catches for 18 yards, suffered an ankle injury during Monday’s practice and was taken from the practice field on a cart.

Light day boosts Jaguars run game

November, 24, 2013
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HOUSTON -- Guard Uche Nwaneri credits the Jacksonville Jaguars' success on the ground on Sunday to an easier-than-normal Wednesday.

Because of a large number of banged-up players, coach Gus Bradley decided to forgo the normal full-pads practice and instead the players worked in shells. Nwaneri said the lighter day helped the offensive line get a better grasp on the game plan and Houston's defensive front and that was the main reason the Jaguars ran for a season-high 118 yards against the Texans.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/David J. PhillipMaurice Jones-Drew had his best rushing day of the season with 84 yards on 14 carries.
"Being able to see what was going on at a slower pace, being able to read what was going on with the defense in practice at a slower pace actually allowed us to be a little bit more aware on game day," Nwaneri said shortly after the Jaguars' 13-6 victory at Reliant Stadium. "It just helped our preparation being able to kind of back off a little bit on the physicality and be able to really get the game locked in from a mental standpoint."

That may sound a little hokey, but you can't argue with the results. Bradley said the offensive line, which has struggled all season with the transition from a gap-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, had its most consistent day -- and because of that Maurice Jones-Drew had his best day of the season. He ran for a season-high 84 yards and one touchdown and added six catches for 60 yards for a season-high 144 total yards.

"Blocking was phenomenal," Jones-Drew said. "First couple of weeks we were having trouble kind of getting it right and this new running scheme was a little different. As the weeks went on, we're getting better. Right now we're playing our highest in the run game."

That might be a bit of hyperbole considering the Jaguars (2-9) ran for just 32 yards in a loss to Arizona last week, but a big difference from the previous 10 games was the fact that they were finally able to produce a big run. The Jaguars had just three runs of 20 or more yards, including a long of 30, but Jones-Drew busted a 44-yarder in the second quarter on Sunday to kick-start a drive that ended with Josh Scobee's 30-yard field goal to put the Jaguars ahead 10-0.

"That's the key," center Brad Meester said. "We look at that every week. You look at a lot of the teams out there that rush for a lot of yards, most of them are only one-, two-yard gains, it's just you're able to get those explosive runs and we had just kind of missed that in the last few weeks. We were able to get some more explosive this week."

The Jaguars also mixed up the run game against the Texas, partly to run away from defensive end J.J. Watt. They ran the ball outside more than in previous weeks (Jones-Drew's long run came off left tackle). Jordan Todman was also involved, carrying the ball a career-high 11 times for 31 yards. He had 20 carries in the first 10 games.

"Mixing up inside zone, outside zone, our gap scheme ... our offensive line is doing a great job," Jones-Drew said. "I think there was one run where I didn't get touched until I got tackled."

That was his 44-yard run, and Nwaneri said it felt for a moment like 2011, when Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing.

"It was that old familiar feeling seeing him get to the edge and get up field and pick up 30, 40 yards running on one play," Nwaneri said. "That's what he does and I think we were able to do some more things coming downhill at them and that opened up some more lanes for us and other plays. It was just a good group effort."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars had 18 players on Wednesday's injury report but only three, all of whom are receivers, are in jeopardy of not being available for Sunday's game at the Houston Texans.

Starter Mike Brown (shoulder) and Stephen Burton (concussion) were among eight players who did not practice on Wednesday. Brown was hurt during the Jaguars' 27-14 loss to Arizona last Sunday. He is averaging a team-high 17.0 yards per catch (17 catches for 289 yards).

Linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) and defensive tackle Abry Jones (back) also missed practice because of injuries. Defensive end Jason Babin, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, center Brad Meester, and defensive tackle Roy Miller were given a veteran's day off.

Cornerback Will Blackmon (shoulder), cornerback Dwayne Gratz (hip), safety Winston Guy (hamstring), tight end Danny Noble (hamstring), linebacker Paul Posluszny (concussion), guard Will Rackley (concussion), receiver Cecil Shorts (groin), receiver Stephen Williams (Achilles) and receiver Kerry Taylor (toe) were limited.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' offense hasn't had any trouble starting fast the last two weeks.

It's the rest of the game that has been the problem.

It happened in a 29-27 victory over Tennessee on Nov. 10 but the Jaguars were able to hang on and get their first victory over the season. They couldn't overcome it against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at EverBank Field, however, and lost 27-14.

[+] EnlargeDespite a strong first quarter, Chad Henne and the Jacksonville offense could not score for the rest of the game.
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesChad Henne
The Jaguars scored two touchdowns -- their first at EverBank this season -- and racked up 111 yards in the first quarter. But penalties, an injury to an already-depleted receiving corps, and the lack of a running game crushed the early momentum. The result was the ninth loss of the season and sixth consecutive loss at EverBank Field.

"After those scores we struggled," head coach Gus Bradley said. "We had quite a few three-and-outs. I know we had some second-and-longs, some penalties that showed up in the second half, a couple interceptions. We've got to overcome that. We've really got to continue to challenge our guys to step up and make plays."

The Jaguars (1-9) managed just two first downs in the second quarter and two more in the third. They managed just 163 yards in the final three quarters and 58 came after the Cardinals took a 24-14 lead. Why such a poor performance?

Penalties hurt. A false start on third-and-8 by receiver Ace Sanders in the second quarter. Early in the fourth, center Brad Meester and guard Uche Nwaneri had false starts on the same drive. A holding penalty on tackle Cameron Bradfield wiped out a 21-yard reception by Maurice Jones-Drew.

The running game was non-existent, too. That's not surprising considering the Cardinals entered the day with the NFL's third-ranked rush defense, but Jones-Drew and the offensive line really struggled. The Jaguars ran for just 32 yards on 16 carries and Jones-Drew ran 14 times for 23 yards, which is the second-lowest total of his career in games in which he's had double-digit carries.

The Jaguars were already short at receiver with the suspension of Justin Blackmon and Stephen Burton missing the game with a concussion, but Mike Brown left the game in the second half with a shoulder injury. That meant the Jaguars had to use Kerry Taylor, whom the team claimed off waivers from Arizona on Nov. 4, in a bigger role.

Sanders, Brown, Taylor and tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor were pretty much quarterback Chad Henne's only options because No. 1 receiver Cecil Shorts was being shadowed by Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson. Until the final four minutes of the game, Henne targeted Shorts just once. In those final four minutes, Henne threw to Shorts four times.

Shorts was clearly frustrated.

"There was opportunities throughout the game I should have been involved in," Shorts said. "But, you know, it is what it is. I can't control what the … We can do better as an offense."

Henne wasn't particularly effective, either. Though he completed 27 of 42 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown, he threw two interceptions and didn't challenge the Arizona secondary. As noted, he didn't look for Shorts until the game was well in hand and there were instances where he was open against Peterson.

He settled for shorter passes too often, too, especially on several third downs. It seemed as if he was overly concerned with Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu.

"It was tough," Henne said. "Patrick Peterson's a great corner and we knew we were going to have some problems with him. But Cecil, I thought, in some of his one-on-one routes did some really good things with it. They were playing a high safety. Their guys up front are good pass rushers, so we wanted to get the ball out quick, get it out on time, and I think we definitely accomplished some of that."

It was a typical Henne game. Several good throws, several bad, and a mixture of safe stuff. But he couldn't lead the offense to any points despite starting possessions at his own 40, the Arizona 42, midfield, and his own 42. Punt, punt, punt, interception.

"Field position was outstanding," Bradley said. "We had a couple times we started on the 50 and there in. Those we have to come away with some points. We have to. Even if it's a field goal, to get it down there inside the 35. We took a sack on one. We were on the 36 yard line, the 38-yard line, trying to get it to the 35, we take a sack. Throw it away and give it a chance. We'll continue to grow on those decisions."

It's not all on Henne, Shorts said.

"I felt like we had a lot of momentum at the beginning of the game," said Shorts, who caught just two passes for 22 yards. "We had penalties. When we're in their territory we need to at least get three points. We're on their side of the 50, we can't have a penalty, first-and-15, and we get a positive play, then another penalty, first-and-20. We can't have stuff like that. We need to at least get three every time we're in their territory. We've just got to do better. We need to execute."

RTC: Jaguars stay the course

November, 11, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Jaguars never wavered, never stopped believing in what coach Gus Bradley was preaching. Stay the course, Bradley told the players. Remain committed to the process and the results will come. Even as the losses mounted -- including several really big ones -- the message stayed the same.

The players stayed with their coach and finally got the result they desperately needed on Sunday, writes the Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran. The Jaguars' 29-27 victory over Tennessee was their first win since they beat the Titans on Nov. 25, 2012.

"We're very excited in here," center Brad Meester said. "It's a group that's been working hard this entire year and just kept fighting. Our goal has always been to continue getting better, and everything was able to come together. It wasn't perfect, but we were able to get the win."

Here are some additional pieces on the Jaguars from around the web in our daily Reading the Coverage feature:

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 10

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars29-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans:

[+] EnlargeWill Blackmon
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesThe Jaguars went "back to basics" on defense and forced four turnovers, one of which Will Blackmon returned for a touchdown.
Simple success: Apparently, simpler is better for the Jaguars' defense. Coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich spent part of the bye week going over the defensive game plans from the first half of the season and decided that trimming the amount of coverages, blitzes and personnel groups would help. The result was the defense’s best performance of the season. The Jaguars forced four turnovers -- the most they'd had in a game in three years -- and held the Titans to just 83 yards rushing. The Jaguars were last in the NFL in rush defense (161.8 yards per game) entering the game. “We got back to basics,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “Early on or even the last couple weeks ... we had games we were trying to do a little too much, and we scaled our package down for this week. I think we had a really good plan going into the game, very basic, not complex. It was stuff that we knew really well and we felt like we could play really fast with.”

Special teams: Kick returner Jordan Todman nearly got benched this week after bobbling three kickoffs against San Francisco, but he responded with a huge game against the Titans. He averaged 33 yards on three returns, including a season-long 46-yarder. That came on his final return and it helped set up another big play on special teams, when LaRoy Reynolds downed Bryan Anger’s punt at the Tennessee 1-yard line. The Jaguars got a safety two plays later on a holding call in the end zone, which ended up being the winning margin. The Jaguars’ special teams have improved markedly since training camp, thanks mainly to an overhaul of the bottom of the roster and the addition of players such as J.T. Thomas and John Lotulelei.

No stupid penalties: Did the Jaguars make mistakes on Sunday? Plenty, such as Chad Henne’s terrible throw to Marcedes Lewis that got intercepted and Brad Meester’s shotgun snap that bounced off receiver Ace Sanders. But the Jaguars didn’t commit the stupid penalties that were a regular occurrence during the team’s first eight games. They were penalized four times for a season-low 19 yards. Meanwhile, the Titans did commit a couple of costly penalties: a holding call in the end zone for a safety and a roughing-the-passer flag on Bernard Pollard that extended a drive that ended with a touchdown.

Commitment to the run: The Jaguars didn’t have a lot of success on the ground, rushing for only 54 yards and averaging just 1.8 yards per carry, but offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch stayed committed to it all day. The Jaguars had only 56 offensive snaps and Fisch called 30 runs, including 21 by Maurice Jones-Drew. That’s the kind of balance Fisch wants in terms of runs and passes. Obviously the production needs to increase on the ground.

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