NFL Nation: Jacksonville Jaguars

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Sunday's Jacksonville Jaguars-Miami Dolphins matchup at EverBank Field features two teams coming off big victories and searching for something neither has had in a while: a winning streak.

The Jaguars haven't won back-to-back games since Weeks 12-14 of the 2013 season, and the Dolphins haven't accomplished that since Weeks 13-15 of last season. Even worse for the Jaguars: They haven't won back-to-back home games since the 2011 season.

ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup.

Michael DiRocco: Everyone in Jacksonville is convinced Blake Bortles is the franchise quarterback the team has needed. What's the feeling in Miami on Ryan Tannehill?

James Walker: Just like Tannehill's play, the mood has been up and down on Miami's starting quarterback. There was a lot of optimism entering this season that Tannehill would carry Miami's offense. The Dolphins hired a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, who helped quickly develop Nick Foles last season in Philadelphia. So many Dolphins fans, perhaps prematurely, expected quick results from Tannehill, as well. But it's been a slow progression in his third season. He was average for the first three games. Then, Tannehill started to put together better performances against the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Last week was really the first time in 38 starts that I felt Tannehill was the best player on the field. He started with 14 straight completions, which Tannehill told me he's never done at any level to start a game. He appears to be turning the corner and clicking in this new offense. But the bottom line is Tannehill is still 18-20 as a starter. Gaining consistency over these next 10 games will be key.

I'm not sure if the Jaguars getting their first win makes them more or less dangerous to upset the Dolphins. What are your thoughts?

DiRocco: If you had asked me this question on Sunday night, I would have said more dangerous. The defense just played its best game, and the offense took advantage of some Cleveland turnovers and scored a season-high 24 points despite Bortles playing his worst game. Things had been starting to come together for the Jaguars in the previous two weeks, and they finally put a complete game together, eliminated mistakes and made big plays. But the loss of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (torn pectoral muscle) for the rest of the season and defensive end Andre Branch (groin) for at least six weeks is a huge blow. It's almost as if this team is snakebitten. They get some good news (a victory) but can't enjoy it because of the injuries. That will definitely impact the team's psyche because there are so many young players (29 first- or second-year players) who haven't been through a situation like this before.

How does the return of Dion Jordan impact the defense? Will that help Cameron Wake?

Walker: I don't expect a huge impact from Jordan right away. Six weeks is a long time to be away from football, especially during a suspension when you can't communicate with coaches or have a playbook. Jordan practiced with the team for the first time since Aug. 28 on Tuesday and a lot has changed. Backups such as Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Terrence Fede have stepped forward and developed. Miami's defense also added a few wrinkles since the summer. Jordan has a lot of catching up to do. The practice week is still ongoing, and how he responds physically and mentally will be key. If Jordan sees action Sunday in Jacksonville, his biggest contribution would most likely be on special teams until he gets his legs under him.

How much will the loss of Posluszny impact Jacksonville's defense?

DiRocco: As mentioned before, it's huge, and it goes beyond what he does on the field. Posluszny has his limitations in pass coverage, but he's a fantastic two-down linebacker. He's a tackling machine, one of the team's leaders, one of the team's smartest players, is responsible for calling the defensive plays and is the Jaguars' best defensive player. There's no way the Jaguars will be able to replace his production or leadership, especially since they're going to be relying on players who have mainly contributed on special teams (J.T. Thomas and LaRoy Reynolds). Though the Jaguars' defensive line has played pretty well, not having Posluszny makes the run defense considerably weaker -- not good since the Dolphins are fourth in the NFL in rushing.

The Dolphins had a big win in Chicago last week. Was that an aberration or are they legitimate contenders for a playoff spot?

Walker: I won't put the Dolphins into the "contender" category until they can at least win two games in a row -- a feat they have yet to do this season. The Dolphins are in that middle of the pack with about 12-15 other teams about which you're not sure what to expect week to week. There have been times -- such as wins against the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots -- when the Dolphins have looked like contenders. There is certainly enough talent, especially when the quarterback is playing well, but Miami hasn't developed enough consistency to this point to inspire confidence this is a 10-win team. We will learn a lot about the Dolphins with how they respond Sunday in Jacksonville.

Have the Jaguars finally found a spot for Denard Robinson at running back?

DiRocco: It appears so, although I don't think you're going to see him get the kind of workload he did against Cleveland (22 carries) on a consistent basis. Though he's the most explosive of the Jaguars' backs, he's not used to carrying the ball that many times. Carrying the ball as a running back is different than carrying it as a quarterback, the way he did during his career at Michigan. And, he's not used to taking the kind of pounding he did on Sunday. When Toby Gerhart returns from a foot injury (which should be Sunday), Robinson's carries will decrease, though he should still be the No. 1 back. I'd also like to see him used more on the edge and in the passing game, where he can use his open-field abilities a little more.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Denard Robinson carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 24-6 victory over Cleveland last Sunday.

He might have more touches in Sunday’s game against Miami. Or fewer.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch isn’t yet sure how the carries will be split with Toby Gerhart expected to make his return for a foot injury. Robinson could get the bulk of the work again, or it could be the Gerhart show. Rookie Storm Johnson could get more work.

"I think we’ll continue to mix and match a little bit," Fisch said Wednesday. "I don’t know exactly how that will all play out yet."

Gerhart practiced Wednesday on a limited basis after being held out of the last two games in order to give his right foot time to heal. He first injured the foot in the season opener against Philadelphia and aggravated the injury against Pittsburgh on Oct. 5. The Jaguars signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract in March to be the team’s No. 1 back, but the injury and offensive line struggles have limited him to 123 yards and 2.6 yards per carry in five games.

The Jaguars started Johnson against Tennessee on Oct. 12 and he gained just 21 yards on 10 carries; Robinson rushed for 22 yards on five carries. That production, plus the continued improvement Robinson has shown throughout the season in his transition from college quarterback to running back, earned him the start against the Browns.

"He showed that he is understanding the run game better," Fisch said. "He is understanding the stretch and cut, he’s understanding the stretch and bounce and understanding when you’re running outside zone, what’s your reads? Even earlier in the season, maybe we missed a read because we were too fast to the hole and the block didn’t develop quick enough. I think he’s understanding that and he’s understanding when he’s running inside he’s got to run with lower pad level and continue to protect the football."

Robinson averaged 5.8 yards per carry against the Browns in the most work he’s received in his career. He had never carried the ball more than nine times in any game, so Robinson was the most sore he’s been in his two-year NFL career on Monday.

"Got in the cold tub yesterday, stretched out a little bit, so I felt pretty good," Robinson said.

The former Michigan quarterback isn’t dwelling on his performance, though. He didn’t even revel in it on Sunday night.

"You’ve got to move forward," he said. "Right after the game I really wanted to move forward and watch film and try to break it down to see things I could have worked on. There was a couple plays I left out on the football field. I want to get better so I’ve got to make it happen this week."

Robinson and the running game will face a much tougher defense this Sunday. The Dolphins have the league’s fourth-ranked total defense and are ranked 10th against the rush. That doesn’t change Fisch’s commitment to run the ball because the passing game is predicated on play-action. How they split the carries, however, is still undetermined.

"I’m not ready to say that one yet," Fisch said. "It depends on how he [Robinson] is carrying the ball, I guess. I will take 22 for 120. If he wants to do that again, I’m all in."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars rookie receiver Allen Robinson knew his first touchdown catch would come eventually.

Robinson
He had just hoped it would have been a lot sooner.

But he finally got it in last Sunday’s 24-6 victory over Cleveland, and he hopes it’s going to open the floodgates for not only him but the rest of the offense to find the end zone a lot more.

"Just to get that first one out of the way, it’s always good to kind of break that ice and just to continue to improve and keep rolling," Robinson said.

Robinson, who leads the Jaguars with 34 catches and 371 yards receiving, certainly made his first TD catch count. He caught an 11-yard pass from Blake Bortles, broke the tackle of cornerback Buster Skrine at the 20-yard line and scored to put the Jaguars ahead 7-6 with 27 seconds remaining in the first half. The Jaguars never trailed after that.

Robinson’s celebration for his first NFL touchdown was pretty low key. Just a small dance in the back corner of the end zone that lasted only a few seconds.

"I know me and [Allen] Hurns had talked about it a little bit," Robinson said. "I was surprised Hurns didn’t do it on his first 9touchdown). I was just able to do that on mine."

The Film Don't Lie: Jaguars

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Jaguars must fix:

Playing a rookie quarterback means dealing with a lot of mistakes as he goes through the learning process, but the Jacksonville Jaguars need Blake Bortles to start cutting down on his interceptions beginning with Sunday's home game against the Miami Dolphins.

Bortles has thrown 10 interceptions in the five games in which he has played (four starts) and that puts him on pace to tie Peyton Manning's rookie record of 28 interceptions. Some of them haven't been his fault -- Allen Hurns slipped coming out of a break and Cecil Shorts III couldn't come back to a pass because he hurt his hamstring, for example -- but most are the result of poor decisions. That's what happened twice against the Browns.

Bortles' first interception came because he was hit as he threw by linebacker Jabaal Sheard. In studying film, it's clear his second interception came because he was confused by what the Browns did after the snap and he threw the ball off his back foot and tried to squeeze it into a tight window to Denard Robinson.

The third interception was worse when re-watched on film. Bortles stepped up into the pocket and easily could have run for a first down on third-and-5 from the Cleveland 14-yard line. Instead, just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, he tried to hit Shorts at the 6 with a last-second pass. He never saw cornerback Buster Skrine charging Shorts and it was an easy interception in the red zone that cost the Jaguars points.

A positive: Coach Gus Bradley said Bortles at least has an awareness as it's happening that he has made a poor decision on some throws, which shows progress from earlier in the season.

"I know in my conversation with him it's coming to him right before the play happens and when he's going and right before he throws the ball it's like, 'Oh, maybe I shouldn't have thrown that,' where before it was 'I'm throwing it' and it was an interception," Bradley said. "He is building a consciousness about it."

One of Bortles' biggest strengths is he doesn't often make the same mistake twice, so some of the poor decisions he's making won't be repeated. He's a bit of a gunslinger so he's always going to take chances, but he's got to understand when to take those chances. In the red zone holding a four-point lead in the third quarter isn't one of those times. That's something that comes only with experience.

The Jaguars' defense bailed out Bortles with three turnovers but the Jaguars can't count on that happening every week. The Dolphins are coming off a big road victory at Chicago in which they sacked Jay Cutler three times and forced him into a pair of turnovers. You can bet they'll come at Bortles pretty hard Sunday. If the Jaguars are going to get victory No. 2, Bortles will have to cut down on poor decisions.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny knew immediately something bad had happened.

He felt a pop and searing pain on the right side of his chest when he sacked Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer midway through the fourth quarter of the Jaguars’ 24-6 victory over the Browns on Sunday. He stayed down on the turf for a moment, grabbed his chest with his left hand, and then slowly got up and went back into the defensive huddle.

It wasn’t until he came off the field after Hoyer’s incomplete pass on third down one play later that he found out just how badly he was injured. He had torn his right pectoral muscle away from the tendon that attaches it to his shoulder.

"I knew something was wrong [when it happened] but not that wrong, you know what I mean?" Posluszny said Monday afternoon. "You know how it is. We’re winning, we’re up, you want to finish the game."

The injury prevented him from finishing the game and it’s also going to keep him from finishing the season, too. Posluszny is trying to schedule surgery this week and the Jaguars are going to place him on season-ending IR. It’s certainly a blow to a defense that has played its best over the past three weeks but it’s just as disappointing for Posluszny, who had only missed one game in his three-plus seasons since he joined the Jaguars as a free agent in 2011.

"It’s not easy, especially [because] you get the feeling now that we’re just starting to pick things up and the team’s going to roll a little bit and get on a nice winning streak and play some good ball, so you want to be a part of that," he said. "It’s tough to get hurt now and know that I’m not going to play football for a long time."

Posluszny said team physician Kevin Kaplan hasn’t given him a timetable on the rehab process but assured Posluszny that it would not impact his preparation for the 2015 season. Posluszny has two more years remaining on the six-year, $45 million contract he signed in 2011 and is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2015 and 2016.

Posluszny is in his fourth season with the Jaguars after spending four years with Buffalo. The 2013 Pro Bowler has recorded at least 110 tackles from 2008-2013 and was second in the NFL with 162 tackles in 2013. Not only is he the team’s leading tackler (69) and best defensive player this season, he’s also responsible for making the defensive calls and is one of the team’s leaders.

The Jaguars’ defense has played its best football in the last three weeks, allowing only two touchdowns and 32 points over that span. They’ve forced four of their seven turnovers during that time as well, including three against Cleveland.

That was with Posluszny in the lineup, though.

"That’ll be huge, losing Poz," defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said. "Poz is the guy that jells our defense together. He’s the leader of our unit, so losing him will be huge. But Poz, he’s a leader. He’ll step in. Any question a guys has to ask, Poz will be there to answer the question and help the guys through the game plan. It’ll be big for him to be in there in the meeting room helping the guys."

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said it’s likely that fourth-year player J.T. Thomas will take over as the middle linebacker. He was cross-trained at outside and inside linebacker during training camp but has played mainly on special teams this season and has just three tackles. Second-year player LaRoy Reynolds, an undrafted rookie in 2013, will move into Thomas’ spot. He started at OTTO in the first three games before getting benched because of poor play and has played mainly on special teams since then.

"The guys are going to do a great job," Posluszny said. "Our D-line’s going to continue to play really, really well. That’s going to set the tone for the entire defense. The linebackers are going to step up and take advantage of the opportunity."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to rely on two unproven players and perhaps the team’s biggest free-agent bust to help offset the loss of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, the team’s best defensive player and a team captain.

And yet coach Gus Bradley seems pretty confident the Jaguars are going to be fine.

[+] EnlargePaul Posluszny
Richard Dole/USA TODAY SportsWith Paul Posluszny out for the season, the Jaguars are losing more than their top tackler. They're losing key leadership.
"Well, it’s a big loss," Bradley said Monday afternoon. "He’s been really playing really well lately. Well, he’s been playing well ever since I’ve been here but I think he’s come into his own, really understands the defense now, and really takes total command of the defense. That’ll be a difficult one.

“We’ve got some guys that will step up. That’s what this league’s all about. I think we’ll be OK."

Bradley obviously has to say those things and maintain a positive outlook, but the bottom line is that while Posluszny has his limitations in coverage and went through a stretch earlier this season when he tried to do too much and got out of position, he is the team's most reliable defensive player and the Jaguars don't have enough talent to even come close to replacing his production.

Who are the replacements? Second-year player J.T. Thomas and second-year player LaRoy Reynolds, both of whom have made more of an impact on special teams than on defense, and fifth-year player Dekoda Watson, who was signed to fill the newly created OTTO spot but has been disappointing and has played sparingly on defense.

Bradley said it’s likely that Thomas will take over as the middle linebacker. He was cross-trained at outside and inside linebacker during training camp but has played mainly on special teams this season. He has three tackles.

Thomas started at the OTTO linebacker against Cleveland on Sunday and Bradley said Reynolds, an undrafted rookie in 2013, will move into Thomas’ spot. He started at OTTO in the first three games before getting benched because of poor play and has played mainly on special teams since then.

The Jaguars signed Watson in March to fill the OTTO spot, but he missed all of training camp while recovering from a second groin surgery. He returned to practice late in the preseason but had been unable to overtake Reynolds and played mainly on special teams. When Reynolds was benched, the Jaguars inserted Thomas into the OTTO spot and kept Watson on special teams.

Posluszny is a two-down linebacker that has been forced to play on third down because of a lack of better options and struggles in coverage, but he is the team’s leading tackler (69) and best defensive player. He’s also responsible for making the defensive calls, so he’ll be tough to replace from that perspective.

The fact that the Jaguars are relying on Thomas, Reynolds and Watson underscores the need for a significant upgrade at the linebacker position, which the Jaguars are expected to address in the offseason and the draft. Rookie Telvin Smith has progressed and had his best game in the 24-6 victory over Cleveland on Sunday -- two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception -- but he’s an undersized outside linebacker and isn’t yet ready to be a starter.

"Any time you have injuries with guys that are playing well it stings you a little bit," Bradley said.

Losing Posluszny’s leadership won’t be easy to overcome, either, and that’s something Thomas, Reynolds and Watson aren’t capable of providing, either.

"Everybody has different leadership style. Poz was not really a vocal-type leader," Bradley said. "He led by his actions and his demeanor and how he took care of himself. So hopefully the lessons he’s taught many of our players, they’ll buy into and continue to own it and they’ll demonstrate it. I think it’ll be a group effort."
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When it comes to forcing turnovers, it seems it’s pretty much all or nothing for the Jacksonville Jaguars defense.

On Sunday, it was everything.

The unit forced three in Sunday’s 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field, which was one fewer than the total the team had entering the game. After forcing three in the first half of the season opener against Philadelphia, the Jaguars had just one other until forcing two fumbles and picking off Brian Hoyer.

"We talked to our team that they come in bunches and they believed that," coach Gus Bradley said.

Not forcing turnovers has been one reason the offense has struggled this season. Entering Sunday’s game, the Jaguars only began three possessions in their opponents’ territory in the first six games. They did that four times on Sunday, three of which came after turnovers.

The Jaguars took over at the Cleveland 25-yard line after rookie linebacker Telvin Smith sacked Hoyer and forced him to fumble. Linebacker Paul Posluszny recovered and that resulted in a field goal.

The Jaguars got the ball at the Cleveland 8 after Jordan Poyer muffed a punt off his facemask. Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds recovered and Denard Robinson scored on the following play to give the Jaguars a 17-6 lead.

Smith intercepted Hoyer on the Browns’ next possession and returned the ball to the Cleveland 7. Storm Johnson scored two plays later for a 24-6 lead.

"Turnovers are huge," defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said. "We understand we have a young offense. We’ve got a lot of guys over there maybe still trying to find their way and maybe adjusting to the game plan. Our job on defense -- we’ve got a lot of vets on defense -- is to get them the ball. Get great field position to get them a short field, give them another opportunity."

The offense capitalized with 17 points, which helped overcome a three-interception day by rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

"I can’t turn the ball over but it’s something that’s going to happen," Bortles said. "I have to continue to grow and learn from it. But like I said, when those guys are out there -- Poz [Posluszny] and Clem [Chris Clemons] and Red [Bryant] all those guys are making plays -- that’s fun to watch. It really is.

"It’s exciting to see me struggle personally and put them in tough situations and they play really well."
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In his brief time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Denard Robinson has been a wide receiver, a Wildcat quarterback, and, finally, a running back.

After what he did on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field, he may have added another role: Building block.

The Jaguars are trying to find some young playmakers to grow and develop with rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. They've got pieces at receiver in rookies Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. Denard Robinson's 127-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Jaguars' 24-6 victory over the Browns shows he has the potential to be considered a part of the offense's foundation going forward.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackSecond-year player Denard Robinson notched career highs in carries (22) and yards (127) and a touchdown on Sunday against Cleveland.
Robinson's potential is intriguing because it's hard to put a cap on what he could become because he's still learning to be a running back. He's still somewhat relying on instincts and athleticism as he figures out how to carry the ball from the backfield and how to read blocks and find seams in the offensive line.

Robinson starred as a quarterback at Michigan from 2009-12 but the Jaguars, enamored with his speed and open-field ability, drafted him in the fifth round in 2013. Jaguars GM David Caldwell called him an "offensive weapon" and said he'd be used in a variety of ways.

That never materialized. Lingering nerve damage in his throwing hand from a hit to his elbow during his senior season at Michigan -- which the Jaguars and Robinson kept mum about -- prevented him from gripping the football. He struggled to throw it, had all kinds of problems trying to catch it, and couldn't keep from fumbling it.

By the time his rookie season ended, he had started to regain some of the feeling. That's when he started to really concentrate on becoming a running back. It wasn't an easy transition. Most of his big runs in college came off zone-read plays or scrambles. Robinson didn't know how to read blocks while taking a handoff in the backfield. He didn't know how to pick up blitzing defenders, either.

It was the first time Robinson hadn't had success on the field and it was hard to take.

"I came in not even knowing what position I was going to play, and they told me I was going to play running back," he said. "I didn't know how to do it -- how to make the right steps to come off, how to block a guy or anything like that. I had to work on how to get the ball in the backfield because I was used to getting the ball from the gun. It's a big difference."

He has come a long way since then, thanks to help from Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman, Will Ta'ufo'ou and even Maurice Jones-Drew, who mentored Robinson last season. Robinson worked with running backs coach Terry Richardson throughout the offseason, too. When the feeling and strength in his hand returned completely, he was a different player.

He had one drop during organized team activities and minicamp and hasn't fumbled once in seven games. When Gerhart was forced to sit out his second consecutive game because of a right foot injury, Robinson showed how far he has come in less than a year.

His first carry against the Browns went for 14 yards and he ended up averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He had 160 career rushing yards coming into Sunday's game. Robinson sealed the Jaguars' first victory since Dec. 5, 2013, with his 8-yard touchdown run with 5:58 remaining.

"I saw the opening and hesitated a little bit and bounced it outside," Robinson said. "I was like, 'I can't get denied.' It was my first touchdown, and it was amazing. It's a great feeling to experience something that you've dreamed about your whole life.

"As a little kid, I thought about scoring a touchdown in the NFL, and I did it."

Now maybe the Jaguars should start thinking about making him a piece of their foundation.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars had two key defensive players get hurt in Sunday's 24-6 victory against the Cleveland Browns, but the extent of those injuries won't be known until Monday.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny suffered a pectoral sprain and will have an MRI on Monday. He left the locker room with his right arm in a sling.

Defensive end Andre Branch suffered a groin injury and also will have an MRI on Monday. He left the locker room on crutches.

Posluszny had 12 tackles, one sack, and a fumble recovery while Branch had four tackles against the Browns.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaguars' 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns:

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackDenard Robinson had the best game of his NFL career -- rushing for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Go Blue: Jaguars running back Denard Robinson starred as a quarterback at Michigan and still carries the torch for the maize and blue. With that also comes the prerequisite disdain for anything related to Ohio State and, by extension, everything else from Ohio. That’s why he was extra happy about his performance against the Browns: career highs in carries (22) and yards (127) and a touchdown. “It was good to do it against an Ohio team,” he joked. Robinson went 1-3 against Ohio State in his four seasons at Michigan.

Streaks snapped: Not only did the Jaguars snap a nine-game losing streak that dates back to last season, they also snapped a streak of September/October futility that dates back two seasons. The 24-6 victory over the Browns snapped an 18-game losing streak in games played in September and October, which was tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history. "You could feel us getting better [over the last few weeks]," receiver Cecil Short said. "You could feel us sniffing victory a little bit, but we finally came through today." According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cincinnati lost 20 September/October games in a row from 1992-94. The Houston Oilers also lost 18 in a row from 1983-84. Before Sunday, the last time the Jaguars won a game in September or October was Sept. 23, 2012, against Indianapolis.

Quick change: It wasn’t rookie quarterback Blake Bortles' best day. He threw three interceptions, but each time the defense bailed him out -- including twice deep in the Jaguars' own territory. Tashaun Gipson picked off Bortles and gave the Browns the ball at the Jacksonville 17-yard line. The defense held the Browns to minus-5 yards and forced a field goal. Gipson’s second interception set the Browns up at the Jacksonville 33, but the defense held again and forced the Browns to turn the ball over on downs. "That builds momentum," defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said of the stops. "That builds momentum throughout the stadium. That builds momentum throughout our team."

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field.

What it means: The Jaguars snapped a nine-game losing streak that dated back to last season and got just their third victory at EverBank Field since the start of the 2012 season. They did it by forcing and capitalizing on turnovers and not relying on quarterback Blake Bortles to carry the offense. The Jaguars are finally starting to look the way many thought they would when the season began: A defense that keeps the team in the game and allows a struggling offense to get chances with a short field.

Defense comes through: The answer to whether the Jaguars' defense has improved over the last several weeks or was just benefiting from playing struggling offenses still can't be answered completely, but it looks more like the former than the latter. The defense completely shut down the Browns' running game, which was the core of the offense, holding them to just 69 yards. Ben Tate had 36 yards and Isaiah Crowell had 18 yards and the Browns averaged just 2.3 yards per carry. Without a running game the Browns were forced to rely on quarterback Brian Hoyer, and the Jaguars were all over him, too. They sacked him twice, forced him to fumble, and intercepted him once, turning both of those turnovers into points. Rookie linebacker Telvin Smith forced both of those turnovers, knocking the ball out of Hoyer's hands on a sack and intercepting a Hoyer pass late in the fourth quarter.

Run to daylight: Denard Robinson gave the running game a much-needed boost with his performance against the Browns. He ran for 127 yards and one touchdown, the first time the Jaguars have had a back surpass 100 yards since Jordan Todman ran for 109 against Buffalo on Dec. 15, 2013. The Jaguars ran for a season-high 185 yards. The Jaguars had been averaging 69.5 yards per game rushing but eclipsed that mark in the first quarter (76 yards). Robinson had 62 yards alone in the first quarter. Granted, the success came against a Browns defensive line that is banged up. Armonty Bryant is out for the season with a torn ACL and Phil Taylor (knee), Billy Wynn (quad) and Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) were inactive. But the Jaguars' offensive line took advantage of those injuries to create more space for the backs than they had all season.

Game ball: It's tempting to go with Robinson, but the defense deserves the honor this week because the unit finally got off the turnover schneid. After forcing three in the first half of the season opener, the unit had forced just one over the next five games. They forced three on Sunday, recovering two fumbles and intercepting Hoyer once, and scored 17 points off the miscues.

What's next: The Jaguars play host to Miami next Sunday at 1 p.m. That's the last time the Jaguars will play a game at EverBank Field for more than a month (Nov. 30 versus the New York Giants).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nearly everyone expected a rookie quarterback would be starting in Sunday’s Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars game. They just thought it would be Johnny Manziel.

Manziel
In the months after the NFL draft, it seemed to be a given that Manziel would overtake Brian Hoyer as the Browns’ starting quarterback during training camp. The Jaguars' plan for Blake Bortles, however, was for him to sit the bench -- ideally for the entire season, general manager Dave Caldwell said numerous times -- and learn behind veteran Chad Henne.

It has been the opposite, and both teams are better off with the way things worked out.

Hoyer not only held off the former Texas A&M standout, he has become one of the league’s better quarterbacks. His quarterback rating of 99.5 is eighth in the league and ahead of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matthew Stafford. He has thrown for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception.

More importantly, the Browns are 3-2, coming off a 31-10 rout of Pittsburgh, and in the thick of the AFC North race.

"To deal with the whole Manziel thing, I thought he handled himself well," Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said. "Neither was really stellar in the preseason, but part of that was due to the competition. I didn’t allow either one to get in much of a rhythm, because they were competing against each other.

"We were confident that once we named Brian the starter and he got quality reps with the (starters) and the same consistent group of receivers and tight ends and offensive line, that we would flourish, and fortunately for us, he has."

Bortles
Bortles has flourished as well, since taking over for Henne to begin the second half of the Indianapolis game in Week 3. Though he has thrown seven interceptions and only four touchdown passes, he leads the NFL in completion percentage on third down, and coach Gus Bradley said he has elevated the offense’s play.

Bortles threw for 336 yards against Tennessee last Sunday in just his third start, led the Jaguars to a late touchdown, and got them in position for Josh Scobee to attempt a 55-yard game-winning field goal.

"He really does have really good poise sitting in the pocket," Bradley said. "To feel pressure and to step up and make that throw, and the precision that he had with it, that’s what we see in him. He’s very competitive, and we talked earlier and a lot of times in preseason [that] the game is not too big for him. Clearly it’s not too big for him."

So Bortles continues to develop while Manziel’s biggest contribution so far this season was a 39-yard reception on a trick play that was nullified by a penalty (and illegal, as well). Hoyer will be a free agent after the season, and if the Browns decide to re-sign the Cleveland native the team will have to decide what to do with Manziel, whom they took with the 22nd pick in the first round. Keep him as the backup? Try and work a trade?

Manziel’s future is unclear. Bortles’ isn’t. Many thought it would be the other way around by this point.
video
The Cleveland Browns are on a bit of a roll. So are the Jacksonville Jaguars, only it’s in the opposite direction.

The Browns (3-2) have won back-to-back games in dramatic fashion, first rallying from a 25-point deficit to beat Tennessee on the road and thumping the Pittsburgh Steelers by 21 points last Sunday in Cleveland. Now they’re being talked about as legitimate contenders for a playoff spot in the AFC.

The Jaguars (0-6) haven’t won a game since Dec. 5, 2013, and they’re being talked about as the favorite for the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2015.

The teams meet Sunday at EverBank Field; Browns reporter Pat McManamon and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup.

DiRocco: Pat, I think everyone outside the Cleveland organization expected Johnny Manziel to be the Browns’ starting quarterback by this point in the season. Brian Hoyer has done a good job, though, and it’s clearly his team now. But what about beyond this season? Is Manziel the franchise quarterback or is it Hoyer?

McManamon: If Hoyer keeps playing the way he has, it would be folly if the Browns did not re-sign him in the offseason. That puts Manziel in the spot of perhaps having to enter the 2015 training camp as the backup, and perhaps be the backup for the foreseeable future. Eleven games remain and a lot can happen yet, but to this point Hoyer is earning the right to be considered the long-term answer. He gets rid of the ball quickly. He does not throw interceptions. His even-keeled approach makes him a good leader. And the team respects him. Because Hoyer can be a free agent after the season, and because negotiations went nowhere in the offseason and Hoyer chose to bet on himself, this will be a closely watched story as the season progresses. But if Hoyer maintains his level of play, it would be impossible for the Browns to let the local product go.

This is rookie-quarterback weekend, Mike, and since everyone asks me about Manziel, I'll ask you about Blake Bortles. How has he played, what impresses you most and how far does he have to go?

DiRocco: Since being inserted into the lineup in the second half of the Week 3 loss to Indianapolis, Bortles has played pretty well and leads NFL rookies in passing yards per game (251), completion percentage (67.8) and completions of 20-plus yards (11). He has shown that he has a good feel in the pocket and is able to evade the rush and get outside when he needs to. When he does that, he’s keeping his eyes downfield, too, which is rare for a rookie quarterback that can run. Usually, they just take off. Plus, the coaching staff can’t stop raving about his poise and how unshakable he is. The thing that has impressed me the most has been his work on third down. The Jaguars were 6-for-32 on third down under Chad Henne but are 23-for-46 on third down under Bortles, and he leads the NFL in completion percentage on third down (71.0). Bortles is far from perfect. He still makes bad decisions, stares down receivers and throws some bad passes, but he already looks like the best quarterback the team has had since Mark Brunell in the late 1990s.

Losing Alex Mack was obviously a huge blow. We know what kind of effect that will have on the field, but how do you think it will impact the team in the locker room, considering he was one of the team’s leaders, especially this week?

McManamon: The respect that Mack has in the locker room and around the league was evident the day he was injured, so it matters that he’s not around. But Mack was never a vocal yeller or screamer. His leadership came from his consistency and his dependability. Losing his voice in the locker room matters, but as one scout told me during the week, that sometimes is overstated. The Browns have guys such as Joe Thomas and Hoyer and even John Greco who can step in. The team’s bigger issue is filling the void left on the field.

It's been a long time since there was a game in which the Browns looked like a favorite. But when a 3-2 team faces an 0-6 team, that's the appearance. What's the Jaguars' attitude toward this game, and is there any advantage to them playing at home?

DiRocco: The Jaguars are as optimistic as they have been all season because they’ve been close the past two weeks against Pittsburgh and Tennessee. It was late mistakes that cost them in each game, and the players know they could have won both games had they played marginally better. A lot of the players on this team were on last year’s team that beat the Browns in Cleveland on a late touchdown pass, and this year’s Browns are without Mack and receiver Josh Gordon. I don’t see the Jaguars having any kind of advantage playing at EverBank Field. The weather has cooled a bit so the heat won’t be a factor for the Browns.

The Cleveland defense is among the NFL’s worst when it comes to total yards and rushing yards, but it has been among the league’s best in the red zone. Why are Browns so good inside the 20 but struggling everywhere else?

McManamon: Good question, and I’m not sure I or the team can answer. Perhaps there’s a greater sense of urgency, perhaps the field shrinks for the opposition and perhaps it’s that the coaches call better plays. But it is hugely important, because coach Mike Pettine believes the most important statistic for a defense after wins is points allowed. The defense swung the momentum in the win over Pittsburgh by twice holding the Steelers to field goal attempts after two good drives. Pittsburgh made the first kick, but a botched hold on the second changed the feel of the game, and the Browns took advantage. Whatever the reason for the red zone success, the Browns just hope it continues.

How close do you think the Jaguars are to winning consistently?

DiRocco: Now that they appear to have found their quarterback, that timetable is accelerated a bit, but the Jaguars are still two years away from being a team that can compete for a playoff spot. While Bortles might be able to make up for some deficiencies in the roster, the Jaguars are still the least talented team in the league. After addressing the offense heavily in the draft this offseason, I expect them to attack the defense next offseason. If they draft well, add some key free agents and Bortles continues to develop, then this could be a six- or seven-win team in 2014 and challenge Indianapolis in the division in 2016.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here is the latest look at what could turn out to be a banner crop of rookie receivers.

They are ranked by targets, which is a true measure of how much a receiver is utilized. We’re using the qualifier of having a minimum of four targets per game.

Here’s the list of the top-targeted rookie receivers (24 targets needed to qualify):

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (55 targets): He had seven catches for 49 yards and one touchdown in the Panthers’ 37-37 tie with Cincinnati. He is eighth in the NFL in targets and second among rookies with 31 catches for 416 yards and four touchdowns. The four TD catches lead all rookies.

Robinson
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills (48): He was a non-factor in the Bills’ 37-22 loss to New England, catching just two passes for 27 yards. He has 26 catches for 311 yards and two TDs.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (45): He was targeted nine times, which moved him up one spot on the list, and caught a career-high eight passes for 68 yards in the Jaguars’ 16-14 loss to Tennessee. His 30 catches (for 311 yards) are third among rookies.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints (39): The Saints had a bye last weekend but he still leads NFL rookies with 32 catches (255 yards, one TD).

Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars (38): He was targeted four times but caught only two passes for 18 yards against the Titans. He has the second-fewest catches among rookies on the list: 18 for 298 yards and three touchdowns.

Evans
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles (36): He caught four passes for 50 yards in the Eagles’ 27-0 shutout of the New York Giants and now has 23 catches for 226 yards and two TDs.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (33): He caught four passes for 55 yards and one touchdown in the Bucs’ 48-7 loss to Baltimore and now has 21 catches for 258 yards and two touchdowns.

John Brown, Arizona (28): He caught four passes for 43 yards in the Cardinals’ 30-20 victory over Washington. He has the fewest receptions (15) and receiving yards (156) on this list, but he has three touchdown catches.

The Film Don't Lie: Jaguars

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
AM ET
A weekly look at what the Jacksonville Jaguars must fix:

If the Jaguars are going to beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at EverBank Field, the veteran players have to stop making critical mistakes. The Jaguars have 29 first- or second-year players on the roster, including 12 who started against the Tennessee Titans, and the veterans are supposed to be the players upon which the coaching staff relies to overcome that inexperience. Instead, they’re hurting the team as much or even more.

The latest examples are defensive end Chris Clemons, defensive back Will Blackmon, and receiver Cecil Shorts. Clemons (11th season) twice lined up offside -- not jumped offside, but lined up offside (which you can clearly see on film) -- and one came on third down on the Titans’ first possession of the second half. The Jaguars could have forced a three-and-out and gotten great field position. Later in the drive, Blackmon (eighth season) was penalized for illegal contact on third down, which wiped out an incomplete pass. The drive was extended and the Titans eventually kicked a field goal.

Shorts (fourth season) had the worst mistake. The Jaguars were trailing 16-7 when rookie quarterback Blake Bortles mounted a drive late in the fourth quarter. He hit Shorts on a short pass and Shorts made an inside move and got inside the 10-yard line before he was hit from behind by cornerback Jason McCourty and fumbled. Watching the play over again, it’s evident that Shorts didn’t have good ball security. He was holding the ball low and away from his body when McCourty knocked it free. The Jaguars could have at least kicked a field goal, which would have made it only a one-score game instead of a two-score game when the Jaguars got the ball back with 2:43 to play.

"I think that we talk a lot about our younger players and sometimes they make mistakes, but it’s also our veterans now," coach Gus Bradley said. "You’re right; we can’t argue that one bit. I think they sense it as a whole team that we’re all capable of not doing everything right."

The Browns just routed a Pittsburgh team that the Jaguars failed to score a touchdown against on Oct. 5. The young players are going to make mistakes, sometimes at critical times. That’s what young players do. It’s not fair, but that means the veterans have to be close to perfect to compensate for those mistakes. They need to be mentally tougher than they were against the Titans and start carrying this team by just doing their job, or the losses will continue to mount.

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