NFL Nation: Geno Hayes

Examining the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks, which means all three will have to be on the active roster, because Stanzi is ineligible for the practice squad. Stanzi should start the season as the No. 2 because he’s more ready to play than Bortles, but that will likely flip-flop at some point. Stephen Morris is a practice squad candidate.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

If the Jags elect to keep only four backs, Todman and Johnson likely would battle for the final spot. That is assuming Robinson continues to be very good in camp. He might end up getting more playing time than any of the other backs after Gerhart if he shows he can be a reliable pass-catcher. Johnson has to prove he can pass block and doesn’t have problems with ball security.

RECEVIERS (6)

The first four players should be locks, but it will be an interesting competition for the final two spots among Brown, Taylor, free-agent signee Tandon Doss, undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, and former practice-squad player Chad Bumphis. Doss missed most of the organized team activities and minicamp because of a calf injury, allowing Taylor, Bumphis and Hurns to get valuable reps. Doss was not a consistent receiver in his three seasons in Baltimore and has more value as a returner, but Sanders’ strength is as a punt returner and the Jags have other options at kickoff returner. I have Taylor narrowly beating out Hurns because of his experience, but I can easily see that being flipped if the Jags want to add more size. Hurns is 6-foot-3; Taylor is 6-0.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jensen flashed during OTAs and gets the edge over three other players. He’s a big kid (6-6, 270) who is a raw version of Lewis, one of the league’s best blocking tight ends. Jensen will need a year or two to develop and likely will be used as an extra blocker more than a pass-catcher.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Some of the battles for starting jobs along the line are going to be intriguing during camp. Joeckel and Beadles are safe, but every other spot is up for grabs. Even Pasztor, who started 12 games last season, is uncertain because we don’t know how his surgically repaired shoulder will hold up during camp. If it’s fine, then he will win the starting job at right tackle. McClendon and Linder are battling for the right guard spot, and Brewster is going to have to hold off Bowanko and two others to be the starter at center. Bradfield has value because he can play both tackle spots.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

This should be the biggest upgraded position on the roster thanks to the additions of Clemons, Bryant and Hood. Despite public perception, Alualu isn’t on the bubble for two reasons: He played solidly last season, and there really isn’t anyone else on the roster as talented as he is to back up Bryant. The Jags are excited about Smith, who could end up playing more than Davis as the No. 3 LEO (hybrid end/linebacker) by the time the season is over.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Either John Lotulelei or J.T. Thomas, two key special teams players last season, could stick if the Jaguars decide to keep an extra linebacker instead of five cornerbacks, or if Hayes’ surgically repaired knee doesn’t respond well. Reynolds did a solid job subbing for Watson (groin) during OTAs and minicamp at the new OTTO position (replaces strongside linebacker).

CORNERBACKS (5)

The Jags will have to decide whether to keep fourth-year player Mike Harris or Jeremy Harris, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a back injury. The 6-2, 185-pound Jeremy Harris is a better fit for what coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks than the 5-10, 188-pound Mike Harris, who was a member of former GM Gene Smith’s final draft class. Blackmon has been working inside as well, which also makes Mike Harris expendable. Fourth-round draft pick Aaron Colvin will begin the season on the PUP list and doesn't count against the roster limit.

SAFETIES (4)
Chris Prosinski has seemingly been a bubble player since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011, but there is too much competition for him to survive this time. Martin started 36 games for Carolina in his first five seasons, and that experience gives him the edge. Evans seems to be the name everyone mentions when talking about the first Caldwell draft pick to get cut, but though he might lose his starting job to Guy, he’s likely to stick around at least another year.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys should have little or no competition to make the roster.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With the third pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select ... Khalil Mack, linebacker, Buffalo.

That's what happened early Tuesday afternoon in the NFL Nation mock draft. Each of the bloggers who cover a team with a first-round pick acted as general manager and made picks they thought the team they cover would make. In doing my best David Caldwell impersonation, I grabbed Mack.

I actually went after Jadeveon Clowney. I had some discussions with Houston reporter Tania Ganguli to move up to No. 1 but I felt the price was too high. The Jaguars need to continue to build the roster and I thought losing as many picks as she wanted was not the best approach. Ganguli managed to work out a deal with Buffalo reporter Mike Rodak, though.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesKhalil Mack could be the playmaker the Jaguars' defense sorely needs.
It was a pretty steep price: The Bills gave up their first-round pick (No. 9), their second-round pick (No. 41), their 2015 first- and third-round picks, and their 2016 second-round pick.

Nobody was jumping to No. 1 to take one of the quarterbacks, Mack or receiver Sammy Watkins so when I heard about the trade I knew I wasn't getting Clowney. Sure enough, the Bills took him.

St. Louis followed by taking offensive tackle Greg Robinson, which left me with an interesting dilemma: Mack or Watkins.

I couldn't really lose. Both are elite players and both would fill some pretty pressing needs, but the deciding factor was how deep of an offensive draft this is. While I couldn't get a player of Watkins' caliber later in the draft, the receiver position is pretty deep and I would be able to add a pretty good player later.

The draft isn't deep on elite pass-rushers and linebackers, and Mack fills both needs there.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Mack fits right into coach Gus Bradley's defense as a "leo," a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is to rush the passer. The Jaguars certainly need help there after finishing last in the league the past two seasons in sacks (20 in 2012 and 31 last season). Mack also makes big plays, and that's where he can really help.

In addition to making 327 tackles in four years, Mack also recorded 28.5 sacks and forced an NCAA-record 16 fumbles. Look at what he did against Ohio State in the 2013 season opener: nine tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Take Paul Posluszny out of the mix and the Jaguars linebackers had two interceptions, two sacks, four pass breakups, one forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 2013. That’s from Geno Hayes, Russell Allen, J.T. Thomas, John Lotulelei, and LaRoy Reynolds.

Mack brings a couple of other things the Jaguars desperately need at linebacker: athleticism and speed. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and played in coverage as well as being a pass-rusher at Buffalo.

I didn't really consider taking a quarterback at No. 3 because I wasn't completely sold on any of them that high. It would have been too risky of a pick and right now the Jaguars can't afford to take those kinds of risks.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than $50 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the month, the Jacksonville Jaguars had plenty of ammunition to go on a spending spree.

Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Aqib Talib were available. So were Alex Mack, Eric Decker and Jared Veldheer. The Jaguars had enough money to sign three or four of those players, and they certainly would have made the team significantly better in 2014 -- maybe even a playoff team.

But the Jaguars didn’t pursue any of them. General manager David Caldwell resisted the lure and signed seven second-level free agents to responsible, team-friendly contracts. He and coach Gus Bradley are adamant about not taking a shortcut in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild.

"We all know there’s expectations and we get that," Bradley said. "But I think for me it’s more the city of Jacksonville deserves an opportunity to be a part of something really good. I think [owner] Shad [Khan] deserves that and so does Dave. In order to do that, I think we have to be really strict and disciplined to go on our journey this way."

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite a 4-12 record, coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars made significant strides in 2013.
Sometimes it’s hard not to stray, but being patient and building the franchise through the draft is what sold Khan on Caldwell and Bradley. He learned that was the best approach pretty quickly after purchasing the team in November 2011.

Khan listened to then-general manager Gene Smith and opened up his considerable pockets and splurged in his first free agency. The Jaguars signed receiver Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract and cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth up to $15.3 million. They also signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey to a four-year extension worth $20 million, including $9 million guaranteed.

They signed several other players, too, and Khan sat back and eagerly awaited the playoff appearance that Smith said would come because of those signings.

The Jaguars went 2-14.

"Certainly, I’ve learned my lesson," Khan said. "If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. I think that is the formula for success."

Khan fired Smith and then-head coach Mike Mularkey after the season and hired Caldwell away from the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell in turn hired Bradley away from the Seattle Seahawks and the two put together their plan to rebuild the franchise.

They signed 10 new free agents in March and April and hit big on four: linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. None were in high demand and the most expensive was Miller, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. The four combined to start 59 of a possible 64 games.

Among the team’s eight draft picks were offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and receiver Ace Sanders. All four started as rookies and showed they are foundation pieces moving forward.

Despite those additions, the Jaguars went 4-12 and started the season by losing their first eight games by double digits. Yet Bradley said the 2013 season was important because it helped establish the culture and the standards by which the team operates.

"We had valuable, valuable lessons that we could teach our team," Bradley said. "We talked about not getting consumed in defeats. We talked about not reveling in accomplishments. All these conversations came up -- celebrating victories, getting better for everybody, being unselfish, learning trust, all these things came up in our conversations last year, and I loved every aspect of that.

"If my sole focus was on winning or losing, I would have missed all that, and we would have missed all those lessons for our team."

It was evident the roster in 2013 was even less talented than anticipated, which produced the temptation to try and speed the process along by splurging in free agency this March. Caldwell and Bradley didn’t waver even though they know expectations are bigger in their second season and they’ll be bigger in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Short-term rewards are not more valuable than long-term success.

"We want to have a consistent winning team moving forward," Khan said. "I think with this rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans. I mean, it’s brutal if you have anything to do with it. Just think about it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention that always manage to be competitive.

"Our goal is we consistently we want to be there."
With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on defense and which prospects the team might be looking taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. We looked at the offense on Monday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch, and interview prospects at the NFL combine.

Here’s a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on defense and some potential targets:

Babin
Leo: Call this need No. 1A, just barely behind quarterback. The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks in each of the last two seasons and desperately need someone that can affect the quarterback on a consistent basis. Jason Babin and Andre Branch manned this spot in 2013 but Babin is scheduled to make $6.175 million in 2014. The 33-year-old Babin led the Jaguars with 7.5 sacks in 2013 but he’s making elite defensive end money and he’s not an elite defensive end. He has said he'd be willing to re-negotiate his contract because he likes it in Jacksonville, but he also can declare himself a free agent because of a clause in the new CBA. It'd be a surprise if Babin is on the roster in 2014 under his current contract. Branch really improved in 2013 because defensive coordinator Bob Babich and defensive line coach Todd Wash got him to become more consistent with his effort. He’s a long way from being a 15-sack player, though, and that’s what the Jaguars need.

Potential targets: Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack.

Outside linebacker: Geno Hayes turned in a solid year in 2013 (78 tackles, two interceptions, three pass break-ups) despite playing through a nagging knee injury that eventually forced him to miss the last two games. But the Jaguars still need to upgrade both outside spots. It was partly due to his knee injury, but Hayes didn’t make very many impact plays and Russell Allen, the starter on the other side, made none. The leo spot is a hybrid end/outside linebacker that specializes in rushing the passer, so the outside linebackers don’t need to be elite pass rushers. They need to be athletic enough to play in coverage and have the ability to blitz if needed.

Potential targets: Ryan Shazier, Telvin Smith, Lamin Barrow.

Defensive end: This is the spot opposite the leo in the Jaguars’ defense and it doesn’t call for an elite pass-rusher. The Jaguars want a big, physical end who can anchor the line of the scrimmage in the run game. Tyson Alualu held the job last season and was solid (44 tackles, eight QB pressures, three tackles for loss), but the Jaguars need more production there. The only other player at that spot is Ryan Davis, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. They’re also hoping for a little more pass rush production than what Alualu had, but it’s not the primary responsibility.

Potential targets: Brent Urban, Jackson Jeffcoat, Scott Crichton.

Defensive tackle: The Jaguars’ two starters are set with Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, but the Jaguars need to add some quality depth here. Marks is coming off a career year and was awarded a four-year extension. Miller battled a shoulder problem all season but underwent surgery after the season concluded and should be fine by the time OTAs begin in April.

Potential targets: Will Sutton, Caraun Reid, Deandre Coleman.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars general manager David Caldwell can be very aggressive in free agency if he chooses because the Jaguars are projected to have the third-most cap room available when the free-agency period begins next month.

According to a Feb. 7 report from Roster Management System, the Jaguars will have nearly $30 million in cap space. The team's cap number -- which includes salaries, penalties, dead money, and futures contracts -- for 2014 is $96,517,190, well below the estimated 2014 salary cap of $126 million.

That leaves the Jaguars with $29,482,810 to spend on free agents and draft picks.

Only two teams in the NFL have more projected cap room: Indianapolis ($33,096,844) and Oakland ($58,242,920).

But just because the Jaguars have a significant amount of money to spend doesn't mean Caldwell will be writing a lot of big checks. The Jaguars will target some offensive and defensive linemen in free agency, especially a center, and will be somewhat aggressive early and then back off in the hopes of finding a bargain later in free agency.

That doesn't mean the Jaguars are going to jump into the competition for Alex Mack, who is one of the league's top centers. Ryan Kalil signed a six-year, $49.12 million deal in 2011 with Carolina that made him the NFL's highest-paid center and Mack's deal is expected to top that.

He may not even be available, either, because Cleveland could sign him to an extension before his contract expires last month. Mack also said he would give the Browns the chance to match any offer he received.

"Some of these guys [available linemen] are going to get signed before free agency becomes available," Caldwell said. "We'll just have to wait and see who becomes available and who's out there. You have the franchise tag and some other methods that teams use to keep their guys so we'll see.

"There will be another influx of guys that become available when teams have to get under the salary cap."

Waiting paid off for the Jaguars last year. They signed four unrestricted free agents from other teams (linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, running back Justin Forsett and defensive tackle Roy Miller) from March 13-15 and then added defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on April 2.

Marks had a career year and ended up signing a four-year contract extension in December.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 29
Preseason Power Ranking: 29

Biggest surprise: When the Jaguars signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last April, they thought he’d be a good fit in coach Gus Bradley’s system. Turns out he was a perfect fit. Marks plays the three-technique, which means he lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder, and that position is supposed to provide interior pass rush. Marks finished with four sacks, nine quarterback pressures and eight pass breakups -- all numbers that equaled or surpassed the totals from his first four seasons. He seemed to make at least one impactful play every game and he accounted for two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His play earned him a four-year contract extension as one of the building blocks of the defense.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars’ inability to consistently run the ball, especially early in the season, was vexing. The Jaguars switched from a predominantly man-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, and the offensive line had trouble with the transition. Four of the five starters at the beginning of the season also started in 2011, when Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing. The Jaguars mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed and things got better, but the problem wasn’t “fixed.” In addition, Jones-Drew clearly was not the same player he was two years ago. He missed all but six games last season with a Lisfranc injury and also battled ankle, knee and hamstring issues this season.

Biggest need: The Jaguars have a pretty long list of needs, but two stand out above all others: quarterback and pass-rusher. Quarterback is the top need because former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer and neither is Chad Henne, who will be a free agent but wants to return to Jacksonville in 2014. The Jaguars haven’t had a bona fide threat at quarterback since coach Jack Del Rio put Mark Brunell on the bench for Byron Leftwich in 2003. New general manager David Caldwell and Bradley need a player around which to build the franchise, and the Jaguars will have the opportunity to possibly find one when they pick third overall in May’s draft.

Team MVP: The first impulse is to go with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, whose 161 tackles ranked second in the NFL. He was clearly the team’s best defensive player and arguably the best overall player. However, what Henne did to stabilize the offense earns him MVP honors. Gabbert had played terribly in the first part of the season (seven INTs, one TD) and Henne stepped in and played the most consistent football of his career. He didn’t always light it up and he made some poor decisions and mistakes, but he kept the Jaguars in games in the second half of the season and made enough plays to go 4-4 after the bye. He threw nine touchdown passes -- including the game winner against Cleveland with 40 seconds to play -- and five interceptions over the final five games.

NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 
The Jaguars may not have had anyone voted to the Pro Bowl, but the team is pretty well represented on the All-AFC South team.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, linebacker Geno Hayes, kicker Josh Scobee, and kick returner Jordan Todman made the team, which was chosen by the reporters covering the four teams.

Posluszny finished second in the NFL with 161 tackles (Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict had 171) to go along with 3 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 interceptions. He clearly was the Jaguars’ best defensive player and arguably was the team’s best overall player.

He was the lone Jaguars player who should have earned Pro Bowl honors, but he was hurt by playing for a small-market team that finished 4-12.

Marks posted a career year in his first season with the Jaguars, making 34 tackles, breaking up eight passes, forcing two fumbles, and recovering three fumbles to go along with four sacks and nine quarterback pressures. He had 3 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons with Tennessee.

The team was so pleased with his performance that last week they signed him to a four-year contract extension reportedly worth up to $22 million.

Hayes played through a right knee injury much of the season and made 78 tackles, intercepted one pass, and broke up three others. The injury got progressively worse but he missed just one game, the season finale against Indianapolis, and will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage and remove some loose particles in his knee.

Scobee made 23 of 25 field goal attempts this season. His only miss came from 60 yards and he had a 49-yard attempt blocked. Scobee was 15-for-15 from 39 yards and in. Todman averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return, seventh-best in the NFL. That was the best mark in the division. Houston’s Keshawn Martin finished eighth in the league (26.3 yards per return.)

Jaguars' thin defense wears down

December, 22, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were already banged up on defense before Sunday's meeting with the Tennessee Titans.

It got even worse during the game.

The Jaguars ended up being down five starters and it really showed up in the run defense. Tennessee ran for 182 yards and rallied from a 10-point deficit to down Jacksonville 20-16 at EverBank Field. It was the Jaguars’ third-worst performance of the season behind the 226 they allowed to Oakland in Week 2 and the 198 they allowed last week to Buffalo.

"We had some things we had to clean up, some things maybe that we counted on in the past due to some new personnel in there," coach Gus Bradley said. "We just had to tighten it up a little bit and it was hit and miss. There were some inconsistencies."

That’s to be expected with that many players playing different roles. The Jaguars didn’t have outside linebackers Russell Allen (concussion) and Geno Smith (knee) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder). That meant rookie John Lotulelei and third-year player J.T. Thomas -- mainly special teams players -- had to start at linebacker.

Brandon Deaderick, who had been inactive for the last two games, started for Miller. By the second half, Deaderick was out with an elbow injury and Jordan Miller, who was just activated from the practice squad this week, was getting snaps.

Cornerback Dwayne Gratz had to leave the game with an ankle injury but the Jaguars are much better equipped to handle an injury in the secondary than in the front seven.

The lack of depth really showed in the second half. The Titans ran for 68 yards in the first half but ran for 58 on their second drive in the third quarter. They had 114 yards rushing in the second half. The Jaguars were especially hurt up the middle, which was a byproduct of a worn-down defensive front that had just three healthy defensive tackles: Miller, Deaderick and Sen'Derrick Marks.

"We had some new guys step in but those guys, they’ve been here and they’ve practiced with us so it’s no blame on them for giving up plays," defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said. "We gave up some plays and we weren’t as sound as we usually have been. Our thing is if a guy goes down we’ve got to have another guy to step in and make sure them we surround them and make sure he does what he’s supposed to do."

The Titans put together two long drives in the third quarter that lasted 11 and nine plays and resulted in touchdowns. The Titans ran the ball on 14 of those 20 plays, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 3-yard scramble on fourth-and-2.

By the time that second drive ended, the Titans had a 20-16 lead just 35 seconds into the fourth quarter. You could see the Jaguars’ defensive players were gassed.

"It always takes something out of you but it’s what we do," Marks said. "You’re supposed to be in shape. You’re a professional football player. We’ve just got to go out and get the stop and try to get off the field."

The Jaguars did that in the first meeting with the Titans. They held Tennessee to 83 yards rushing, including 30 yards by Chris Johnson. He had 90 and Shonn Green had 91 on Sunday.

Bradley understands the limitations he has with his roster, but even so he’s expecting more from the reserves when they do get on the field.

"Even though they got limited reps [in practice] when their number is called upon they have to perform," Bradley said. "I sure we will see some good things that they did on tape. It’s just the consistency. That’s what you have to battle through sometimes."

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.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew practiced on a limited basis on Friday, but whether he can play against Tennessee on Sunday depends on how his injured right hamstring responds the next two days.

Jones-Drew
Coach Gus Bradley said Jones-Drew will be one of four starters who will be evaluated on Sunday morning before a final decision on their playing status is made.

"I feel better today [about Jones-Drew’s chances of playing]," Bradley said. "He took some actual reps, although the tempo was slowed down."

Jones-Drew is listed as questionable on the injury report, as is safety Johnathan Cyprien (thigh), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder), and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee). Miller and Hayes did not practice on Friday. Cyprien practiced on a limited basis.

Bradley also said the team will put reserve receiver Jeremy Ebert (ankle, knee) on injured reserve and will fill two vacant roster spots with players on the practice squad.

Shorts, Brewster have surgery

December, 19, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts and guard Mike Brewster both had surgery over the last two days for their season-ending injuries.

Coach Gus Bradley said Shorts had sports hernia surgery Thursday morning and Brewster had surgery Wednesday to repair the fractured left ankle he suffered in last Sunday's 27-20 loss to Buffalo.

"I guess it turned out pretty good," Bradley said. "I'll find out more from [trainer] Mike [Ryan] but it's good that we got those guys taken care of as soon as possible."

In other injury news, safety Johnathan Cyprien (thigh), running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) missed their second consecutive day of practice. Bradley said the plan remains for Jones-Drew to test his hamstring Friday.

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.

Shorts joins Jones-Drew on iffy list

December, 12, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were already unsure of Maurice Jones-Drew's status for Sunday's game against Buffalo, and now receiver Cecil Shorts may not play, either.

Shorts
Jones-Drew (hamstring) and Shorts (groin) have not practiced all week and are expected to test their injuries on Friday, but coach Gus Bradley said there's a chance a decision on their chances of playing may not be made until just before kickoff.

"I think they're both very questionable," Bradley said Thursday. "We've got our fingers crossed on both of them."

Shorts has been battling a groin injury for much of the season and has managed it by not practicing on Wednesdays and being limited on Thursdays. That schedule got thrown off last week because the Jaguars played Houston on Thursday night and that wasn't sufficient time to rest his groin from the previous Sunday's game against Cleveland.

Jones-Drew
He played against the Texans but left the game late because of the pain. He's hoping the extra three days of rest between that game and Sunday's game against the Bills will be enough to allow his groin to improve.

"I've been dealing with it all year," Shorts said. "It's not getting better; it's getting worse.

"I think I'm going to go out there tomorrow and get some reps and stuff. We'll see how it feels tomorrow and then [make a] game-time decision as Gus said. If I'm able to play, I'm playing. No doubt about it. I have no problem dealing with pain but when it comes to your [groin] area, it's a little different."

Shorts leads the Jaguars in receptions (66), yards (77), and receiving touchdowns (three). If he is unable to play, Bradley said Kerry Taylor would start in his place. Taylor was signed on Nov. 4 from Arizona's practice squad and has caught three passes for 27 yards in four games.

Taylor would also be the team's kick returner if Jones-Drew is unable to play because regular kick returner Jordan Todman would start for Jones-Drew.

A third starter, safety Johnathan Cyprien, also did not practice Thursday because of a thigh injury. Bradley said he feels the best about Cyprien's chances of playing than any of the other injured players. Cyprien has started every game at strong safety this season and is second on the team with 83 tackles.

Defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder) and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) also did not practice on Thursday because they were given the day off to rest their injuries. They are expected to play Sunday.

Safety Josh Evans (shoulder), guard Uche Nwaneri (shoulder), offensive tackle Austin Pasztor (shoulder), safety Chris Prosinski (concussion), and kicker Josh Scobee (left hip) were limited.

These Jaguars are no longer a joke

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
2:30
AM ET
Marcedes LewisAP Photo/Chris O'MearaMarcedes Lewis and the Jaguars have won three in a row and four out of five since their bye week.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Go ahead, Jaguars offensive lineman Uche Nwaneri said, make jokes now.

Bring on the snide remarks about 0-16 and being one of the worst teams in NFL history.

He's waiting ...

He knows nobody's going to have much -- if anything -- to say, not after Thursday night's 27-20 victory over Houston in front of 60,414 at EverBank Field. That was the Jaguars' third win in a row, which Nwaneri said proves they're no longer the joke they were in the first half of the season.

"Everybody who was talking noise can just eat some crow real quick," he said.

The Jaguars (4-9) are the hottest team in the AFC, having won four of their five games since the bye week. The fact that none of the teams they've beaten has a winning record and one, the Texans, has lost 11 in a row, is irrelevant. The Jaguars are winning games, which is something that looked darn near impossible in the first month of the season.

They scored just two points in the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. They lost their first eight games all by double digits. They didn't score a touchdown at EverBank Field until Nov. 17.

They're starting three rookies in the secondary. They don't have their best receiver, who was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy for a third time.

The Jaguars were a mess. They were hopeless. They were a joke.

And boy did people pile on. The season's first month wasn't even over before NFL analysts were comparing the Jaguars to the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2008 Detroit Lions, the only teams in the NFL's modern era to go winless. The players answered those questions openly and honestly, but they were angry inside.

Thursday was another vindication.

"Nobody wants to hear that junk: 0-16, first pick," receiver Cecil Shorts said. "We tried to tune it out but when the media asks that or tweets that we're going to draft so-and-so every day, it's hard to get out of your mind.

"But we did a good job of staying the course and things are really paying off. But we've got a long way to go. Our goal is to get better each and every day."

They've done that since the bye week. Especially defensively, improving their run defense from 161.8 yards per game allowed in the first eight games to 70.8 yards per game allowed over the past five.

But more important, they're making plays in crucial situations. Their first two touchdowns against the Texans came on third down -- Chad Henne's 1-yard pass to Marcedes Lewis and Henne's 6-yard pass to Shorts -- and the third came on a well-designed trick play. Henne threw a lateral to receiver Ace Sanders, who lofted a 21-yard touchdown pass to running back Jordan Todman.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Cecil Shorts
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack"Nobody wants to hear that junk: 0-16, first pick," said Cecil Shorts of the chatter surrounding the Jaguars' 0-8 start.
While Matt Schaub and Case Keenum combined to throw for 357 yards and two touchdowns, the Jaguars made two key interceptions. Alan Ball picked off Keenum late in the first half, and that led to Josh Scobee's 40-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead.

Linebacker Geno Hayes intercepted Matt Schaub with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the game, and that led to Scobee's 39-yard field goal with 25 seconds left.

They weren't making those plays in the first half of the season. Heck, they weren't even in position to make those plays.

But coach Gus Bradley never wavered in his message to the team. He told the players to trust in their preparation, trust in what the coaching staff was asking them to do, and trust that if they did those things the results would eventually be positive.

It was hard, for sure, because for so long the results did not come. But Bradley was so strong that the players stayed with him. They never doubted.

Then came a 29-27 victory at Tennessee on Nov. 10. Two weeks later, the Jaguars beat the host Texans 13-6. On Sunday, they beat the host Cleveland Browns 32-28. Then Thursday night.

"We talked a couple weeks ago about it validates what we're doing," Bradley said. "It really is a credit to our players for what they've gone through and to stick to it and have some results go their way, it's pretty cool."

Now the Jaguars are no longer a mess. In fact, their recent run has -- believe it or not -- kept them alive in the playoff race. It's obviously a ridiculously small chance, but the fact that they're still alive after the horrendous 0-8 start means they deserve respect, not ridicule.

"That just lets you know that all the analysts and people who [are] so-called professionals and geniuses don't know what they're talking about," defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said. "It's the NFL. Any given Sunday any team can go out and beat any team."

That's no joke.

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
11:54
PM ET

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars27-20 victory over the Houston Texans.

What it means: The Jaguars have their first three-game winning streak since the 2010 season and their first victory at home in more than a year (Nov. 25, 2012). The Jaguars had lost six consecutive games at EverBank Field. They’re also 4-1 since their bye and somehow still alive in the playoff race.

Stock watch: The Jaguars had no answer for quarterback Matt Schaub, who came in for Case Keenum in Thursday's third quarter and led the Texans to 10 points. The Jaguars couldn’t mount much of a pass rush -- they sacked him only once until the game's final play, and he had plenty of time to pick out receivers -- and Schaub was able to exploit what has been the Jaguars’ weakness all season: the middle of the field. He feasted, too, completing 17 of 29 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown. He made one mistake, a pass that linebacker Geno Hayes intercepted to set up the game-clinching field goal. The secondary has been an issue all season but particularly in the four games before Thursday night, giving up an average of 291 yards per game passing in those contests.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch continues to show his creativity. One week after having Maurice Jones-Drew throw a pass to Marcedes Lewis for a touchdown, he called a play in which receiver Ace Sanders threw a touchdown pass to running back Jordan Todman. The creativity makes up for a lack of experienced receivers and an offensive line that struggles with consistency. Of course, it helps that the plays are working.

RB injuries: The Jaguars lost Jones-Drew late in the third quarter to a hamstring injury, and Todman suffered a minor injury late in the fourth quarter, which really hurt their chance to run the clock. Jones-Drew had surpassed 100 yards for the first time this season and it was the closest he has looked to the player who led the league in rushing in 2011. The Jaguars had to go to third-stringer Denard Robinson, who carried twice for minus-1 yard, to try to kill clock on their next-to-last drive. Todman did return on the final drive, which began after Hayes’ interception.

Costly penalty: The Jaguars played a pretty clean game, but they did commit one costly penalty that directly led to three points in the fourth quarter. Texans kicker Randy Bullock missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt, but the Jaguars were penalized for having 12 men on the field. The Texans decided to go for it on fourth-and-5, converted the first down, and Bullock went on to kick a 31-yard field goal that cut the Jaguars’ lead to 24-20 with 11 minutes, 31 seconds to play.

What’s next: The Jaguars host Buffalo on Dec. 15 in their next-to-last home game of the season.

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