NFL Nation: Jedd Fisch

MOBILE, Ala. -- Here are 10 observations/thoughts from Monday's Senior Bowl practices and interviews:

1. Though there was only one period at the end of South team practice in which the entire offense faced off against the entire defense, Monday was a good day to evaluate the quarterbacks. It was mainly from a mental standpoint, Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. The offense was put in Sunday night and Monday was the first chance to see how well the quarterbacks transferred it from the meeting room to the field. Fisch said he was pleased with the way Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois), Derek Carr (Fresno State) and David Fales (San Jose State) handled that. There were mistakes and issues, but all the quarterbacks did a solid job.

2. There isn't a lot of size among the quarterbacks for either team, with the exception of Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), who measured in at an impressive 6-5 5/8 and 250 pounds. Fales (6-1) and Carr (6-2) were both listed at 6-3 on the pre-measurement roster.

[+] EnlargeDee Ford
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillDee Ford, who had 2 sacks in the national title game against Florida State and 10.5 sacks for the season, impressed on Monday at Senior Bowl practices.
3. Maybe it's my SEC background (I covered Florida and the league for 13 seasons), but defensive ends Dee Ford (Auburn) and Chris Smith (Arkansas) were noticeably quicker than the other defensive linemen. It really showed during one-on-one pass-rush drills. Offensive tackles Joel Bitonio (Nevada), Wesley Johnson (Vanderbilt), Ja'Wuan James (Tennessee), Morgan Moses (Virginia) and Billy Turner (North Dakota State) really struggled with those two players on the edge. Turner had a particularly hard time, which is partly to be expected because of the step up in competition. However, it was a bit surprising to see Johnson, James and Moses have issues. The layoff is partly to blame.

4. Ford had 10.5 sacks, including two in the national title game against Florida State, and was consistently beating the tackles around the edge. It'll be interesting to see how he handles coverage responsibilities. He's not really big enough to play a down end (6-2 1/4, 243 pounds) so he'd likely fit in the Jaguars' scheme as a leo.

5. Jon Halapio (Florida) had a rough start in one-on-one run-blocking drills -- defensive tackle Will Sutton (Arizona State) threw him aside pretty easily -- but he rebounded to have a solid performance in the pass-rushing drills. He handled Sutton and tackle Deandre Coleman (California) in pass-rush drills.

6. From the Don't Read Too Much Into This Department: Jaguars GM David Caldwell wandered over to watch some of the one-on-one run-blocking drills and stood next to end Ed Stinson for a while. The two appeared to be chatting while Stinson was sitting out some drills. Stinson weighed in at 292 pounds so he'd be a better fit for the spot that Tyson Alualu plays. The Jaguars were satisfied with the way Alualu played the run last season but they'd like more pass-rush production out that spot.

7. Here's a name to keep an eye on as the draft rolls into the later rounds: defensive tackle Caraun Reid (Princeton). He had a really strong day in run-blocking and pass-rushing drills. He moves very well for his size (6-2 1/8, 301 pounds) and showed good strength and quickness. He tossed guard Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) aside and got underneath center Bryan Stork (Florida State) and drove him back.

8. Another small-school player that caught my eye was running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (Coastal Carolina), mainly because he's the biggest running back participating this week (6-0, 231 pounds). He had a couple nice runs during the short 11-on-11 period. He ran for 1,742 yards and 27 touchdowns and averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season. He has lost only 20 yards in 356 career carries.

9. Receiver Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) made a nice catch with a DB all over him during 11-on-11. Matthews (6-2, 209 pounds) is a physical player who caught 201 passes the past two seasons. He has good hands, knows how to use his body, and will make the tough catch. He doesn't have top-end speed, but he'll be one of the first several receivers drafted.

10. I wasn't that impressed with fullback Jay Prosch (Auburn), who struggled whenever he had to block an end or on the edge. Granted, there were only a few live periods but he seemed to be much better whenever he had to take on an inside linebacker.

Johnny Manziel a fit for Jaguars

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has just begun the process of evaluating college quarterbacks in preparation for the upcoming draft, but he may have offered a clue about which kind of quarterback he would prefer.

During his weekly meeting with the media in mid-December, he was asked if he grits his teeth and worries when he sees quarterback Chad Henne scramble. Not only did he say no, he said he wished Henne would scramble more.

"I get excited when they [quarterbacks] scramble," he said. "I think guys need to scramble. I think quarterbacks need to get first downs with their legs as well as their arms. I encourage scrambling.

"I encourage throwing it up and trying to get pass interferences and I encourage scrambling because I think both of those things happen in the NFL. Take a chance. When you have a chance to launch one, launch one. When you have a chance to run, run, because yards are hard to come by."

A seemingly perfect fit just became available on Wednesday when Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel submitted paperwork to the NFL to be included in May’s NFL draft.

Maybe that's reading too much into what Fisch said, but there is no college quarterback in the country that fits Fisch’s description better than Manziel. There’s no one who scrambles better, frustrates defensive coordinators more, embarrasses all-conference players and pulls big plays out of nowhere better than Manziel.

The two other players generally considered among the top quarterbacks in the draft -- Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles -- don’t compare. Bridgewater is the best pure passer, most NFL ready and most polished quarterback in the draft and he’ll likely go No. 1 overall, but he’s not the kind of improviser and scrambler Manziel is. Bridgewater moves exceptionally well in the pocket and can run if needed, but he doesn’t do it often -- he has rushed for 164 yards and four touchdowns on 226 carries, an average of 0.7 yards per carry.

Bortles ran for 561 yards (2.3 per carry) and 15 touchdowns in his three seasons at Central Florida.

Manziel rushed for 2,169 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. He ran for 181 yards against Louisiana Tech in 2012.

Quarterbacks are ultimately rated by what they do as a passer and Manziel certainly has more work to do regarding his skills in the pocket than Bridgewater. There are questions about whether he can sit in the pocket, scan the field and find an open receiver, not only because of his penchant to scramble but also because of his height (6-foot-1).

But there are few quarterbacks who can play the entire game in the pocket. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are a rarity in today’s NFL. Quarterbacks have to at least be able to get outside and scramble for a first down every once in a while or move around to extend plays. That’s what Fisch meant when he said he encourages his quarterbacks to scramble.

Things rarely go as planned on the field, and games are often determined by what happens on two or three broken plays. That’s where Manziel excels, and there was no better example of that than his 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Labhart in which he tried to leap over a defender, pulled his leg free from an apparent sack, rolled left and found Labhart wide open.

Manziel isn’t the best quarterback in this draft. That’s Bridgewater, and that’s who the Jaguars would most likely take if he’s somehow available with the third pick. Fisch wouldn’t have a problem with that, either, and the offense would be the same style it was with Henne and Blaine Gabbert, bigger quarterbacks who don’t scramble much.

But if he’s not, then Manziel -- whom Todd McShay predicted the Jaguars would take in his first mock draft -- would be the best option.

And Fisch will most likely end up answering questions about whether Manziel is scrambling too much.

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."

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.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Paul PoslusznyUSA Today SportsPaul Posluszny and the Jags are aiming for a season sweep of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tennessee.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Maybe Delanie Walker shouldn’t feel so bad now.

The Titans tight end said he was embarrassed after the Jaguars won 29-27 in Nashville on Nov. 10 to pick up their first victory. Since then, the Jaguars are 3-2 with victories over Houston (twice) and Cleveland. The Titans are 1-4 with a victory over Oakland.

There seems to be much more stability in Jacksonville, too, because of the uncertain status surrounding Tennessee coach Mike Munchak.

Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky break down Sunday’s matchup at EverBank Field.

DiRocco: Some Titans players were pretty vocal about being embarrassed due to becoming the first team to lose to the Jaguars. Is that something that still stings, and how have they rebounded from that loss?

Kuharsky: It definitely left a mark. They are only 1-4 since then. It kind of set a bar for how bad they can be and re-established their propensity to lose to teams that are really struggling. The Jaguars are on an upswing since that game, and the Titans are on a downward spiral. If Tennessee losses to the Jaguars again, the Titans will be in line to finish in third place in an awful division, which is well short of their goals and expectations. The Titans are a better team than they were last year. But losing closer isn’t a really big difference in the really big picture.

Let’s turn that around. How has life changed for the Jaguars since that Nov. 10 breakthrough?

DiRocco: I could go into a lot of stats that show how much better the Jaguars are playing, but that's not what's really important. The past six games have been more about the validation of the process, establishing the foundation of the franchise's rebuild, and confidence in the new regime. Coach Gus Bradley never wavered from the plan that he and general manager David Caldwell established. His message stayed the same throughout the eight-game losing streak to start the season: trust in the process, work hard, and focus on improving and not victories, and the victories will eventually come. Because that has happened, the players appear to have completely bought into what Bradley and Caldwell want to do, and there's a confidence in the locker room that the franchise is headed in the right direction.

We talked about Jake Locker the last time these teams met, but that was before he suffered a season-ending injury to his foot. How does that change the Titans' outlook on him and are they in the market for a quarterback in the offseason, too?

Kuharsky: Locker is certain to be on the 2014 Titans. His fourth year isn’t that costly and it’s guaranteed. But they can’t execute a spring option for his fifth year that would line him up for over $13 million. A lot of his fate depends on whether Munchak is back as the head coach. It’s possible they go forward with Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick and just-signed Tyler Wilson as their quarterbacks. It’s also possible they’d draft a new guy, and depending on how high of a pick he could land in competition to start. I think it’s less likely they chase a free agent like Jay Cutler if he comes free, but they have to assess all the possibilities. How can they completely commit to Locker based on his injury history?

One side effect of the Jaguars' surge is they aren’t going to be in position to draft the first quarterback taken. What’s your sense of what Bradley and Caldwell want in a quarterback and do you expect one to arrive in the first round?

DiRocco: Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said something interesting last week. He said he wants his QB to scramble around, take off running to get yards and take some chances throwing the football. To me, that sounds like a pretty accurate description of Johnny Manziel. I'm not sure how that reconciles with the ideas of his bosses. Bradley comes from Seattle, which has the mobile Russell Wilson. Caldwell comes from Atlanta, which has the considerably less mobile Matt Ryan. My sense is that Bradley and Caldwell probably lean more toward the Wilson end of the spectrum. People think that eliminates Teddy Bridgewater, but that's not the case. He's not a runner but he can run if needed. If he's around, I'd expect them to take him. If not, then I would still expect them to go quarterback. It's their most glaring need.

You mentioned Munchak's job status. What's your take on whether he will be back next season -- and should he be?

Kuharsky: He’s shepherded improvement, but his team lacks an ability to finish. He’s 0-4 in the worst division in football, 1-9 in the past two years. His teams have lost to the previously winless Jags in 2013 and the previously winless Colts in 2011. He’s 4-18 against teams with winning records when the Titans played them and 2-19 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. To me, three years is a sufficient sample size to know what you’ve got and those numbers are the most telling thing on his resume. Keep him and they deal with all the limitations connected to a lame duck coach. I don’t know what Tommy Smith, the head of the new ownership, will do. But the fan base overwhelmingly wants change, if that’s worth anything. People still pay for tickets because they’ve got investments in personal seat licenses they do not want to throw away. But a lot of people are staying home on Sundays now.

Cecil Shorts is done and Maurice Jones-Drew is uncertain. How can the Jaguars threaten on offense without their two best weapons?

DiRocco: They were able to put up 20 points and post their second-highest yardage total of the season, including a season-high 159 rushing, in last Sunday's loss to Buffalo. Running back Jordan Todman stepped up big time and ran for 109 yards (Jones-Drew cracked 100 only once in the first 13 games) and tight end Marcedes Lewis was more involved in the passing game than in previous weeks (four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown). But I'm not sure that is sustainable. Teams will certainly concentrate on stopping Lewis and make quarterback Chad Henne move the ball with three receivers who have a combined 75 career catches. Todman doesn't scare anyone, either. The Jaguars will have to be creative on offense (they've run gadget plays the past three weeks) and capitalize on every opportunity they get.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 15

December, 16, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills:

Grounded: One of the reasons the Jaguars had been 4-1 since the bye week was their improved rush defense. After giving up 162 yards per game in the first eight games, they had allowed opponents an average of just 71 yards in the next five games. The Bills ran for 198 yards, including 80 by Fred Jackson, 67 by C.J. Spiller and 37 by quarterback EJ Manuel. The Jaguars struggled with all the things they did well in the last five games: staying in their gaps, tackling, communication. “The biggest thing for us was the fundamentals,” defensive end Jason Babin said. “We did it to ourselves; whether it was 10 guys on the field, whether it was missed tackles, whether it was missed alignment, missed assignment, looking back I’m pretty sure when we watch the tape that’s what we’re going to see. That’s I think what makes it most frustrating, is we did it to ourselves.”

Lewis
Lewis more involved: Tight end Marcedes Lewis was more of a factor in the passing game against the Bills than he has been all season. That was partly due to the absence of receiver Cecil Shorts (groin). Getting Lewis more involved is something offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch should make a priority. Lewis caught a season-high four passes for 54 yards and one touchdown, the first time in his career he’s had touchdown catches in three consecutive games. Lewis made several catches on back-shoulder throws and scored on a screen. He can be much more of a factor in the middle of the field and certainly is a big target in the red zone. He’s a good blocker and a huge help in the running game, but if Shorts is unable to play the next two weeks, Lewis needs to get more work.

Line shuffle: With the news that backup guard Mike Brewster is out for the rest of the season with a fractured left ankle, the Jaguars’ situation on the offensive line is somewhat shaky. Brewster was in the game because starter Will Rackley did not play due to a concussion (it’s unclear how long he will be out). Jacques McClendon replaced Brewster and had an up-and-down day, committing two false starts but doing a solid job in the run game. The Jaguars likely will sign Drew Nowak from the practice squad to replace Brewster, and Nowak could be forced to start Sunday’s game against Tennessee if Rackley can’t play. Nowak has not appeared in a game in his two seasons.

Guy trouble: Winston Guy had an up-and-down day as well, but it was almost expected since he has been playing free safety all season and was forced into duty as the starting strong safety because Johnathan Cyprien (thigh) was inactive. Guy had six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, but he also missed several tackles and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for hitting Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin in the head, a play that’s likely to draw a fine. “He has the ability to make some big plays but in four days of practice [at strong safety] like that we knew that there could be some opportunities that we missed,” coach Gus Bradley said.

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 5, 2013
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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.

Jaguars running out of options

November, 21, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have tried various things to get the running game going.

They've used more of the gap blocking scheme instead of being an exclusively zone blocking team.

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They've used the pistol formation.

They've given Denard Robinson, who never quite worked out as an offensive weapon, the No. 2 spot on the running back depth chart and some carries.

Nothing has worked. The team is still last in the NFL in rushing (61.7 yards per game), Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and they're coming off a game in which they rushed for just 32 yards -- the fourth-lowest single-game total in franchise history.

"We need to find a way to run the ball," coach Gus Bradley said. "We just have to. It doesn't matter how good they are up front, we still have to find a way."

There's really not much left to try. Bradley said Thursday that Jordan Todman and Justin Forsett, who has played in the past two games, will get more opportunities to run the ball Sunday against Houston. Robinson may get a carry or two as well.

Jones-Drew will still get the majority of the work, but Bradley said taking some of the load off his shoulders may help him stay rested and be more effective. Jones-Drew has 157 carries. The rest of the running backs, which includes fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou, have 42.

"One of the things we looked at is throughout the NFL you see teams go with one lead back and another back might get five or six reps a game in order to keep the No. 1 guy fresh," Bradley said. "We haven't been doing that as much so that's something that we're looking into.

"It might be with MoJo that if we do that and he's fresher, we get more production."

The running game problems aren't only due to a tired Jones-Drew. The offensive line hasn't played well at all. The unit, especially the interior, struggled with the zone blocking schemes early in the season so offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch called more gap-scheme plays. That has helped a little bit but the line is still struggling to create space.

Injuries have been a factor as well. Jones-Drew was coming off a Lisfranc injury, suffered a sprained ankle in Week 2 and has been dealing with knee soreness. Left guard Will Rackley and right guard Uche Nwaneri battled knee injuries early in the season. Rackley has missed the last two games with a concussion. The Jaguars ran for a combined 86 yards in a victory over Tennessee and a loss to Arizona.

Bradley said he and Fisch have challenged the offensive line this week because they're facing a Houston defense that ranks No. 1 in the league in total defense but 23rd against the rush.

They want to see more explosive plays. The Jaguars are last in the NFL with just three rushes of 15 or more yards this season and 58.7 percent of runs have gone for 2 or less yards.

"I think I told you all a bunch of weeks ago there's going to be a lot of 2-yarders and 3-yarders," Fisch said. "The problem we're having is we're not getting the ex-play [explosive play] runs. If you don't get an ex-play run you're never going to have more than 60 yards rushing.

"What we haven't been able to do is break one. There's been times that you're like, 'Oh, that's a nice -- oh, almost broke that.' Until we break a few we'll be hovering in that 40-60-yard range and that's not good enough."

Nothing they've been doing on the ground has been.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observed in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaguars' 27-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Preplanned surprise: Head coach Gus Bradley said he and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch planned to go for the first down on a fourth down at some point in the game. He just didn’t expect it to be from their own 38-yard line less than three minutes into the game. “That was a little bit out of the range [they wanted], but I just felt like we needed it at that time,” Bradley said. The misdirection play resulted in a 62-yard touchdown by little-used tight end Danny Noble.

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Stifled: Maurice Jones-Drew managed just 23 yards on 14 carries against the Cardinals' third-ranked rush defense. He gained 9 yards on one run, meaning he had 14 yards on his other 13 carries. The 23 yards is tied for the second-lowest total of his career in games in which he had 10 or more carries. His lowest was 10 yards on 10 carries against Indianapolis in 2007.

No comment: Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin spoke for a few minutes about ripping out a chunk of Andre Ellington's hair, but when another member of the media arrived late and asked him about it again, he politely declined to comment. Why? Because the question was phrased like this: Have you ever held another man’s hair up in your hands like that? As he joked afterward, answering a question phrased that way can only result in his comments getting twisted or taken out of context.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 10

November, 11, 2013
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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.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It has been an ugly first half of the season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

They’ve lost every game by double digits -- the average margin is 22 points -- and are riding a 13-game losing streak that dates back to a Nov. 25, 2012, when they beat Tennessee. They rank last in the NFL in total offense and rush defense, 31st in rush offense, and 27th in total defense.

They haven’t scored a touchdown at EverBank Field since the first quarter of the 2012 regular-season home finale.

Ugly, indeed.

There have been slivers of good work in parts of the team in the first eight games, but the overall body of work deserves an F.

In breaking that grade down, it's clear this midseason report card isn’t going to be pretty. In fact, it’s the kind of report card that gets you grounded for weeks:

First-half silver linings: Jaguars

November, 1, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first half of the Jacksonville Jaguars' season has been pretty negative, but what can you expect when the team is 0-8 and has lost every game by double digits?

From the offensive line to Blaine Gabbert's dismal play to a defense that can’t get off the field on third down, the past eight weeks have been spent documenting what’s wrong with the Jaguars. But things aren’t all bad. There are some good things happening, and they deserve mentioning, too.

So for those folks who like silver linings, here are five things that have gone right for the Jaguars in the first eight games:

[+] EnlargeWill Blackmon
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesWill Blackmon leads the Jaguars defense with nine pass breakups.
Will Blackmon: Blackmon has by far been the best waiver-wire signing the Jaguars have made. He has started seven games at cornerback, leads the team with nine pass breakups, and has the secondary’s only interception. He has also handled punt returns when Ace Sanders hasn’t been available for whatever reason. His play has been critical because of injuries to Dwayne Gratz and Alan Ball, who have missed a combined six games.

Mike Brown: The Jaguars have apparently found their No. 3 receiver in Brown, who spent most of last season on the practice squad as he made the transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver. He made his first career catch in the 2013 season opener against Kansas City before injuring his back and sitting out the next four weeks. Since his return he has caught 12 passes for 212 yards (17.7 yards per catch) and one touchdown.

Paul Posluszny: The defense has some serious issues (third downs, lack of turnovers, terrible against the run) but not because of Posluszny, who has been by far the team’s best player this season. He’s leading the team in tackles (80) and interceptions (two) and is second in pass breakups (seven). The Jaguars’ defense would be even worse if Posluszny wasn’t playing at such a high level.

No problems in the locker room: One of the biggest concerns with the way the season has gone is players starting to tune out head coach Gus Bradley, who tries to keep things positive in meetings and on the practice field. Would Bradley’s constant positive attitude wear on the players after weeks of seeing no results? Not yet, and several players said they don’t expect that to happen. Rookies Josh Evans and Ace Sanders both said they’ve seen no evidence of that creeping into the locker room and each added that the veterans have done a good job in the locker room to keep morale up. One veteran player said he was worried about the younger players tuning Bradley out but has been pleased that he hasn’t seen it happen.

Maurice Jones-Drew: He’s clearly not the same player who led the NFL in rushing in 2011, but he is still capable of being a workhorse back. His return from the Lisfranc injury he suffered last season was hampered by a sprained ankle in Week 2, but he has continued to progress and last week’s game against San Francisco was by far his most productive of the season. The bye week will give him additional time to heal. If offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch makes good on his pledge to give Jones-Drew 20-plus touches it could lead to a very productive second half.

Five things to watch: Jaguars-49ers

October, 26, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are five things to watch in Sunday’s Jacksonville Jaguars-San Francisco 49ers game at Wembley Stadium in London:

Weather: According to The Weather Channel’s web site, the forecast for Sunday is a high of 59 degrees with a 60 percent chance of rain. The bigger problem is the 23-mph winds, because that certainly impacts the passing game. The Jaguars are last in the NFL in rushing (63.0 yards per game) while the 49ers are third (143.3 yards per game). The Jaguars are also last in the NFL in rush defense (153.3 yards per game). If this turns into a ground-and-pound game because of the wind, that’s a huge advantage for the 49ers.

Davis
Tight ends: It seems like I write about this every week with the Jaguars, but it’s certainly an issue again because they’re facing Vernon Davis. Tight ends have caught 42 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns against the Jaguars this season. Davis is by far the best they’ll have played. What makes him so tough is he’s a big-play machine. Eight of his 26 catches have been for 20 or more yards, and he’s averaging 17.9 yards per reception. He also has six touchdown catches. It’s going to be a tough day for linebacker Geno Hayes and safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans.

Emotion meter: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said the team came out flat last week, and for the first time this season showed a lack of effort. How will the players respond? There’s obviously a sentiment of wanting to play hard for Bradley because of the death of his father, but the players also would like to redeem themselves for the poor performance against San Diego. The Jaguars had shown progress in the two previous games, and last week’s showing wasted that.

More MoJo? Maurice Jones-Drew touched the ball just 11 times last Sunday despite offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch saying he wants to get Jones-Drew 20-plus touches each game. Part of the problem was the way the game unfolded. San Diego’s long drives, helped by converting on their first six third-down attempts, chewed up clock and the Jaguars had the ball just twice in the first half. Expect a bigger workload for Jones-Drew, especially if the weather limits the passing game.

Henne time: The Jaguars have opted to go with Chad Henne over Blaine Gabbert (for this week, at least). Henne has played solidly the past two weeks, throwing for more than 300 yards against Denver and San Diego. However, Henne has his own issues with consistency, and this is a game where it might be tough to get anything done through the air.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- At first, Denard Robinson was an offensive weapon.

Then he was just a wide receiver.

Now he’s a running back.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsThe Jaguars are continuing to try to find a place on the field for Denard Robinson, including lining up the rookie at running back.
Regardless of which position Robinson plays, this is perfectly clear: He’s not getting much action.

Robinson has played just 17 snaps this season and just four in the past three weeks. His lack of playing time is mainly because the Jaguars still aren’t quite sure what his role should be.

He has had trouble holding onto the ball, which he showed by fumbling a faked handoff when lined up as a wildcat quarterback against Seattle. He also dropped a screen pass against Indianapolis.

He didn’t throw the ball well in training camp, either. He was an average passer at Michigan, completing 57 percent of his passes for 6,250 yards and 49 touchdowns with 39 interceptions, and his throws in camp were inaccurate.

Until the Jaguars can figure out an exact role for the team’s sixth-round draft pick, Robinson will continue to get sporadic reps.

"We continue to go through the Denard Robinson figuring-out process," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "We put him back there at kick return to see how he handled the kickoffs and see if he could hit it. We tried to put him in Wildcat and he struggled with that a little bit on that one that we fumbled the exchange. Then we also threw him a screen and it didn’t end up well, so we’re going to continue to see what Denard can do.

"We believe 100 percent that losers make excuses and winners make it happen. And we’ve got to find ways to make it happen and that’s what it’s going to come down to, and we’ve got to figure out what Denard can do best."

Robinson is a pretty good open-field runner, but there’s not enough trust to throw him the ball. He could just take a shotgun snap in the Wildcat and run the ball, a throw-back to single-wing football, but that negates the element of deception that the read-option needs.

The only other way to get Robinson the ball is by lining him up at running back. The Jaguars have done that the past two weeks. He had one carry for 9 yards against San Diego and one for 2 against Denver.

Now that Ace Sanders and Stephen Burton have cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol, the Jaguars have their top five receivers on the practice field for the first time this season. That leaves no room for Robinson there, so he’s likely to spend the rest of the season lining up at running back -- which means a carry or two each game.

"I think now he can focus more at running back," coach Gus Bradley said. "We were trying to find out where we can place him and things like that, but I think now we’re finding out let’s give him some opportunities at running back."

Q&A: Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell

October, 23, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Some leftover soundbites from a recent conversation with Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell on his team-building philosophy:

How would you describe what you are trying to build in Jacksonville with the Jaguars?

Dave Caldwell:
Shad Khan is very passionate about this team and this city. When I interviewed here, he gave me the opportunity to interview other places before he offered me the job. His thought was "I want you to want to be here, and I want you to be part of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the community here. I think if you go explore other opportunities, you’re going to realize that." He was right. My heart was here. Same with Coach [Gus} Bradley. He had the opportunity to stay in Seattle. There were a couple other jobs he could have gone for, or waited another year, but he wanted to be a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He wanted to be here with Shad, [president] Mark Lamping, myself, and the team we have here. We want people who want to be here. That’s our mindset. I think we’re slowly getting it to a point where people are going to want to come here. With our head coach and our coaching staff, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better situation. Conversely, when people leave here, we want it to be a difficult decision for them, kind of like it was for me when I left Atlanta. That was difficult, but it was difficult for the right reasons. Same thing, I want to treat our guys like Thomas [Dimitroff] treated me and if it’s a great opportunity, let’s get you that job. Let’s get coordinators head-coaching jobs, but let’s make it difficult because this is a great spot.

Why is Gus Bradley the right coach to lead the Jaguars, and for you as a co-builder of this franchise?

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Dave Caldwell
AP Photo/John Raoux"We've made the commitment to build [the Jaguars] through the draft. Thats part of the reason I took this job," GM Dave Caldwell said.
DC: The biggest thing is that he cares. Not just about being successful, but he cares about his people, he cares about his assistant coaches, he cares about his players. Not just from a professional standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. He is extremely genuine. When he speaks to you, or he speaks to a player, he’s not concerned about anything else going around. He’s not looking for his next conversation. He makes you feel like you’re the most important person at that time. I think that’s very important, when he’s talking to players, or coaches, whoever that might be, he has their full attention and they have his full attention. You saw that really quickly in the interview -- he is as genuine of a person as I’ve been around. He’s highly passionate. Highly competitive. He was willing to take a chance. When I said we’re going to build this through the draft, and play young guys early on, he was all for it. Throughout the interview process, our philosophies just aligned very quickly. Same with Shad. When Shad interviewed me, it was about continuous improvement. I said "that’s what I’m looking for." When I interviewed Gus, it was about getting better. Shad’s belief, all the way through, was about continuous improvement. The three of us were on the same page with that. That’s how we felt we needed to get better. That process was really good. I think it’s worked out well.

What have you focused on when it comes to hiring people around Gus and in scouting?

DC: I am a first-time general manager and Gus a first-time head coach, so there was a thought of "let’s use this as an opportunity to give other people their first opportunity." Marcus Pollard was a guy who we said, "let’s give him an opportunity" knowing he was going to have to grow into his role and become an expert in that role. A lot of our coaches -- Jedd Fisch, first-time offensive coordinator, Mike Mallory, first-time special-teams coordinator. [Assistant special-teams coach] Matt Smiley, we brought from college. [Quality control coach] Tony Sorrentino, we brought from college. We have a lot of youth. We have a lot of energy. Coach Bradley wanted great teachers, passion, and guys who were excited about being here. That was the biggest thing for us. That’s kind of what we did throughout the entire organization. Kyle O’Brien, college director. I felt like that if I was given my first opportunity, I could pay it back to people where it was important for them. That’s kind of how we approached this from a building and culture standpoint, and it’s been good. I love coming in here on daily basis with the camaraderie we have here.

How would you describe your approach of building the roster?

DC: We’ve made the commitment to build this through the draft. That’s part of the reason I took this job. Everybody says "I want to build through the draft, I want to build through the draft" but only a select number of them actually commit to it. I firmly believe in doing it. I know we’re going to go through some adversity doing that, but in the long-term, you’ll see success through it. Obviously, we have to pick the right players. I feel like that’s the way to do it, and I felt like this was a market we could do that. The owner is committed to doing it. The head coach is committed to doing it. That’s what we’re going to do. I’m not very patient, so sometimes I tell Shad and Gus, "remind me how we’re going to do this." We’re convicted in our beliefs in doing it. I think it can work here. One thing about Jacksonville, they’re passionate. The perception that maybe the nation has is not accurate, these fans are passionate. They love their Jaguars. It’s a very similar feel to growing up in Buffalo. That city loves their football team. They live and die with them. I feel very similar to the fans here, and the passion that the fans here have.

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