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Open Locker Room: Confidence building

Posted Dec 2, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts III, C Brad Meester say confidence beginning to show after three victories in four weeks.

JACKSONVILLE – A day later, the feeling was still fresh. And it was still good.

Cecil Shorts III wasn’t talking about his game-winning catch on Sunday in Cleveland, either. Yes, that was real good, and the 20-yard touchdown with 40 seconds remaining to beat his hometown team is something the third-year receiver won’t forget.

But Shorts said just as good was the feeling in the huddle during the drive that led to the touchdown.

The feeling was confidence.

And that meant it wasn’t just a good feeling, it was an important feeling.

“I think that is a difference,” Shorts said Monday, a day after the Jaguars’ 32-28 victory over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday.

“I think we weren’t ‘hoping.’ We were expecting to go out there and do well. We were expecting to go out there and make plays. It was a good feeling in the huddle.

“There was never doubt. Everybody was confident.”

How quickly times change.

In this case, they changed in a month.

Shorts’ 20-yard catch not only capped an 80-yard, game-winning drive, it gave the Jaguars their first back-to-back victories since late in the 2010 season.

It also gave the Jaguars their first three-game road winning streak since 2007.

That also was the last year the Jaguars made the postseason, and though the Jaguars at 3-9 are unlikely to make a playoff push, three victories in four games have made for a different feeling – different, certainly, than the feeling when the team entered the Week Nine bye week with 0-8 record.

“It’s awesome – especially after that win (Sunday),” Jaguars center Brad Meester said. “It was great. You see how this team continues to fight. We got off to a 0-8 start and here we are 3-1 in the second half of the season. It’s because of the group of guys we have in here and the coaching staff.”

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley after the game Sunday lauded the team’s poise, and Meester, too, said that has become a defining trait in recent weeks. He said that was particularly true on the final drive against the Browns, a drive that exemplified the team’s improvement over the last month.

The Jaguars’ longest touchdown drive of the first four games of the season was 52 yards. They have had eight drives of 70 yards or more in the last two months of the season, and two of the team’s touchdown drives Sunday were 80 yards.

Meester, like Shorts, said there was no doubt in the huddle on the Jaguars’ final drive Sunday.

“You could feel it on that last drive that we were going to get something going,” Meester said. “We got to a critical third-and-1 (at the Browns 25-yard line at the two-minute warning). There was a long break and you could feel it. Everybody knew we were going to get that first down. It was a key third down. We knew we were going to get it. We got that first down and we were able to go in from there.”

Shorts on Monday also discussed his game-winning touchdown pass, and the moments just after.

Shorts, who attended high school in Cleveland and played collegiately at nearby Mount Union, had family and friends at the game. He talked extensively Monday about the support he has in Cleveland. That included friends, family and “people I went to class with that I forgot about,” he added with a smile.

“Everybody is amazing,” he said. “Honestly, it was a dream.”

Shorts, who said he gave his father his jersey immediately after the game, said he found the headline in Monday’s Cleveland Plain-Dealer – Hometown Villain – amusing.

“Villain,” he said, laughing. “That’s pretty cool.”

Shorts said what was maybe the coolest was the feeling in the Jaguars’ locker room after the game, and throughout recent weeks.

 “It’s like we’re a more confident team,” Shorts said. “We’re going into games expecting to win and expecting to do well during the games. … We’re growing up and we’re coming on.”

Also around the locker room Monday:

*Guard Will Rackley spoke about being the Jaguars’ 2013 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, an award voted on by players and presented annually to one member of every NFL team for courage and dedication returning from injury or illness. “It was terrible, having to watch the whole year,” Rackley said. “It means a great deal to me to be voted on by my peers – for them to think that highly of me.” Rackley missed the 2012 season with an ankle injury….

*The Jaguars have rushed for more than 100 yards each of the last two games after not reaching the mark in any of the first 10 games. “I think it’s just a little bit of everything,” veteran center Brad Meester said. “We’ve continued to work up front. We’ve continued to work our double teams and our combination blocks. The backs are doing a tremendous job hitting the holes are and we’re continuing to stick with our running game.” Meester said the difference has been the ability to break long runs. The Jaguars had runs of 18, 13, 13 and 10 yards on Sunday en route to rushing for 112 yards as a team. “We know that every run is not going to be a huge run,” Meester said. “In the past, we just weren’t able to get those explosive ones. In the last few weeks we’ve been able to pop those big runs for a combination of reasons.”

*Wide receiver Ace Sanders on catching 12 passes for 128 yards over the last two games: “I’m just trying to fill the role they have set for me. I’m just taking it a day at a time. It’s just all game plan. It depends on who we’re facing that week. We have other guys who do the same thing. It’s all the coaches’ game plan.”

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