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Open Locker Room: Homeward bound

Posted Dec 3, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for Houston Texans Thursday with focus on improving results at EverBank Field.

JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars are coming home.

And to hear players tell it, Thursday is as good a time as any to make home count.

The Jaguars, winners of three of their last four games, will play host to the Houston Texans on Thursday in a nationally-televised prime-time game.

The Jaguars by any measure are an improved team.

They are a more confident team than they were a month ago.

On Tuesday, as Jaguars players gathered to begin preparing for the Texans, they said what they want now is to starting being considered a good home team – something that hasn’t been the case for the last season and a half.

“It’s been backward, I guess,” Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said Tuesday as the Jaguars (3-9) prepared to play host to the Houston Texans (2-10) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Thursday at 8:25 p.m.

“We haven’t played well at home the last couple of years, but we have some momentum right now. I think it will be good for us to continue that momentum.”

The Jaguars not only have won three of four games, and they not only have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2010, they have won three consecutive road games for the first time since 2007.

Home games have been a different story.

The Jaguars since the beginning of the 2011 season are 1-11 at EverBank Field and have lost their four games there this season, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs (28-2), the Indianapolis Colts (37-3), the San Diego Chargers (24-6) and the Arizona Cardinals (27-14). They also lost their designated home game to the San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium in London on October 27.

They are 0-5 at home this season, making them the only team in the NFL without a home victory.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley talked extensively about the need to improve at home before the loss to Arizona, and the Jaguars played their best home game of the season that day. They led the playoff-contending Cardinals 7-0 and 14-7 and were tied 14-14 at halftime before Arizona pulled away.

Bradley again has emphasized the area this week, particularly with the team facing its only three-game road stretch of the season.

“We don’t look ahead much, but I said (to the team), ‘We have a great opportunity with three games in a row,’’’ Bradley said Monday. “What we need to see is every opportunity we get better. Get better this week, then carry that over … but I did what somewhat of an emphasis on home games, because that is important.

“It doesn’t make it any more important than an away game, but it is special to play at home.’’

Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne agreed.

“He’s definitely made it a priority,” Henne said. “He made it a priority when we played Arizona. Our biggest thing is, ‘Do we want to win at home? Absolutely.’ But our biggest goal is to get better from last game and if we get better from last game we’ll give ourselves a good chance.”

The game against Houston will mark the second time in 11 days the Jaguars have played their AFC South rivals, a team that has lost its last 10 games. The Jaguars beat the Texans, 13-6, in Houston on November 24. That was the Jaguars’ second victory of the season, following a 29-27 victory at Tennessee on November 10.

The Jaguars beat the Cleveland Browns, 32-28, this past Sunday.

“There really aren’t going to be a lot of wrinkles,” Henne said of playing the Texans twice in three games. “You’re going to scheme a couple of plays here and there, but other than that, it’s going to be a physical matchup. We need to be able to run the ball.

“There are going to be one-on-one matchups out there all day. Whoever wins the one-on-one matchups is going to win the game.”

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