Mike Mularkey’s not buying in to the whole road theory.
Although the Jaguars by any measure have played better on the road than at home this season, Mularkey – in his first season as the Jaguars’ head coach – said in no way is the team trying to “run and go somewhere else” than EverBank Field.
“I like being at home – I do,” Mularkey said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-8) prepared to play the Houston Texans (8-1) at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.
“Our players are proud to be home. They are trying to do their best at home and we don’t have the mindset, ‘Let’s go and get on the road because we play better.’ I don’t believe that’s the case.”
Not only did the Jaguars’ lone victory of the season come at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the Jaguars also lost overtime games on the road to the Raiders and Vikings, and played the Green Bay Packers tough deep into the fourth quarter of a nine-point loss last month.
They have lost five home games by at least 15 points each. The Jaguars are 3-7 all-time at Reliant Stadium, and haven’t won there since 2009.
The status of three key Jaguars players remains questionable for Sunday.
Fullback Greg Jones (thigh), cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin) and safety Dwight Lowery (ankle) were listed as not practicing Wednesday on the team’s injury report and Mularkey said the trio will be monitored throughout the week.
“They have a chance (to play Sunday) all depending on how they progress during the week each day,” Mularkey said.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew will miss a fourth consecutive game with a foot sprain after also missing practice Wednesday, while quarterback Blaine Gabbert worked full and is expected to play, according to Mularkey.
Center Brad Meester missed practice Wednesday as has been the case throughout the season.
“I’ve been impressed with Blaine. I see a real attempt to grow at that position. I see guys following him a little more and more each game. I see things on the field, in the huddle, on the practice field, walking off the field. I’m constantly evaluating players, constantly evaluating the situation, constantly looking for anything that can prevent us from winning or help us win. I think Blaine is making a serious attempt. I think it’s real, and that’s what I like about him.”
“Whenever you are on the road, you’re in a hostile environment where not many people like you, and you kind of take that and use it as motivation. We don’t really dwell on the fact that we are on the road. We still have to go out there and do our stuff, execute our plays.”
G UCHE NWANERI SAYS
“We’re going to continue to work hard and continue to grind it out and things are going to turn our way. We’re just going to keep pushing.”
WR LAURENT ROBINSON SAYS
“Our passing game is picking up. We’re just excited to keep this thing rolling and keep continuing to gel together and get the chemistry together.”
How to block J.J. Watt? That has been a season-long issue for the NFL this season, as the Texas’ defensive end has 10.5 sacks in nine games. As impressive is the second-year veteran has 10 passes defensed, and Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said Wednesday you have to be as concerned with passes defensed as sacks when blocking Watt. “He knows if he can’t get to the quarterback he’s going to knock the ball down,” Nwaneri said. “It’s not enough just to get a good block on him in pass protection. You have to be aware that once you block him and he can’t get past you, you have to stick on him.” Nwaneri, asked if he ever was tempted just to punch Watt in the stomach, laughed, “If it were legal. No, you just have to be ready for it. You have to anticipate he’s going to go do that. That’s just something he does. It’s part of his makeup as a player.”
The Jaguars will hold a non-padded practice Thursday in preparation for their game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston Sunday.
*Mularkey on Wednesday said he continues to see improvement from rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon, and said that’s particularly true in the last month. Blackmon has 26 receptions for 260 yards and a touchdown, with 12 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown in the last three games. “He’s practicing better,” Mularkey said. “He is learning a little bit on the run. He was thrown right in there into a starting role. It’s just like every position there are some guys that click right now. There are other guys that need to see the picture and need to experience the picture. Each rep is a learning experience for him. It came naturally in college. I certainly have seen the things why he led the nation two years in a row in receiving. I just think he’s growing each week that we play.”
*The more Cameron Bradfield plays, the better he gets. That’s Mularkey’s view on the second-year veteran, a rookie free-agent last season who moved into the starting right tackle role early in training camp. “I think he’s getting better the more experience he’s getting,” Mularkey said, adding that while Bradfield has been “up and down” he also at times has been matched up against the opponent’s best pass rusher. While teams usually play their best pass rusher on the right side of the defense, Mularkey said some teams have wanted to test Bradfield, in his first season as a starter. “A lot of teams are trying him out, basically,” Mularkey said. “You put your best protector to your quarterback’s blindside and a lot of teams put their best pass rusher over there, but some teams are starting to get it, putting their best guy over on the right side and let the quarterback see it coming because you’re looking at the lesser of the tackles. I think he’s held his own, but I think he’s been somewhat inconsistent.” Mularkey said he would anticipate the Texans do the same Sunday with Watt, who played over right tackle Guy Whimper when the Jaguars played the Texans in Week 2. Bradfield missed that game with an ankle injury.