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Jaguars look to finish strong

Posted Dec 5, 2012

Playing well over final month remains goal as Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for New York Jets.

Chad Henne’s mission is clear.

Forget the talk of the other team’s quarterback, and if you’re not forgetting what happened last Sunday, at least try to put it in the past. Forget basically anything that doesn’t involve the coming Sunday, and playing the New York Jets.

As Henne sees it, that’s the goal:

Forget Buffalo, and get back to passing and playing offense as the Jaguars were doing in the two previous weeks.

Do that, and Henne – who will start a third consecutive game at quarterback for the Jaguars Sunday – said the final month of the season can be productive.

And that’s absolutely the mission.

“This group of guys is really going to work hard to correct the mistakes,” Henne said as the Jaguars (2-10) prepared to play the New York Jets (5-7) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

“You do your job, you make plays when the plays are there, then you don’t have to worry about wins and losses. If you do your job, and you do what you’re coached to do all week, you give yourselves a chance at the end.”

The Jaguars prepared in Jacksonville Wednesday as news came from New York that Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan had named Mark Sanchez the starting quarterback. Sanchez had been replaced by backup Greg McElroy in a 7-6 victory over Arizona this past Sunday.

There also had been speculation about the possibility of the Jets playing former Nease High School and University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow Sunday.

“We’re glad they made that announcement,” Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “Now, we know what to prepare for. It’s good for us now that the uncertainty is out of it.

That was the theme Wednesday, as the Jaguars gathered to prepare for the first game of the final month of the season: That whatever the news in New York, and however disappointing last Sunday may have been, the focus Sunday must be on Sunday.

And more importantly, on making the final four games something productive.

“It’s the final month of the season, and we’d like to finish strong,” Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said. “We didn’t do that last week, but we want to get back in front of our fans and put a complete game together. We want to put a full game together. We really haven’t done that and we want to do that.”

That was particularly true this past week. The defense struggled in a 34-18 loss to Buffalo, allowing 242 rushing yards, and the special teams allowed two long returns, one of which changed the game’s momentum.

The offense, after two strong games, also struggled at times, with Henne completing 18 of 41 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown while being sacked four times in a steady rain and heavy winds.

And while the team didn’t want to use weather as an excuse, Sunday could be a chance to return to the favorable conditions in which Henne passed for six touchdowns and nearly 600 yards in a victory over Tennessee and an overtime loss to Houston.

“It’s the little things that can derail you,” Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. “I think that’s kind of where we were last week. A lot of small things piled up on us, but coming in and being focused and being ready – understanding the small details and how each player is responsible for one of those small details during the course of a play – I think that will allow us to be back on track.”

Nwaneri and others said entering the final four games the belief offensively is the Jaguars are very much the team that produced its two highest-point totals of the season against Houston and Tennessee in the final two weeks of November.

“That’s what we expect it to be, but preparation is a big part of that,” Nwaneri said.

Henne said that despite the results in Buffalo the offense still believes it’s developing into a productive unit.

“You take away some of the drops, some of the missed throws in that game – who knows, it could have been another 300-yard game,” Henne said. “The outcome could have been different, but woulda, coulda, shoulda . . .

“There were plays out there last week that could have been made, whether it be missed throws, drops, protections – there were a lot of things we did wrong as an offense that we can improve upon this week. That’s the plus, that we can improve upon it. We’ve shown we can play that way.”

Just who will be available offensively Sunday remained a question Wednesday, with two critical players having uncertain status. With running back Rashad Jennings having yet to pass his concussion test, Montell Owens was scheduled to practice with the first team and could make his first start at running back Sunday.

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts, the Jaguars’ leading receiver this season, passed his concussion test, Mularkey said, but because is still having some symptoms from the concussion sustained Sunday, he was held out of practice Wednesday.

But whoever is available, Posluszny said the focus must remain on playing well at the end of the season. That was the goal before Buffalo, and whatever the conversation outside the team, Posluszny said that shouldn’t change.

“We still want to finish strong,” Posluszny said. “Last week was disappointing because we didn’t play up to our capability, but we still want to finish strong. That’s still a focus for us.”

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