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Open Locker Room: MJD ready for challenge

Posted Oct 9, 2013

Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew on facing Broncos, Peyton Manning: “I’ve been an underdog my whole life.”

JACKSONVILLE – The task is daunting, and that’s an issue this week.

But the questions and outside storylines aren’t Chad Henne’s concerns, and the Jaguars quarterback had the same approach as his teammates Wednesday afternoon:

Let observers make their observations.

What Henne said the Jaguars will do is prepare to play.

“We have to focus on us,” Henne said Wednesday as the Jaguars (0-5) prepared to play the Denver Broncos (5-0) at Sports Authority Field at Mike High in Denver, Colo., Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

“You really don’t pay attention to it. Obviously, it’s out there, and it’s tough, but we’re getting better. We’re getting better as an offense and we had our best offensive performance yardage-wise last week. If we continue to get better, the points will show up and the plays will show up.

“Hopefully, we can get a win out of it.”

The Broncos, first in the NFL in total offense, have won their first five games by an average of 18.2 points, with quarterback Peyton Manning having thrown 20 touchdowns and one interception. They have scored more points – 230 --through the first five games than any team in NFL history.

The Jaguars are 32nd offensively, but indeed had their best offensive game of the season last week, scoring 20 points in a loss to the Rams and producing 363 yards.

“We just have to keep improving,” wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said. “We’re not going to sit there and stress about, ‘We have to do this or we have to do that.’ We just have to play ball. We understand we need to help our defense and put points on the board, but we’re not going to stress about it. We’re just going to keep getting better and compete.”

The Jaguars have lost all five of their games by double digits, and as a result, the Broncos are heavy favorites Sunday.

“I’ve been an underdog my whole life,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said, adding, “It’s a young team and a lot of young players. You just keep fighting and keep playing. There’s no way in hell we’re going to back down.”

Said Shorts, “We’re all excited. We’re excited to go to Denver and face one of the hottest teams in the league and compete. We’re not having a losing mentality going on. We’re going in confident.”

Henne is expected to start for the third time this season, with Blaine Gabbert – the team’s starting quarterback in Weeks 1, 4 and 5, expected to miss Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.

Henne, who led the Jaguars to a field goal and a late touchdown drive in a 34-20 loss to St. Louis this past Sunday, completed seven of 13 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. He has completed 53 of 95 passes for 601 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.

“Chad’s played a lot the last two years, and we have a lot with him in practice, so it’s not a big deal at all,” Shorts said. “We’re confident in him.”

The Jaguars also will start Cameron Bradfield and Austin Pasztor at tackle, with offensive tackle Luke Joeckel having been placed on injured reserve Tuesday and Eugene Monroe having been traded to Baltimore last week. Monroe and Joeckel, a part of Top 10 selections, started at left and right tackle, respectively for the first four games of the season.

Bradfield and Pasztor were undrafted free agents, with Bradfield having started one previous game at left tackle and Pasztor making his first career start at right tackle last week.

“They both did a good job of playing hard and playing smart,” Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. “I look for them to build on that this week.”

MJD PHOTO GALLERY

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