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Ten Things: Jaguars-Chargers

Posted Oct 18, 2013

Ten things the Jacksonville Jaguars must do to beat the San Diego Chargers Sunday . . .

1. Maintain momentum. What’s that you say: “How does a 0-6 team have momentum?” Well, within the context of this season, the Jaguars have some. At least a little. They played better in a loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday than they had in their first five losses, and players and coaches felt they found things to build upon – maintaining effort throughout, forcing turnovers and taking advantage of opportunities. As much as winning or losing, that’s where the Jaguars’ focus lies, but to win, they need to keep improving those areas.

2. Pressure Philip Rivers. The quarterback talk throughout the league this season understandably has focused on Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. His pace has been record-setting, and the Broncos are unbeaten. But Rivers’ resurgence this season under Head Coach Mike McCoy has impressive, too. Long one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the NFL, he is effective on intermediate routes, handles pressure well and is one of the league’s best deep passers. You need to pressure him, but you have to be careful. He’s one of the league’s best against the blitz.

3. Contain Danny Woodhead. The Chargers ran more effectively against the Colts Monday than many expected. One reason was running back Ryan Matthews ran with power much of the game, but Woodhead – in his first season with San Diego after spending the last two with New England – also hurt Indianapolis. He’s as dangerous as a receiver as a runner, and his quickness makes him a dangerous matchup for a linebacker or safety.

4. Protect Chad Henne. The Jaguars’ pass protection was widely criticized early in the season after allowing 12 sacks in the first two games. Well, that area has improved, and has helped the passing offense to make the strides it has made in recent weeks. Henne needs to be efficient for the Jaguars to have a chance Sunday, and the line has to protect him for that to happen.

5. Feed Justin Blackmon. Blackmon’s improvement since the end of last season has been staggering. So has his impact on the Jaguars’ offense. He has 19 receptions for 326 yards and a touchdown in two games since returning from a four-game suspension, and his 14 receptions for 190 yards against the Broncos gave the Jaguars something they hadn’t had early in the season – a reliable, productive option offensively. Henne leaned on Blackmon heavily in the past. No reason to stop now.

6. Run block. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for more than 70 yards in each of his last two games. That’s a start because it’s improvement from the first four games of the season, but improvement must continue. Jones-Drew had some bursts in recent weeks, and is running stronger than he did in the early part of the season, but too often is finding no lanes, resulting in second- and third-and-long situations.

7. Wear them down. The Chargers will be traveling on a short week after a Monday night home game, and while it’s not entirely unique for a West Coast team to travel East in that situation, it is a difficult task. The physical and physiological effects of a night game followed by cross-country travel are underrated, but are real and can take a toll. Take advantage of that. Play hard. Play with energy. Swarm. If you can be close in the second half, you may be able to wear this team down.

8. Force turnovers. The Jaguars stayed close to the Broncos longer than many anticipated last week, and a big reason was three takeaways, including a 59-yard interception return by middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, his first career touchdown. The Jaguars also had at least two more early chances for interceptions. For a team looking for its first victory, particularly a young team learning how to play together, those opportunities are critical. When you get your hands on the ball defensively Sunday, make the catch. That’s how to get momentum.

9. Clean it up. While observers focused on the clear improvement made against the Broncos, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley focused on little mistakes that hurt the Jaguars. Drive-extending penalties against the defense. Big-play opportunities missed by the offense. Red-zone chances squandered. Make no mistake: Bradley sees overall progress, but there was frustration at early mistakes and eliminating those is a priority for the short- and long-term development.

10. Keep believing. OK, this isn’t college, and the NFL is a league of matchups and playmakers. But the Jaguars are a young team and improvement has come early in the season from believing and buying into Bradley’s message. The Jaguars have seen signs of that most games this season and fans started seeing it against the Broncos last week. Keep listening. Keep doing the things you can control. Keep getting better. That’s the Jaguars’ path this season and that’s the mission. Stay on it.

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