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View from the O-Zone: This is the formula

Posted Sep 21, 2017

Oehser: The Jaguars determined their 2017 formula this past offseason – and one early-season loss isn’t going to make them change


JACKSONVILLE – This wasn’t a week for quick-trigger reaction. Or panic.

That’s not what Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone has shown himself to be about, so little surprise that 2017’s first loss brought no bold vows of change.

Yes, the Jaguars signed a quarterback Monday.

But Marrone made it clear that signing Ryan Nassib wasn’t about starting Nassib over Blake Bortles. Or even about making Nassib the backup over Chad Henne.

Marrone has made something else clear, too:

The approach this team laid out this past offseason is still the approach. The philosophy is clear, and the formula is set. That’s not going to change. The Jaguars are going to win by running. And by playing big-time defense. And likely by grinding out close, low-scoring games.

And yeah, there’s going to be grit involved.

“We know that’s how we’re built,” Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said as the Jaguars (1-1) prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday at 9:30 a.m. “That’s how we trained. To know that everything we do is structured around that … it’s awesome. We can say, ‘OK. We have a specific plan of how we’re going to win.’ ”

This approach may not bring hallelujah choruses from every observer, but know this: Players get the approach.

 “That’s the identity we have,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “We don’t want teams scoring on us at all. We understand if we score three, that’s what it is. Coach is speaking on what he’s speaking on and not wavering. It’s who we are, and it speaks to the Jaguars.”

If anyone was unclear on this topic, Marrone provided clarity Monday.

Marrone when speaking to the media the day after a home loss to Tennessee was asked about the need to open up the offense, to “take shots downfield.” Marrone’s answer touched on going downfield, but focused more on a theme he emphasized in the immediate aftermath of the loss: the need to stay in manageable down-and-distance situations.

Yes, the broad-brush picture Sunday may have been a struggling offense that scored just three points with the game undecided. But when Marrone broke the game down into whys and hows, what he saw more was a team that had five key penalties in a six-possession stretch. Those penalties created five possessions with situations on which the Jaguars needed to gain 19 yards for first downs.

That’s decidedly unmanageable.

Within that stretch on Sunday was a series on which the Jaguars reached the Titans 27 before a penalty and turnover turned a potential field goal into a Titans possession that eventually turned into a Titans field goal.

If you’re going to grind close, defensive-oriented victories, you can’t do things like that. Marrone knows it, and that’s where his thoughts were in the immediate aftermath of Tennessee.

“We can’t afford to do that,” Marrone said Monday. “I addressed that with the team. The missed opportunities, you can’t have. We have to be able to take advantage of it. We know the games are going to be close. They’re going to be grind-it-out. We just have to accept that as a team.”

We’re reviewing Marrone’s Monday presser not to spend time rehashing Tennessee but to emphasize a point: this is not a coach or a team that’s changing philosophy midstream. It is not suddenly going to become a pass-happy team. It is not suddenly going to believe it’s going to win games 37-35.

Marrone didn’t spend the offseason saying the team was going to win close games to change course after one one-sided loss. And Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin did not “suggest we adopt the term ‘grit’’’ in the offseason to switch to “grins and giggles” after the second game of the season.

No, the plan isn’t a quarterback change, or a scheme change. The formula remains the formula and it’s a formula Jackson knows from experience can be a good one.

“Defense wins championships,” said Jackson, a starter on the Denver defense that led the Broncos to a Super Bowl title following the 2015 season. “I’m blessed to have the experience of winning a Super Bowl with a defense being dominant the whole year. I’ve seen it done and I’ve been a part of it.

“To have a coach tell me, ‘This is who we have to be …’ that’s not new to me. That’s fine. That’s how you win Super Bowls, so it is what it is.”

Are the 2017 Jaguars the 2015 Broncos? It’s way too early for such a comparison, but it’s not too early to know that this is the 2017 Jaguars – and that their approach is their approach.

Running. Grinding low-scoring games. And yeah … grit.

To be anything else now would be quick-trigger. Marrone hasn’t shown himself as that guy. And the guess here is he’s not going to start soon.

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