JACKSONVILLE – Here’s this week’s Wednesday wrap up.
Each Wednesday morning during the 2013 regular season, jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser will set the stage for the Jaguars’ Wednesday media access by previewing major topics facing the team that day. Each Wednesday afternoon/evening, he will break down what was learned from Jaguars players and coaches that day.
Here’s the wrap up of Wednesday’s five topics as the Jaguars prepare for the San Diego Chargers . . .
1. Can Henne win the job? Chad Henne discussed a lot of things in the locker room Wednesday. The birth of his son, Chace, on Sunday while Henne was in transit from Denver to Jacksonville and the standout performance of wide receiver Justin Blackmon were two of the topics. He also discussed how he’s approaching the quarterback situation. Henne, who has started three games this season, will start against San Diego in place of Blaine Gabbert, who will miss a second consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said on Monday the decision to start Henne was for San Diego only, and Bradley has not committed to either quarterback long-term. “If they’re giving me the opportunity to play, I take it like I’m the starter,” Henne said, adding, “Is it my goal to be the starter? Absolutely…. It may not end up like that, but I can’t think about it.”
2. Can the Jaguars run? The run game has been an issue much of the season, improving the last two weeks with Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushing for more than 70 yards in each game. Those were his best two games of the season, but while that was an improvement overall, the run game as a whole ranks No. 32 in the NFL with 60.5 yards per game. The area could get some help Sunday, with the possible return of tight end Marcedes Lewis. One of the NFL’s top run-blocking tight ends, Lewis has missed five of the first six games of the season with a lingering calf injury but said Wednesday he hopes to play Sunday. “It’s a different dynamic,” Jones-Drew said of the Lewis’ presence. “He can block the end. He can come out and throw safeties around and do different things in our running game to help us out.”
3. The beast within. Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon unsurprisingly was a major topic among teammates on Wednesday. The second-year veteran and No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft has played with the look of an elite receiver in two games since returning from a four-game, season-opening suspension. He caught 19 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown in the last two games, including a 14-reception, 190-yard performance on Sunday against the Broncos. “His attitude this whole year has been great,” Henne said. “His work ethic – when we were out there on the practice field (during his suspension), he was at another high school busting his butt, doing all the routes, catching balls from our trainers. He just kept working at it. He wanted to get better. He wanted to be that guy when he came back. He wanted the ball and he wanted to make those plays.”
4. Will Cecil Shorts III play? Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, who sustained a sprained SC joint on the third play against Denver Sunday, said his goal is to play through pain against San Diego Sunday. Shorts, who said the joint is stable and that his issue Sunday will be pain tolerance, was one of four Jaguars receivers not practicing Wednesday, with the others being Blackmon (groin/hamstring), rookie Ace Sanders (concussion) and Stephen Burton (concussion). Blackmon is expected to play, with Burton still not cleared after missing the last three games. Bradley said he believes Sanders’ situation is precautionary. Cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) returned to practice Wednesday after missing five games, and could play Sunday, while defensive end Jeremy Mincey remains in the concussion program. Safety Johnathan Cyprien missed practice with a calf injury, but Bradley said his absence also was precautionary.
5. Eliminating mistakes. While Bradley has been pleased with the effort and improvement in recent weeks, he spent more time early in the week discussing his frustration over early mistakes that have hurt the Jaguars in recent weeks. Bradley’s primary concern has been not mistakes of aggression, but avoidable mistakes. “When we play well and we do things consistently we’re pretty good,” Bradley said Wednesday. “It’s the decisions we make and the consistency at which we play at…. Poor decisions happen in games. We have to do well enough to overcome that and I think before we get there we’ve got to play more consistent.”