JACKSONVILLE – It's time for this to happen.
That's the feeling you got from the Jaguars after the regular-season opener last Sunday, and it was certainly the feeling you got talking to players all week as they prepared for Friday's cross-country trip to So Cal.
The losing? The coming close? The waiting for winning to happen?
All of that needs to stop sometime if the Jaguars are going to make this long-awaited transition from A Team That's Going to be Good to a Team That is Good Now, and the feeling around EverBank Field is that that time has come.
The time is now – as in, this week.
The time is now – as in, Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
Never mind that the Chargers are a team against which the Jaguars have struggled in recent seasons, and never mind all of the East-Coast-team-traveling West-Coast theories or truisms or whatever you call them.
The time is now. The Jaguars are good enough to do it. They are supposed to be mature enough to do it. They played last week like a team ready to show improvement. They just have to show enough improvement to have that improvement mean winning.
So, what do the Jaguars have to make that happen Sunday? Here are 10 things:
1. Run.The Jaguars' offense was good against Green Bay in the opener. It would have been better had it been able to run and dictate down-and-distance situations. The 1.8-yards-per-carry average from the opener won't do the rest of the season. The run blocking must be better.
2. Disrupt Philip Rivers …The Jaguars bracketed Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a less-than-all-out-approach to the pass rush. That made sense against the mobile Rodgers. Rivers is special. He's smart. He's savvy. He's elite. But he's not mobile. Get after him. Big-time.
3. … outthink Rivers.This realistically is very, very difficult. Rivers sees situations and puts receivers in position to succeed as well as anyone in the NFL. His ability in this area was the difference when the Chargers beat Jacksonville, 31-25, at EverBank Field last November. What the Jaguars can't do is get flustered when Rivers occasionally wins. Keep pressuring him. Make a few plays. Break even defensively.
4. Stop the run.The Chargers ran well with running back Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon last week. With wide receiver Keenan Allen out for the season they'll need to run well again. The Jaguars pride themselves on stopping the run. They need to make themselves really proud Sunday.
5. Bracket Antonio Gates.Since you needn't bracket Rivers, why not bracket Antonio Gates? The veteran tight end is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but teams will emphasize tight ends against the Jaguars until the Jaguars make enough plays to make them stop. As much criticism as the Jaguars have received for this in recent seasons, they allowed just one reception foe seven yards to Green Bay tight end Jared Cook last week. A similar performance may be necessary Sunday.
6. Force a turnover.The Jaguars' defense played better in the opener than the 27 points allowed indicated. They held Rodgers under 200 yards passing and allowed just two second-half field goals. But the unit didn't create any opportunities. There were no big plays. That's not the way this unit envisions itself. It wants to be an aggressive, turnover-creating, momentum-changing defense. The way to start being that? Get a turnover or two.
7. Keep Julius Thomas involved.It seems a given that wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson will make plays for the Jaguars' offense. That kind of consistency is good. What was encouraging against Green Bay for the offense was there appeared to be real chemistry between tight end Julius Thomas and quarterback Blake Bortles? Three go-to guys? That's good, too.
8. Keep kicking.Don't underestimate the importance of punter Brad Nortman and kicker Jason Myers. They were essentially perfect in the opener. You can't expect perfection from the specialists every week but those kinds of performances are how you squeeze victories from tight games.
9. Win one-on-one.This is about Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson. He likely will be shadowed throughout by Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett, who is one of the NFL's elite corners and who helped San Diego hold Robinson to five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown in their matchup last season. Verrett's presence won't stop Blake Bortles from throwing to Robinson. A-Rob must win this one when it's one-on-one.
10. Forget the past.The Jaguars have lost to the Chargers five of the last six seasons. That's a long, one-sided streak. It's also a streak that has next to nothing to do with the current Jaguars. This team believes it's a new team, one to be judged on the merits of now rather than the past. It's time to play like it. There's no time like the present.