Mel Tucker can see a day when the goal is achieved.
But Tucker, the Jaguars' defensive coordinator who assumed play-calling duties entering this season, said while the defense has made strides to playing as he wants – and while that has definitely meant improvement – something important remains true:
The unit isn't where it needs to be. And it's not where it will be.
"They're playing faster and faster every day," Tucker said Thursday as the Jaguars (1-0) prepared to play the New York Jets (1-0) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I think they know what to do. I told them, 'Don't get bored with the fundamentals.' Having great fundamentals and great eye discipline allows you to play faster.''
The Jaguars, after finishing 28thin the NFL in total defense a year ago, not only entered this season with Tucker having more duties than last season, they entered it with six new starters or key contributors: linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, safety Dawan Landry, end Matt Roth, nickelback Drew Coleman and safety Dwight Lowery.
"The guys have done a great job," Tucker said. "They're very coachable. We spend a lot of time teaching, motivating and working to develop the guys within the system. They've all reacted well. They know it's about team and it's going to take every guy getting better every day.
"That's been the approach and we're working at it."
They also entered it with an emphasis on employing a simpler scheme, playing faster, and having more defenders around the ball a higher percentage of the time.
The Jaguars shut out the Tennessee Titans in the first half of the regular-season opener this past Sunday, and held the Titans to 289 total yards, 43 rushing.
They are currently eighth in the NFL in total defense, No. 2 against the run.
"We've laid a solid foundation," Tucker said. "I feel like there's a lot of things we have to do to improve, but I feel like we're on the right track."
Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio talked extensively before the season about the need for the defense to play at a high level quickly, and that despite turnover throughout the defensive unit there could be no "grace period."
Tucker said he never looked at the defense this off-season in terms of new or old faces, or how long certain players had been in the scheme.
"Our goal was to be ready to play in the first game and to put forth a winning effort," Tucker said. "We have the players we have, regardless of experience in the league or experience in the defense – it doesn't matter. We have to get these guys ready to go. They understand that. We understand that. That's what it is. It's a production business."
Also around the Jaguars Thursday:
*Tucker said despite the probable absence of CB Derek Cox and DE Aaron Kampman for Sunday, "We told our guys from Day One we're going to need everyone to step up and play. Whoever was available will be available and we'll go out and do the best we can. That has been the approach from Day One. That's never changed. We have confidence in everyone who's on the roster."
*Right tackle Eben Britton practiced for a second consecutive day, having worked at times with the starting unit Wednesday. Guy Whimper has started in Britton's place during the preseason and in the regular-season opener.
*Tucker said the reduced playing time for linebacker Clint Session Sunday came about because of the scheme played by Tennessee. "We have a game plan and depending on how teams decided they want to attack us, we'll react accordingly," Tucker said. "Clint's ready to do whatever we need him to do." With Tennessee spreading the field offensively, the Jaguars played their nickel package much of the game, and as a result, Session played six snaps. "It's going to be week to week with all of our guys," Tucker said. "Our roles are fluid. Our guys are about the team. Whatever we have to do to get people stopped, we're going to do it. Clint is ready to go and he has a significant role on this defense. He knows that and we know that."
*Cox and Kampman missed practice for a second consecutive day, as did tight end Marcedes Lewis and wide receiver Jason Hill. Lewis, who sustained a calf strain against Tennessee Sunday, plans to run Friday to better evaluate his status for Sunday. Kampman (knee) said this week there's no timetable for a return and Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said this week Cox likely will be doubtful for Sunday.
*In Cox's absence, Will Middleton moved into the starting lineup Sunday, which will be the case again against the Jets if Cox can't play. "I'm extremely ready," Middleton said. "It's an opportunity, but I prepare every week as if I'm going to play, whether I'm a backup or a starter."
*Tucker said with Cox potentially out, safety Dwight Lowery is one of several players who could get a look at corner. "Lowery has position flexibility," Tucker said. "He's a guy who has played multiple spots. We have other guys who have position flexibility as well. We'll see how it shakes out."