Consistency is the key

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Flashes are fine, and in some cases they're memorable and good.

But while this past Sunday was such a case, and while the Jaguars feel much better this week than last due in large part to an 80-yard, game-saving, highlight-reel flash in Indianapolis, Blaine Gabbert will be the first to tell you this:

Flashes only get you so far.

Now, for the Jaguars – and for Gabbert – consistency is the goal.

"Consistency is what you strive for," Gabbert, the Jaguars' second-year quarterback, said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-2) prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at EverBank Field Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

"The more consistency you have, the better you're going to be on the field. That's where you're going to see us take off. That's what we're working for in practice."

That was a focus Wednesday, three days after a 22-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Ind.

Gabbert with 45 seconds remaining in that game passed 80 yards to wide receiver Cecil Shorts, a play that gave Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey his first victory with the team and changed the conversation around the team this week significantly.

Only three teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after starting 0-3.

While avoiding that topic throughout the week is a positive, Mularkey said this week has been far less about celebrating Sunday than improving and looking ahead.

"We were on it right away," Mularkey said. "We're on the 24-hour rule. We've moved on. If we make some of the plays we're talking about maybe we won't have to get into the situation we've gotten into in some of those games."

Mularkey said while Victory Monday is a good thing, for the Jaguars it also mixed in a serious dose of reality when reviewing the Colts game.

"We really dissected it," Mularkey said. "Players got a good dose of what they did well and what they have to work on."

Mularkey, like Gabbert, mentioned consistency as a focus.

The Jaguars entering the Cincinnati game have shown a knack for the big play at times this season, particularly at the end of games. Gabbert completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Shorts with 20 seconds remaining in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Vikings in Week 1, and early in the second half of a loss to Houston, his 32-yard pass to wide receiver Laurent Robinson gave the Jaguars a hint of momentum in a 27-7 loss.

The 80-yard pass to Shorts Sunday gave Gabbert four touchdowns and no interceptions this season, but overall, the Jaguars' offense ranks 30th in the NFL and is 31st in passing.

"There are a lot of things we have to correct from last week, so we still feel like we have a long way to go," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.

The Jaguars will make those corrections while still working toward what has been a consistent challenge in recent weeks – trying to reach something close to full health.

They made early strides again on Wednesday.

Left guard Eben Britton and right tackle Cameron Bradfield, out since the regular-season opener with ankle injuries, worked early in practice, as did defensive end Austen Lane, who has been out since early in training camp with a foot injury. Running back Rashad Jennings, out with a knee injury since the opener, also worked, with linebacker Daryl Smith and George Selvie still out.

Mularkey said those players will be monitored with their status determined later in the week.

Wide receiver Laurent Robinson, cornerback Kevin Rutland and fullback Montell Owens all returned to practice after being cleared by concussion tests Monday, but as has been the case early in the season, the talk on Wednesday was less about injuries and more about focusing on Sunday.

And this week, when the Jaguars talked about preparation they talked about consistency not only on offense, but from the entire team. The defense, after struggling in the first half Sunday, kept the Colts out of the end zone in the second half, and defensive players said early in the week that performance is something that can be built upon.

But the focus outside the team remains on offense. The unit scored 14 points on plays of 59 yards or more – 59 of Maurice Jones-Drew's 177 yards came on a 59-yard third-quarter touchdown. That shows big-play potential the team lacked a year ago, and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe said the group remains confident that potential can turn into regular production.

"Consistency is crucial no matter how you're performing," Monroe said. "You have a level of success with some explosive plays. You want to be able to continue that trend. That's what we're looking to do.

"We're always confident. That's not an issue. No matter where we're at with the record, or where we're at performance-wise, we're always confident. That's always the way we can play."

Confidence this week may be as crucial as consistency. The Jaguars for a second time this season will play a team that currently has a winning record. They have played tight games that were decided late against the Colts (1-2) and Vikings, but lost to the 3-0 Houston Texans 27-7.

That means Sunday's game will be seen by some as a crucial test, though in Jones-Drew's view, it's not quite that way.

"Every week is a chance to measure yourself," Jones-Drew said. "It's the NFL. Every team is talented. Every week is a different challenge. We just have to continue to work."

And in time, have that work become the consistency they crave.

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