JACKSONVILLE – They get it – absolutely, they do. Every Jaguars defensive player has heard about it for days. They know the task, and the task couldn't be clearer.
"Our guys are really champing at the bit to get at it," Todd Wash said.
But can the Jaguars stop the run? Can they turn focus, urgency and enthusiasm into results? Wash, in his fourth season as Jaguars defensive coordinator, believes without question they can.
"We need to go out and play like we're capable," Wash said as the Jaguars (4-6) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
"If that happens, I like our chances."
That hasn't happened in recent weeks, and it hasn't happened enough this season. The Jaguars allowed the Houston Texans 216 yards rushing two games ago, then followed that by allowing the Indianapolis Colts 264 yards rushing this past Sunday.
Wash understood during his Thursday media availability run defense would the primary topic, joking at the beginning, "We talking about pass defense today?"
Not much. Not with the Jaguars 29th in the NFL in rushing defense with six games remaining, having allowed more than 200 yards rushing in three of the last six games. It's a trend defining the season and a weakness that has given the team overall little chance to compete in recent weeks.
Up this week: Titans running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for four touchdowns and 238 yards in a Titans victory over the Jaguars in Nashville last season.
"We're going against a damned good back this week," Wash said.
Wash on Thursday confirmed what Head Coach Doug Marrone said early in the week – that rookie weak-side linebacker Quincy Williams, a starter early in the season before being replaced by veteran Najee Goode – will have a more expanded role moving forward.
He also said middle linebacker Myles Jack, who struggled at times in the loss to the Colts, will remain in that position.
"He's our Mike linebacker," Wash said of Jack.
Wash spent much of his media availability detailing roles within the defense. He explained that the Jaguars' defensive line is an "attack front" as opposed to a unit that occupies offensive linemen with the idea of allowing linebackers to make plays. He also said the defense is built on defenders getting off blocks to make plays, something Marrone said this week has been a weakness during games when the defense has struggled against the run.
"When you get on a block, you have to get off a block, (that) is basically the way our system is built for the front seven in nickel (and) the front eight in base," Wash said.
Wash also specified that he took responsibility for the defensive performances.
"First of all, I think you have to obviously put it on myself," he said. "I've got to make sure I get them in better positions to make some plays and create better angles for us defensively. … I think we all have to get better. It's definitely not just the players. It's just as much my fault as it is anybody else on this roster."
The Colts and Texans hurt the Jaguars with misdirection-based runs, something Wash said is a major point emphasis against the Titans Sunday.
"I need to create better angles for our defense – not only for the defensive linemen, but the linebackers so they can get back," Wash said. "We see a lot of this stuff starting one way and it rolls back on us. Blockers get up on us. We have to create better angles for our players as a staff."
Wash on Thursday reiterated what defensive players said Wednesday – that confidence remains high the Jaguars can limit opposing running games. A major reason is that the Jaguars this season have had stretches of effectiveness in the area, holding front-line runners such as Joe Mixon of Cincinnati and Le'Veon Bell of the New York Jets under 25 yards rushing in a two-game stretch in November.
The Jaguars also limited Henry to 44 yards rushing and a touchdown in a Week 3 Jaguars victory in Jacksonville.
"We've done it before," Wash said. "It's not like all of a sudden we're just crappy at it. We've had two good first halves and we didn't have two good second halves [in recent weeks].
"We still have to go out and prove we can get it done."