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Day After: Searching for (defensive) answers


JACKSONVILLE – A day later, the issue remained the same.

When it comes to the issue that is the Jaguars' defense – which now may be without its starting middle linebacker – Head Coach Gus Bradley on Monday was clear and pointed.

The defense wasn't good enough Sunday, and answers must be found.

"We can get it right," Bradley said Monday, a day after the Jaguars' 42-39 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

"Those guys in there (the Jaguars' meeting rooms), they understand that. They know we've got to get it right. We just weren't on our 'A' game yesterday – we just weren't defensively. Even times we normally do some things, you didn't see that on tape – and you didn't see it in the game. That's the part that hurts."

Bradley on Monday spoke with the status of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny uncertain.

Posluszny, the Jaguars' starting middle linebacker, sustained a fractured right hand Sunday. He was meeting with the Jaguars' doctors shortly after 1 p.m. as Bradley spoke to the media.

Bradley said Jordan Tripp – a 2014 fourth-round draft choice by Miami who signed with the Jaguars in October – likely will start at middle linebacker if Posluszny can't play. Tripp moved into the Otto linebacker role Sunday after rookie free-agent Thurston Armbrister was benched for performance. Armbrister was starting in place of Dan Skuta, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury.

The Jaguars on Sunday scored six red-zone touchdowns offensively, with quarterback Blake Bortles throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions and wide receiver Allen Robinson scoring three touchdowns.

But the offensive performance was overshadowed by a defense that allowed five touchdowns and 467 yards.

"The frustrating part was we weren't our best," Bradley said. "We talk consistently about improving and being at our best, and we weren't. … I think we all take responsibility on it. I think there are things we can do calls-wise defensively and there are things the players can execute better.

"It's a combination of things."

Bradley said while the defense has been good against the run much of the season, it struggled in the area Sunday, allowing 210 yards rushing – 112 to quarterback Marcus Mariota.

It was the pass defense on which Bradley focused much of his day-after press conference.

"The pass game continues to be a struggle," Bradley said after the Jaguars allowed Mariota 268 yards and three touchdowns passing. "It doesn't matter if it's first, second or third down, although it really shows up on third down."

Bradley on Monday focused many of his comments on a struggling pass rush. He has spoken often this season of the challenge of blitzing versus rushing with four linemen, and it was a topic Sunday after the Jaguars struggled yet again to get enough pressure in third-and-long situations.

"It's all about rush and cover," Bradley said. "We're not putting that together right now. If we've got to send more guys on pressure, it's hard for us to hold up with the coverage. If we're playing with the extra guy in coverage, then we're not getting the pressure we need. That's really the hard thing right now that we're looking at and trying to figure out.

"As a coaching staff, we're trying to figure it out. We ran three-man, four-man, five-man, six-man pressures. We're trying to find out what works."

The Jaguars, who are last in the NFL in third-down defense allowing 46.7 percent conversions, allowed the Titans to convert eight of 13 third downs. The Titans had five touchdown drives and converted a third down of six yards or longer on all five.

Two Titans touchdowns came on third-and-7 – a seven-yard pass from Mariota to tight end Delanie Walker in the second quarter and an 87-yard scramble by Mariota with 8:30 remaining.

The Jaguars pressured Mariota with six rushers on the 87-yard scramble. Once the pressure moved past him, Mariota had open field to run.

"When you pressure the quarterback and you blitz, you're going to come up with some big plays and you may give up some explosives," Bradley said. "That's what's happening to us. … We're trying different ways of creating issues for the quarterback and they executed."

Bradley said the dilemma could be seen Sunday. While Mariota was effective against the blitz at times, the Jaguars' two takeaways – a fumble recovery by Ryan Davis and an interception by cornerback Davon House – came on plays with extra pressure or a blitz.

"We felt like we had to find a way to get pressure," Bradley said. "It was a way to get the ball back for our offense."

Also Monday, the Jaguars announced that wide receiver Allen Hurns remains in the concussion protocol. He missed Sunday's game after sustaining the injury against the San Diego Chargers on November 29.

An update on Hurns is expected Wednesday.

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