JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the day after the Jaguars' 38-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday
1.Seeking an edge.We begin day-after takeaways discussing the Jaguars' slow starts, and Head Coach Gus Bradley didn't say on Monday the team has lacked urgency early. Still, with one offensive touchdown in the last three games – a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Bortles to wide receiver Marqise Lee with 1:23 remaining in the first half Sunday – Bradley said the Jaguars early in games have lacked what he calls an edge. "There's a certain edge you need to play the game with, and I think when you go in there and you totally trust your preparation, and you're very confident, you get to the point where you play with that edge," Bradley said. "We've got guys that have that edge but … I think there's a learning curve that takes place with that. We're not there yet consistently. That part where we adjust, we quickly recover – those things are all important. In this league you're going to have ups and downs in games, but to play with that edge when an opportunity comes your way to make sure you capture it and take advantage of it … that's what we're not doing consistently enough."
2.To kick or not to kick … Bradley on Monday said the concern over the slow starts – coupled with the threat of the Saints' offense and quarterback Drew Brees – prompted him to consider choosing to receive the opening kick if the Jaguars won the pregame coin flip. They indeed won the toss, but Bradley instead stayed with his normal approach of deferring and playing defense to start the game. "I thought long and hard," he said, adding that he made the decision because he wanted to receive the ball at the start of the second half. The Jaguars have scored on their first drive of the second half in each of the last three games. "The one thing that we have been able to count on, not that it carries over from game to game, is how effective we've been in the second half offensively," Bradley said. "Those games are when we start with the ball."
3.Whatever it takes I.Defensive end Jared Odrick left no doubt on Monday: if at all possible he will play in Houston Sunday. Odrick sustained a quad contusion on the final play of the first possession Sunday, trying unsuccessfully to return throughout the first half. An MRI upon returning to Jacksonville confirmed the injury was a contusion and not more serious. "I guess there's a bright spot there," Odrick said, and when asked why he would want to play with the Jaguars having been eliminated from the playoffs Sunday, he dismissed the question. "Why?" he asked, rhetorically. "It's an opportunity to play, to get better. It's an opportunity to win a football game. … I take pride in being on the field. Game after game, being on the field, I take pride I that. It's something I want to continue to do." The Jaguars' run defense struggled Sunday with Odrick and weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith (shoulder/finger) out. Saints running back Tim Hightower rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, the second-most rushing yards by a back against the Jaguars this season.
4.Whatever it takes II.It shouldn't be surprising that defensive end Tyson Alualu is taking the same approach as Odrick – that he definitely plans to play Sunday. Alualu, who played through an ankle injury sustained on the same play as Odrick's injury Sunday – never has missed a game in six NFL seasons, a consecutive games played streak that is now at a team-high 95. Alualu has been so durable it was surprising to see him in a walking boot in the locker room Monday, though he stressed that the boot was precautionary and that trainers had insisted he wear it. "I'm playing Sunday," he said. "I'm practicing Wednesday. I was walking around limping a little bit. They don't want that. This is precautionary, making sure things don't get worse – that I don't tweak it walking to the car." Alualu, pressed as to if he ever had come close to missing a game, said there were times in 2011 and 2012 when dealing with the aftereffects of knee surgery that he wondered during pre-games warmups if he would be able to finish games. "I don't care how many consecutive games I've played," Alualu said. "I was always taught that if you can go play and be out there with your teams, you do."
5.Obvious need.The Jaguars' pass-rush issues have been well-documented, with the area hurt by the absence of rookie first-round selection Dante Fowler Jr. A pass-rushing defensive end and the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, Fowler sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in rookie minicamp in May. Bradley on Monday said while it's difficult to guess the effectiveness of a rookie pass rusher, "any extra added rush is a benefit." The Jaguars also played much of this season without defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who led the team with 8.5 sacks last season. The pass rush wasn't dominant last season, but still registered 45 sacks and got pressure at times in passing situations rushing four. That element has been lacking this season, and while the Jaguars are 17th in the NFL with 34 sacks they have struggled to get off the field on third down and rank last defensively in that area allowing conversions at a 46.2-percent rate. "I would like to see better in our rush," Bradley said. "As we look back at it, there are times that you count on your coverage and there are times that you have to bring pressure. I think that's been a challenge this year to find out and try to eliminate explosive plays."