LONDON – Senior writer John Oehser examines the Friday that was as the Jaguars arrived in London to continue preparing to play the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley Stadium in London, England, Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
FEELING AT HOME
The Jaguars arrived in London early Friday morning.
That marked the beginning of the Jaguars' fourth annual midseason stay in the United Kingdom. While little about the experience is routine, it has become more familiar by the year.
"You feel it growing," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Friday following the team's practice at Allianz Park. "There's some familiarity with our players now. That's the big thing. We want to connect with this group. It's an important group.
"We love playing at home, and then to have the opportunity to come here and play and have that same type of atmosphere where you have a lot of fans supporting you … it's great."
The trip was familiar in another way, too. The Jaguars for a second consecutive year left Jacksonville Thursday evening and arrived in London early Friday morning London time. They went through a walkthrough practice early Friday afternoon London time.
They had left Jacksonville on Monday and Sunday before their 2013 and 2014 London appearances, respectively.
The Jaguars beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31 last season after losing to San Francisco and Dallas in their first two appearances in London. The Jaguars led Buffalo 27-3 before rallying for a victory with Bortles' 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Allen Hurns with 2:16 remaining.
"I think last year getting out to a big early lead was big," Bortles said. "It got everybody into it. That was cool and if they weren't [into it], some of them got onto the bandwagon. You could feel the Jags fans here. It was very cool."
Bradley said while Friday's light practice was expectedly slow to start it improved throughout.
"I thought as practice went on the energy of practice grew," Bradley said. "Today was a little bit sluggish. Tomorrow [Saturday] should be better. By Sunday we should be ready."
Defensive end Jared Odrick (triceps) and tight end Ben Koyack (meniscus tear) did not make the trip to London and therefore have been ruled out for Sunday.
Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday with an elbow injury sustained in last Sunday's home loss to Baltimore. "He has a little stiffness in there, so it's a matter of 'What can we ask him to do?''' Bradley said. With Koyack out, Thomas' absence would leave the Jaguars two healthy tight ends – veteran Marcedes Lewis and second-year veteran Neal Sterling. "We'll just try to utilize our personnel – whether it's wide receivers or tight ends," Bradley said. "We've had an idea this was a 50-50 possibility." Sterling, a seventh-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, switched from wide receiver to tight end this past offseason and could get the most extensive action of his NFL career with Thomas out. "Cedes will get some more opportunities and Neal Sterling will get some shots," Bortles said. "It will get some other guys some chances."
BACK AT IT
Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. practiced Friday and is expected to play Sunday. He had missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with a shoulder injury sustained last Sunday.
Thomas and linebacker Dan Skuta (hip) are expected to be game-time decisions while all other players listed on the injury report this week – including Fowler, linebacker Hayes Pullard III (ankle), cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring), running back Chris Ivory (ankle/knee), center Brandon Linder (knee) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (quadriceps) – are expected to play Sunday.
Linder's return after a one-week absence means the Jaguars likely will have their starting offensive line Sunday. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum also is expected to return after missing last Sunday's game with a concussion.
"JUST LET LOOSE …"
With Skuta not practicing, rookie Myles Jack has gotten work at the Otto linebacker position this week. Bradley said the second-round selection also has continued to work at the other linebacker positions and has looked "pretty good" this week. "That's the biggest challenge for him – he's got Mike [middle], Will [weak-side] and Otto," Bradley said. "He's going back and forth just so he's ready at all of the positions. I give him a lot of credit. We've put a lot on his plate. I said, 'On Sunday now, if you get that opportunity, that's your day. Just let loose.''' Jack's only action on defense in the first three games of the season came in the fourth quarter of a 38-14 Week 2 loss to San Diego.
"Guys are kind of taking it upon themselves. Not in the sense of, 'We need to win now,' but in the sense of, 'What we've done hasn't worked.' Rather than point fingers, let's try and come up with different ideas and solve what's going on."