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Defense could make the difference


Its rookies are beginning to feel comfortable in their roles, its offense is among the top 10 in the league and the 5-4 Jaguars are clearly a team in ascent. What if its defense came to life?

"We need to match them," linebacker Clint Ingram said, speaking for the defense and referring to the team's rapidly-improving offense. "It's obvious. We need to eliminate the explosive (plays) and we need to get off the field on third down. It's easy to say. We need to make it happen."

That defense, which is ranked 23rd in the league in total yards, has played better the past two games than it had in blow-out losses at Tennessee and Seattle, but there remains room for growth. Should it match the offense in performance, the Jaguars might, in fact, become a serious, late-season playoff contender.

"We've got the guys that can do it. It's time, at this point in the season, to make it happen," Ingram added.

This week's opponent, the Buffalo Bills, don't scare anybody. The Bills offense is 29th in the league and, of course, the Bills fired head coach Dick Jauron on Tuesday, leaving former Jaguars assistant coach Perry Fewell to serve as the team's interim head coach.

"Our preparation will remain the same. This week will be no different for either team," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said of the Bills' coaching change.

How might it impact the Bills?

"It can do all kinds of things. Every situation is different. We're getting ready to play a good football game," Del Rio added.

The Jaguars are also getting ready to play without star cornerback Rashean Mathis, who Del Rio said on Wednesday would miss Sunday's game due to the groin strain he sustained in the second half of Sunday's win over the New York Jets.

"It could be a little while," Del Rio said in speculating on the time Mathis might miss.

Mathis most recently was unable to play in Tennessee two weeks ago. His replacement, Reggie Nelson, who moved from safety to cornerback for that game, struggled in run-support, as the Titans set a Jaguars franchise-record for opponents rushing yards, 305.

Del Rio wouldn't, of course, reveal his plans for replacing Mathis this Sunday.

The Jaguars will be attempting to build on their riveting victory over the Jets, in which quarterback David Garrard drove the Jaguars 80 yards to the game-winning score on the final play of the game.

"When your quarterback brings you back to victory, that lifts the spirits of everybody in the building. That is definitely something you can build on," Del Rio said.

Sunday's game will mark the return of former Jaguars defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who the team traded prior to the 2008 draft. Even though the Bills are dead last in the league in rush-defense, Del Rio said Stroud is still playing well.

"I think it's clear that our evaluation of how much he had left in the tank was off the mark," Del Rio said.

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