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Dolphins-Jaguars Into Focus: Slowing it down, Joeckel and a big matchup


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser addresses five topics as Dolphins-Jaguars nears, including why the Jaguars don't go two-minute all the time and the development of left tackle Luke Joeckel

1.Slow ride.We begin this pre-Dolphins-Jaguars "In Focus" by keeping things slow. That's what offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said the Jaguars will continue doing despite rookie quarterback Blake Bortles having performed well in the two-minute, hurry-up offense. Fisch, who likes up-tempo offense, said the Jaguars aren't inclined to use the offense throughout the game. One reason is to do so is a "recipe for a very small time of possession," which strains the defense. "He does have a knack to be able to make plays in that situation," Fisch said of Bortles, adding, "It's pretty cool watching him go, but I like to be able to not think that we have to live in two-minute offense." Fisch said another reality is while Bortles indeed has been effective in the two-minute offense, running the offense looks different in the first and third quarters than at the end of games or halves. "They (defense) would be different, we would be different and the way it would work out would be different," he said. "You're not going to throw the ball every down. There are certain times you want to get good looks."

2.Getting better all time.Fisch this week also addressed the continued development of Luke Joeckel. Fisch said Joeckel, the Jaguars' starting left tackle, has continued to improve in the running game in recent weeks. That's where the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft has looked most comfortable in eight NFL games at left tackle, and Fisch said while Joeckel continues to need work pass blocking, "I think he's getting more comfortable every week. We are now at Game 11 or 12 for him. The fact of the matter is that it's really Game Eight at left tackle, so he's going to have to continue to get experience and with that experience great things are going to come because he's so talented." …

3.Matchup of the week.Maybe the most obvious important matchup Sunday is the Jaguars' offensive line against the Miami defensive line. The Jaguars' offensive line struggled this season until an impressive performance against Cleveland this past Sunday, and the Dolphins' defensive line is a team strength that features end Cameron Wake, defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Randy Starks and defensive tackle Jared Odrick. The key matchup within the matchup may be Jaguars right tackle Austin Pasztor versus Wake, who is Pro Football Focus' highest-rated 4-3 defensive end this season with five sacks, seven hits on the quarterback and 17 quarterback hurries. "He's an awesome pass rusher," Pasztor said. "It is what it is. He's going to try to use the edge, so I've got to try to get to my edge. It will be different than what I've faced the last couple of weeks, but as a competitor you're looking forward to playing against the best. Wake's having a great year, so it will be a big challenge."

4.A running back thing.The Jaguars have been searched since training camp for the right running back combination. They appeared to get closer Sunday, when Denard Robinson rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries as the Jaguars as a team rushed for a season-high 185 yards. While Fisch said he obviously would take that production from Robinson on a weekly basis, he also said with the potential return of Toby Gerhart this week, "I think we'll continue to mix and match a little bit" at the running back position. Fisch and Bradley each indicated the starter at the position could depend on which package the team uses to open the game. Robinson is the third player to start at running back for the Jaguars this season, with Gerhart starting the first five games of the season and rookie Storm Johnson starting Week 6. Gerhart on Wednesday practiced for the first time in two weeks after missing the past two games with a foot/ankle injury that had bothered him since Week 1. "The way I was finishing runs, I didn't have that same leg drive and push," Gerhart said. "I was just kind of going down, covering it up and protecting it. I'm excited for it to be behind me and to get back to the way I used to run."

5.Expanding a role.With injuries on defense forcing players into new roles, much of the focus this week has been on J.T. Thomas moving from the Otto position to the middle to replace Paul Posluszny. As key could be the move of Ryan Davis into the role played by third-year veteran Andre Branch, out at least six weeks with a groin injury. Davis, a second-year defensive end, has excelled as an inside pass rusher in the team's lightning package, utilizing his speed and quickness against guards and centers for three sacks, a quarterback hit and six hurries. Playing Branch's role, he will get a chance to rush off the edge. "I've been rushing from the inside a lot, but I practice at a high level outside and inside," Davis said. "Whenever I get the chance, I want to make the most of it. The big thing is to make sure there's no drop off. Andre has been great so far. I just want to make sure we don't lose anything." Branch has been solid against the run this season, and while Davis has played mostly in passing situations, he said, "I pride myself on being well-rounded. I'm a football player first. I think I can play the run well. This will be a great opportunity for that."

Take a look back at images from past matchups between the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars.

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