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Experience on Jags' side


They've been down this road before. Last year, the Jaguars made it to 5-2. A playoff berth was thought to be likely for a team halfway to the magic number (10 wins) and looking at what most considered to be a favorable second-half schedule.

It didn't turn out that way, of course, as the Jaguars lost a couple of games they figured to win, causing them to miss making the playoffs by one more win.

"One of the things I've talked about openly is the need for us to be a more mature team. I'd rather leave last year in the past," coach Jack Del Rio told reporters on Wednesday.

This is the Jaguars' bye week. They are 4-2, healthy and loaded with energy for a final 10 games that make last year's finishing schedule look like the Bataan Death March. Only once in their final 10 games will the Jaguars play a team that currently has a winning record. Four games will be played against three teams that currently have a combined two wins. The overall record of the Jaguars' remaining opponents is 18-35.

A real cakewalk, huh? Well, you might not want to characterize the Jaguars' finishing schedule that way to Del Rio.

"That's one of the focuses on our football team, that each team has the capability to make your life miserable on Sunday. It's a marathon. It's a 16-game competition," Del Rio said. "We want to play with a chip on our shoulder, play hard and be the better team."

Such is the message Del Rio is delivering to his team this week, which includes one more light practice before taking Friday-Sunday off. Del Rio is making sure his team isn't popping corks just six games into the year.

"It's just called experience," he said of what happened a year ago, when the Jaguars squandered a win-and-in opportunity in a 21-0 home loss to Houston in the next-to-last game of the season. It was a loss that left an impression on a young team bent on not having that happen to them again this year.

"We have young players but they have been through quite a bit. We should be better. What we're striving to be is as consistent as possible each and every week. It's imperative we be a better football team as the year goes on. If we work on getting better, we should be better in (the final week) than we are now," Del Rio added.

Offense is where the team needs to improve most. The Jaguars are 25th in the league in total yardage and its passing game has sagged in recent weeks. Quarterback Byron Leftwich has completed just 53 percent of his passes in the team's last three games and his passer rating has dipped into the 60's in two of those contests.

"It's a long season. Byron is better in his third year than he was in his second year," Del Rio said, who sees improvement across the board.

"I think I've improved as a coach. I've improved and I've got some improvement to do. I'm a part of what I'm talking about," he said. "I feel like we have a better football team than we did last year and it's imperative we keep improving throughout the season. That's the key."

The formula for success is time-honored. "The key is to fight your way into the tournament and get hot," Del Rio said.

That's the hope; that the offense we'll get hot at playoff time.

"There will be some battles in the next 10 games. We still have five division games left to play. They are vitally important," Del Rio said.

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