JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines four Jacksonville Jaguars-related topics during the 2013 bye week…
4. A much-needed bye.We begin this bye week Fabulous Four with the obvious observation that the Jaguars very much need a bye week this week. But that need stems as much from travel aftereffects than being 0-8 at the midway point. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley while praising the team's surroundings and support in London said if the team had a game this coming Sunday, "That part would be difficult." Players agreed that it was easy to see why the NFL schedules bye weeks following London trips, with many adding it would be difficult to play multiple games there in a single season for that reason. "It takes a heck of a toll on your body, to play a game Sunday evening, then jump on a flight Monday morning – a nine-and-half hour flight," Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. "You're back on Tuesday, then Wednesday you go right back into preparation for another game? That would be difficult." Added linebacker Russell Allen, "It would be tough. We're put in tough situations from time to time. Doing the Sunday-Thursday turnaround is tough. So, could we find a way to do it? Sure. Would we be at our best? No way." A notable takeaway from Bradley's meeting with the media Tuesday was the Jaguars could alter their travel approach in future London trips. Instead of leaving for London early Monday evening as the team did last week, Bradley said it has been discussed to leave Sunday following the pre-London game. That would put the team there early Monday morning London time and allow players' bodies an extra day to recover. Bradley also said the team could consider requesting a road game in the Northeast – potentially at New York – the week before the London trip to reduce hours traveled.
3. Staying the course.If there's a phrase Jaguars fans – and any fan of a struggling team hate – that, may be it. Fans want change – any change – and they want it immediately. But around the Jaguars this season, there's a legitimate reason for staying the course. There remains a feeling that the direction and approach is the right one for the long-term – as ridiculous as that may sound to some for a 0-8 team. Bradley said this week that through the first eight games he has learned "it's really important for me to be consistent," adding, "I do have conviction on how we go about this whole thing. I think that's the biggest thing I've learned, is it's going to get challenged. It's been really good for me for me to share my conviction. I think there are certain things maybe you can do or maybe people will try to do to say, 'let's get that quick victory or let's do this quick and change things and try to do it.' But we're in there trying to sustain this and in order to do that you've got to stay true to your convictions." Middle linebacker Paul Polsuszny said the team has made significant gains already. "Just because we're bad on the field doesn't mean we're not building the mentality and culture; all that stuff is heading in the right direction," he said. "Now, we haven't won, so that obviously has to be the next step." Posluszny said while some teams with similar records have faced "nightmare situation" that's not the case with this season's Jaguars. "We trust the people leading us, from theowners, to the general manager (David Caldwell) to Coach Bradley. We have a tremendous amount of trust in them. We believe we're doing the right thing. If there wasn't someone like Coach Bradley at the top, it could easily go in the opposite direction. He has kept things in a very, very positive manner."
2. Analytically speaking.The Jaguars' one-sided loss to the 49ers was one of the season's disappointing performances, but individually, the Jaguars graded out better than might be expected. Safety Josh Evans had the lowest grade on the team on defense, and linebackers Paul Posluszny, Geno Hayes and Russell Allen graded negatively – perhaps not surprising considering the Jaguars allowed 221 yards rushing. But defensive ends Tyson Alualu and Jason Babin graded positively, as did running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III offensively. Tight end Marcedes Lewis and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who had a fumble and two drops, respectively, had the lowest grades offensively. Shorts, Jones-Drew and offensive tackle Austin Pasztor all are grading positively for the season, while defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and cornerback Will Blackmon are grading positively for the season defensively.
1. And finally, a word on the quarterback.We finish this bye week Fab Four with the traditional closing entry on the quarterback, with this week's entry having a similar gist as last week's – that Chad Henne remains the starter over a healthy Blaine Gabbert. Bradley said in the wake of the loss to the 49ers that the team planned to stick with Henne as the starter coming out of the bye. The reality at the midway point of the season, neither Henne nor Gabbert has played well enough. The decision to go with Henne for now makes sense because there have been times in the last three weeks the offense has looked efficient, and statistically he has been better than Gabbert. The Jaguars are also entering a stretch of games that appear more winnable than the first eight games, so if there is a touch more confidence among the coaching staff in Henne, then Henne gives you a better feeling entering those games. As for the future, with eight games remaining, only a staggering turnaround would merit either appearing by season's end to be the quarterback of the future. Does that mean a Ricky Stanzi sighting by season's end? Perhaps, though to listen to Bradley this week, it doesn't appear we're there yet.