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Finding Balance

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As Brad Meester sees it, the issue isn't about a number, necessarily.

With the concept of offensive balance a key issue around the Jaguars this week, Meester – the team's veteran center – said achieving it remains an ideal. But when Meester discussed it, he didn't talk of specific numbers or run-pass ratios.

Yes, Meester said, the Jaguars want to be able to run. And they want to pass equally effectively.

That's the goal, and if it's achieved, sheer numbers don't matter all that much.

 "Obviously, we always strive to have a balanced attack on offense," Meester said as the Jaguars (1-3) prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

"That's obviously our goal. It's what we strive do to. When we're running the ball, it really opens up our passing game. We have to be able to do both.

"When you're running the ball, it makes passing it that much easier."

Through four games this season, offensive balance – and offensive efficiency in general – has remained elusive for the Jaguars.

The Jaguars, after ranking 15thin the NFL in total offense (341.2 yards per game) a year ago – 27thin passing (191.6 ypg) and third in rushing (149.7 ypg) – this season rank 31stin the NFL in total offense. They have averaged 264.3 yards per game and are 32ndin passing (137.5 ypg) and tied for sixth in rushing (137.5 ypg).

The Jaguars averaged 22.1 points a game last season, and have averaged 9.75 this season.

After running 512 times and passing 469 last season, the Jaguars in the first three games had 108 runs and 70 passes.

They were 1-2 after those three games, and following a 34-run, 21-pass performance in a rain-soaked 16-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said the team would be more aggressive and more pass-oriented in Week 4.

He wasn't exaggerating.

The Jaguars this past Sunday against New Orleans threw on their first seven offensive plays, with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert – making his second career start – completing 16 of 42 passes for 196 yards. The Jaguars ran 17 times for 104 yards, with two-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushing 11 times for 84 yards.

"I thought the mix was pretty good," Del Rio said.

Del Rio said the offensive approach Sunday wasn't about throwing for the sake of throwing. Rather, it was about trying to take advantage of the Saints' defensive approach.

"I think the approach was one where with the way they play defense that there were going to be opportunities out there," he said. "I think we capitalized on some of those opportunities in the first half, moved the ball well, broke down in the first couple of drives of our own doing more than them, and on the third drive went down there and scored.

"I think you saw a glimpse of what we're capable of there when we're doing things the way they need to be done."

Del Rio following the Saints game spoke highly of Gabbert, and about growing the offense around "a talented young player."

"There are some good, solid things and there are some signs of life with how Blaine can throw it," Del Rio said. "We are going to have to run routes and catch it with a higher efficiency than what we have seen to start the first quarter."

Jaguars wide receiver Mike Thomas, asked about the process of finding balance, smiled and called it a "Koetter question," referring to Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

"It's a work in progress," Thomas said. "No question, I think that will come, but it's definitely something that gets better when you get Blaine to settle down. He's confident. We all know that, but just getting him to settle down, and really man the game and take control of the game – and getting his own comfort zone.

"We know we can run it. We know what Maurice is all about. It's just getting that all together and getting everybody on the same page and keep rolling."

Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis, too, said finding balance will be an ongoing process, and said it's about gaining a comfort level – not only with a young quarterback, but with how players play with and around him.

"It is a process, and I think it's like everything in life in general – finding a healthy balance in your life," Marcedes Lewis said. "It all trickles down. We have 53 men on this roster who compete every day, and work on finding what their role is.

"That's the beauty of it, having it all come together and finding what your role is and embracing that role. We'll be better."  

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