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First off field: Third-down focus

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JACKSONVILLE – Wednesday's focus came as no surprise.

Two days after Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley discussed a need to emphasize third-down efficiency on offense in practice, the Jaguars in practice on Wednesday emphasized …

Third-down efficiency on offense.

Bradley and offensive coordinator Greg Olson Wednesday both said the Jaguars held two extra periods of practice on the area totaling 13 plays during the team's first practice preparing for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

"We wanted to address it with more plays and just bring the emphasis up to our team," Bradley said Wednesday as the Jaguars (5-9) prepared to play the Saints (5-9) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday at 1 p.m. "I was pleased with how it went."

Bradley said the Jaguars held an extra period of third-down work in the middle of practice, then another toward the end. The second period featured first-team offense versus first-team defense.

The Jaguars failed to convert a third down into a first down in a 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, failing on eight opportunities. They have failed to convert a third down in the first half in either of the last two games, going 0-for-11 on third downs in the first half during that span.

The Jaguars rank 24th in the NFL converting 35.3 percent of their third downs this season.

The third-down emphasis came on a day with several key players out of or limited in practice, a group that included starting running back T.J. Yeldon and starting weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith.

Yeldon, the Jaguars' leading rusher who has started 12 of 14 games this season, missed Wednesday with a sprained knee. He also missed the Falcons loss with the same injury after sustaining the injury in a victory over the Indianapolis Colts on December 6.

Bradley said he expects Yeldon to be day-to-day this week.

"He was in there again [working with trainers] today and had more flexibility, so that's going to be day to day," Bradley said.

Smith, who has started all 14 games this season, missed practice with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder and a dislocated finger in his left hand sustained Atlanta. He played through the injury Sunday. When asked early Wednesday about playing against New Orleans, he said, "We'll see how the week goes."

Rookie Hayes Pullard likely would play the weak-side position if Smith can't play, Bradley said.

Images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars begin preparations to face the New Orleans Saints.

"He's a bigger-body type linebacker for us," Bradley said of Pullard, who is second on the Jaguars with five special teams tackles this season in eight games. "Mal (special teams coordinator Mike Mallory) has put him in situations where he can use that (his size). He obviously has instincts and understands the game pretty well, so it's just getting used to our system."

Bradley on Wednesday also addressed wide receiver Allen Robinson being named the first alternate to the 2016 Pro Bowl. That was announced Tuesday evening.

"It's great," Bradley said. "We talked about, 'Things like this take place within a team.' I think it really shows up for the whole team. So many people are a part of it. Here's a guy who has worked extremely hard and we have other guys who have worked really hard.

"It showed on game day, and credit to a lot of people – the scheme, the offensive line, the quarterback. But ultimately he did a good job this year so it's cool to see."

Wide receiver Allen Hurns (thigh) also missed practice Wednesday, as did defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee) and defensive end Chris Clemons. Hurns and Miller have played through their issues much of the season, while Clemons had the veteran day off he has had many Wednesdays this season.

Defensive end Ryan Davis (knee) and starting Otto linebacker Dan Skuta (hamstring) worked limited Wednesday. Davis, a reserve Leo pass rusher, has missed the last two games and Skuta played through the injury Sunday.

The following Jaguars players worked full Wednesday: safety Sergio Brown (thumb), tight end Nic Jacobs (hamstring), middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (hand), cornerback Dwayne Gratz (hamstring), running back Denard Robinson (foot) and wide receiver Bryan Walters (back).

Brown and Posluszny played through their injuries last week and Robinson sustained the foot injury Sunday. Gratz missed Sunday and Jacobs and Walters both missed the last two games.

 
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