JACKSONVILLE – The commitment remains strong.
When it comes to the running game, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Wednesday afternoon what offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch emphasized in the morning:
The Jaguars are going to keep trying.
And if it's not easy at first, they'll keep trying some more.
"We have to get that to where it's more productive," Bradley said as the Jaguars (0-6) prepared to play the Cleveland Browns (3-2) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Bradley discussed the running game following what he called a good practice as the team began preparing for the Browns, who have won their last two games and who have improved significantly since the Jaguars won in Cleveland 32-28 last December.
The Browns are a team committed to the run, and with an improving offensive line, they have found an identity on offense.
The Jaguars, with a slew of rookies starting on offense and a slew more playing key roles, have improved as a passing offense with the continued development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.
But the running offense, which has struggled in recent seasons, has continued to do so. The Jaguars rank 32nd in rushing this season at 69.5 yards per game, and despite a focus on the area early against Tennessee last week, Jaguars running backs rushed for 44 yards on 18 carries.
"We'd love to get the run game (established)," Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "We'd love to get Storm (Johnson) going or Denard (Robinson) or whoever's running the ball, but we've got to get production out of it too. Right now, we're just not getting enough production."
"It's not the same guy and it's not the same issue each time. We've got to find a way to be consistent across the board so at least all the 11 are doing the right thing."
Veteran Toby Gerhart has rushed for 123 yards on 48 carries and a touchdown, while Robinson has rushed for 94 yards on 28 carries. Johnson has rushed for 48 yards on 14 carries and Jordan Todman has rushed for 21 yards on eight carries. Bortles is the team's second-leading rusher with 106 yards on 16 carries.
Bradley said the run must be tried whatever the success rate in a given game or stretch of games.
"How do you get better at running the ball unless you do it?" Bradley said. "When you run the ball, and you're doing it in the game and you stay convicted to it … the strain you put on a defense (is significant). … We feel like if we can get that run game going on top of play(-action) passes it should elevate us.
"It's a conviction we have. We'd like to get to the point where we can run the ball more. It would just help us as an offense."
Bradley said success running helps the entire offense, and certainly would help Bortles, who has played well in three starts but who certainly wouldn't be hurt by more efficient running.
"Our feeling is if we can get the run game going that would help him even more," Bradley said. "We don't want to throw it 48 times a game. That's not our game plan. I think it would just help the offense overall.
"It just helps you. Even if it's three or four yards, if a team thinks you're willing to run the ball, it's a different feel for the linebackers. … That's why it's so important for us to get the run game going so we have that other element of play passes."
Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:
*The team issued one of its smallest injury reports of the season, with defensive end Andre Branch and Gerhart the only players missing practice and cornerback Alan Ball listed as limited with a knee injury.
*Branch said early in the day he expected to play Sunday with a groin injury sustained against Tennessee. Bradley said after practice he thought Branch likely will play Sunday. "We'll see how he responds to having a day off here, and how he comes back tomorrow," Bradley said. "We don't want it to linger." …
*Gerhart appears more uncertain than Branch. The veteran said early in the day that while he was not practicing Wednesday he had not ruled himself out for Sunday. "We don't want it to linger," Bradley said. "I know he feels better, so we'll see where he's at tomorrow. We'd like to get him to 100 percent."…
*Bradley called Wednesday a "really, really productive work day. I thought it was really challenging. Our walkthrough was OK this morning, but we were able to set the tone in that walkthrough for today's practice, and it was good." …
Images from the Jaguars' practice as they begin preparations for their Week 7 matchup with the Cleveland Browns.