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Focus on Jags' offensive line


The Jaguars will attempt to improve their line surge on Sunday and run the ball effectively against a Cincinnati Bengals defense that is 28th against the run.

"We got whipped," offensive line coach Andy Heck said of his unit's play against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. "It's not a sin to get knocked down. It's a sin to stay down."

The Jaguars are 3-4 and down to a desperate need for a winning streak that would resurrect their playoff hopes. The Bengals are 0-8.

"I see great focus and determination out of these guys. I've never questioned how these guys prepare," Heck said of his linemen, who've lost from their ranks this season two starting guards and, most recently, another guard, Chris Naeole, who broke his hand in pregame last Sunday.

Head coach Jack Del Rio was critical of the line's lack of a surge off the ball against the Browns. It led to another poor rushing performance by the Jags, who've slumped to 14th in the league in rushing.

"We take great pride in being able to run the ball and when things don't go well, we take it personally. One of the things we need to get is a better surge. We need to drive people off the ball," Heck said.

It would sure help Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew get out of their combined slump. The two runners fell just shy of combining for 2,000 yards rushing last season for the second consecutive year, but have combined for a mere 596 yards rushing through seven games this season.

Heck would seem to be taking it personally.

"A lot of that goes on me if they're not surging off the ball," he said.

The loss of guard Vince Manuwai may have hurt the Jaguars' running game more than anybody first thought it would. Manuwai is a powerful drive-blocker and would seem to have been the key figure in the Jaguars' running-game success of past seasons.

"Vince is a very talented football player and he is especially good as a run-blocker. There aren't many people on the planet as good as he is at run-blocking. He's a very difficult player to replace," Heck said.

"Injuries are tough but they're part of football. We've had more than our share of injuries but we have guys with a lot of character; guys who care about football," Heck added.

The Jaguars will have their character tested over the next several weeks. Will they rally and reverse the fortunes of this season, or will they slowly fade from postseason contention? A loss in Cincinnati to a winless Bengals team would be devastating.

"This week is a one-game season. That's where our focus needs to be," Heck said.

The Jaguars have a hot quarterback in David Garrard, who hasn't thrown an interception in the last four games while posting a 97.7 passer rating. Garrard's surge has moved the offense ahead of the defense in the league rankings.

Defense is a sore subject for the Jaguars. Once upon a time, it was the team's calling card. Now, at number 23 in the league, it is a sore subject. It's not as though the Jaguars haven't concentrated a lot of effort and money on the defensive side of the ball.

The Bengals are without quarterback Carson Palmer and have fallen to last in the league in offense. The Bengals neither run it (30th in the league in rushing) nor throw it (31st in passing) very well. This is a game Jaguars defenses of the past would've been expected to dominate.

"If you turn on the film, we might be 0-8 but we're not playing like it," Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said.

That's the Jaguars' greatest concern.

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