JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars got back to basics a bit Wednesday.
And while Head Coach Gus Bradley said focus on fundamentals is important right now – particularly defensively – his main message Wednesday as full preparations began for the first game of the second half of the 2013 season was about focus.
The players need to have it, and it needs to be on the team's primary goals.
Anything else is an unneeded distraction, Bradley said.
"We had a strong message on competition," Bradley said Wednesday as the Jaguars (0-8) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (4-4) at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Competition is core to Bradley's coaching philosophy, so the word is mentioned often around EverBank Field, but Bradley said his focus as the Jaguars prepare for the season's second half is ensuring players truly understand the concept as it relates to player transactions.
The Jaguars routinely have acquired at least one player on Monday or Tuesday during the regular season. That often has required releasing a player.
"I think they're feeling the competition again,'' Bradley said. "When you have 200-and-some roster changes, I'm aware that may be passing through their heads – some uncertainty. I want to make sure the message was about competition, and competition is within yourself.
"You can't worry about who we're bringing in and what's going on, because then you can really get out of whack."
The Jaguars worked in one-in-one red-zone drills in practice Wednesday, with the defensive line and offensive line also working more one-on-one drills than usual. Bradley also said the Jaguars shortened their Wednesday walkthrough.
"We're going to jockey some things around – all with the hopes of keeping us fresh this time of year," Bradley said.
The Jaguars also focused on tackling Wednesday, their only practice day in pads this week. Bradley during the bye and this week has emphasized a need for the Jaguars to improve tackling, saying that the team's troubles in the area has allowed too many big plays by opponents.
"There are ways you can do it (practice) tackling during the regular season with hand-helds and angles," Bradley said. "Even when we're in no pads, we talk to our safeties about, 'Every rep is a tackling rep.' We ask our runners to run through the line even in no-pad days so when he breaks through (defenders) can still concentrate on leverage.
"The physical part of tackling, we try to get one shot in a week with pads. Other than that, it's leverage work."
Said defensive coordinator Bob Babich, "We have to minimize explosives; we have to make sure we get that taken care of. It starts up front with proper run fits, proper tackling, finishing, getting off blocks and if they do get into our secondary we have to get them down…."
"We need to make sure our guys are using proper fundamentals. We put a big emphasis on it the first two practices of this week and it seems to have gotten a lot better, but we'll see Sunday. It's a problem, it was a concern and we addressed it, we need to get it right, period."
Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:
*Bradley said the team's interception total the first half of the season is a concern. The Jaguars have three interceptions, including one by the secondary. "We missed some opportunities, through penalties or drops," he said. "We need to take advantage of those opportunities. Really, it's based on rush and cover. You need rush to get to the quarterback to make some errant throws."…
*The Jaguars were as healthy Wednesday as they have been this season, with every active player taking reps except for running back Maurice Jones-Drew, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, center Brad Meester and defensive end Jason Babin. Those players had a veteran day off….
*Defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder), guard/center Will Rackley (concussion), running back Denard Robinson (hamstring), wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (groin) and wide receiver Stephen Williams (Achilles) were limited in practice Wednesday….
*Bradley said middle linebacker Paul Posluszny continues to play well. Bradley said he had 20 opportunities against San Francisco, and made a play in 17 situations. "That's the 'Mike' position in our defense," Bradley said. "They're going to get a lot of opportunities. To see he's playing at that level is really good."…
*Rookie left tackle and 2013 No. 2 overall draft selection Luke Joeckel spoke to reporters Wednesday, saying he expects to get his cast off this week and move to a walking boot. He's still not permitted to put weight on the broken ankle that ended his season after five games, and said he doesn't expect to be able to do so for about four weeks. "I want to start working out and start rehabbing a bit," he said. "I'm tired of sitting around. It's wearing me down a bit. A lot of sitting around and not doing much – that's not who I am."
*Bradley said he has addressed with Jordan Todman the issues the reserve running back had returning kickoffs. He mishandled two returns against San Francisco. "He's his own worst critic," Bradley said, adding that Stephen Burton or Todman likely will handle the role Sunday…
*Bradley said while Robinson perhaps hadn't truly passed Todman and Justin Forsett on the running back depth chart, coaches reached a point where they wanted to see what Robinson could do at the No. 2 position. Robinson played that role against San Francisco October 27 and will do so again Sunday. "He put together two good weeks of practice where we said, 'OK, let's take a look at him,'" Bradley said….
*Bradley on Titans running back Chris Johnson, "He really tests a defense now. He really does. He has the ability. The emphasis for our player is to really get off blocks – not just take care of your assignment, but shed the block and get to the ball."