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Inside the Jaguars: Staying on field a key


JACKSONVILLE – Keep Peyton Manning off the field.

That's an obvious goal for the Jaguars' offense Sunday, and conventional NFL wisdom would say that in order to do that, a team needs to run effectively.

Jedd Fisch said that's true . . . to a point.

Fisch, the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, said while keeping opportunities as limited as possible for Manning and the Denver Broncos' offense Sunday is important, the way to do that is not necessarily to establish the run at any and all costs.

"You have to run the ball effectively," Fisch said Thursday as the Jaguars (0-5) prepared to play the Broncos (5-0) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo., Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

"But more importantly than necessarily saying, 'You have to run the ball or throw the ball,' you have to get first downs. Whatever we think is the best way to get a first down we have to do it and not keep track of our run-pass ratio rather than keep track of our efficiency."

The Jaguars have had 28 three-and-out series in five games this season, and Fisch said while the Jaguars need to improve that efficiency, they can't completely abandon no-huddle, hurry-up  schemes.

"We're going to have to stay on the field, but with that, we can't lose some of the tempo we'd like to play with," Fisch said.

The dilemma against the Broncos is obvious: running hurry-schemes may play to what the Jaguars want to do offensively, but hurrying up means shorter drives if the offense is ineffective. That would mean that many more opportunities for a Broncos offense that has scored more than 50 points in each of the last two games.

"You will see some of it, I'm sure," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley of the up-tempo approach, "but we'll be smart about that. Those things we can control."

The Jaguars entered the season wanting to play up-tempo offense, with an objective of running near 80 plays per game. A benefit of such an approach was seen last Sunday, when a 67-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Justin Blackmon came in an up-tempo situation one play after Gabbert converted third-and-5 with a 21-yard pass to Cecil Shorts III.

*"You really need to convert," Fisch said. "When you convert on a first down, then you can get your tempo going. That was critical for us.  There were a lot of things that went into it other than just snapping the ball quick, but it does give you an advantage because you can play a more aggressive style. The more we can convert, the better we can get. That will enable us to play with tempo."

The Jaguars' 363 yards total offense last week was the first time this season the team has exceeded 300 yards in a game. Bradley said the team has simplified its packages each week, something he said likely will continue.

"What you've seen in our package is that from the first game to now that we've shrunk the package," Bradley said. "We've made it smaller because at no expense do we want to lose execution in our guys' ability to play fast. We saw that last week but even this week I think our package is even a little bit smaller. You've seen it in practice. You've seen the execution part, so that part is good."

Also on Thursday:

*Wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion), cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle), tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder), defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey (concussion), Gabbert (hamstring) and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (groin) were held out of practice Thursday….

*Wide receiver Mike Brown (back), defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) and linebacker Geno Hayes (hip flexor) were limited Thursday….

*Bradley said he made the decision to hold Shorts out of practice Thursday, and that he expects the third-year veteran to play Sunday. "He's tough, and he doesn't say much," Bradley said. "I know with that groin tightness it's lingering. I just felt the best thing for him after talking with (Head Athletic Trainer) Mike and (Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom) Milo (Myslinski) was to completely hold him out of practice. I just don't want it to get any worse."…

*Bradley also said there's a good chance Brown will play. He has been out since Week One. "We think there's a really, really strong chance," Bradley said….

*If Brown plays, the Jaguars' top four receivers to start the season – Shorts, Blackmon, rookie Ace Sanders and Brown – would be available for the first time this season. "It will be good to get a group of receivers back," Bradley said. "To see those guys come back is really good. And it helps the quarterbacks."…

*Bradley also said he expects Marks and Hayes to play….

*Fisch said he likes Ricky Stanzi's approach to the offense, and said he would be more comfortable with Stanzi playing now than a month ago. Stanzi joined the Jaguars the week before the preseason finale, and with Blaine Gabbert likely out Sunday, he is the No. 2 quarterback behind Chad Henne. "He's a studious worker," Fisch said. "He has a really good grasp of our plan. You don't want to have any more injuries than we've had, but if it does happen, we feel like he could run our offense and not have to adjust too much."…

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