JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley won't say this week hasn't been a challenge.
A week with no pads – and worse, no real, football-ish competition in practice – isn't even close to ideal for the Jaguars' first-year head coach.
But what's right is right, and Bradley said the approach this week is definitely right.
"It's a challenging day," Bradley said Tuesday as the Jaguars (3-9) prepared to play the Houston Texans (2-10) at EverBank Field Thursday at 8:25 p.m.
"I'm used to seeing competition and who's fighting for the ball and all that, and we've had to tone it back with no pads. It's been a challenge, but it's the right thing to do."
The Jaguars worked without pads Monday night, the day following their third victory in four weeks – a 32-28 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland.
They beat the Houston Texans, 13-6, the week before that, and a victory over the Texans Thursday would be their first three-game winning streak since beating Dallas, Houston and Cleveland on consecutive games midway through the 2010 season.
The Jaguars worked a second consecutive day without pads Tuesday, and Bradley said as critical as he considers practice, his first priority remains allowing the players to "play hard, play fast and play together."
"Anything in our power we can do to not jeopardize that, we will do," Bradley said. "We want to make sure on Thursday we play hard, fast and together."
Also around the Jaguars Tuesday:
*Defensive coordinator Bob Babich said of defensive end Andre Branch, "In my mind as a football coach, Andre Branch has grown and gotten better every week. We're very pleased with his progress and as a young guy, that's all we can ask for." Branch, a second-year veteran, was the defensive captain this past Sunday. Babich said Branch has shown good effort, attitude, energy and production in recent weeks. "I'm a fan of his," Babich said….
*Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said the recent increased productivity on offense has been about better execution. "I think that's what you're seeing," Fisch said. "Even if you're not scoring as much, you're still seeing our guys perform at a higher level. I think therefore it looks cleaner." The Jaguars have rushed for more than 100 yards each of the last two games after not doing so in the first 10 games of the season, and they scored a season-high 32 points against Cleveland Sunday. They also had two 80-yard touchdown drives in one game for the second time this season against Cleveland….
*Fisch also discussed the Jaguars' improvement on third down in recent weeks, saying that improvement on first- and second down has helped that area. The Jaguars have converted 14 of 33 (42.4 percent) third downs into first downs the past two weeks. They had been 38 of 138 (27.5) percent) on third down in 10 games before that. "One thing that we found out in the bye week, that we've made a huge focus on was, third and seven-plus for anyone in the NFL is very hard, very hard," Fisch said, "so (we said), 'Let's have incredible focus on our first- and second-down package so we can maybe get to third and threes and fours and fives and a one or a two rather than okay, 'Let's really focus on our third and sevens and eights and nines where your percentages are just not going to be good no matter who you are.' So I think that's been the biggest difference: our first and second down offense has been much better." The Jaguars were 3 of 5 on third-and-3 or shorter against Cleveland and 4-of-11 on third-and-4 or longer; against Houston they were 4 of 9 on third-and-4 or shorter and 2 of 8 on third-and-4 or longer….
*Bradley said defensive tackle Jeremy Mincey likely will be active this week, saying there was a "90 percent" chance that would be the case. Mincey had been inactive the last two games after oversleeping and missing a team meeting before a victory over Houston November 24….
*Tight end Allen Reisner returned to practice Tuesday after being placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list earlier this season with a sprained medial collateral ligament. Bradley said the Jaguars now have three weeks to decide whether or not to activate Reisner….
*Safety Josh Evans almost certainly won't play Thursday, Bradley said. The rookie sustained a shoulder injury against the Browns Sunday, and Bradley said safety Winston Guy will start in his place. Guy has shared repetitions with Evans in recent weeks….
*Evans, wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion), running back Justin Forsett (foot), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder) and running back Maurice-Jones-Drew all missed practice Tuesday. Forsett likely will miss the rest of the regular season while Burton has missed the last three games….
*Miller has been held out of practice in recent weeks with the idea of resting him and having him ready to play Thursday….
*Jones-Drew didn't work Tuesday because of a veteran day off…
*The following players were listed as limited in practice Tuesday: wide receiver Mike Brown (shoulder), Branch (knee), cornerback Mike Harris (hip), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee), offensive tackle Austin Pasztor (shoulder), guard Will Rackley (elbow), wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (groin) and linebacker Nate Stupar (chest)….
*Bradley talked extensively during his time with the media about the adversity the Jaguars have overcome this season, and how the players continued to believe in his message – even when the team was 0-8 at the bye week. "We can all believe when it's mini-camp and training camp but how are we going to do now?" Bradley said. "And they did (believe). I think all of those things helped us. I'm not sure if we'll have a team like this that's composed of the personalities and the individuals that we have and how strong of a team it is as far as fighting adversity. It's been pretty cool to go through."…