JACKSONVILLE – It can be as elusive as it is important.
So, when Jaguars offensive guard Brandon Scherff discusses continuity on the offensive line, he does so simply and with urgency. If it's there, great.
If it's not there, you keep working until it's there.
"We just have to keep repping it and keep playing," Scherff said Monday as the Jaguars (8-5) moved on from a loss to the Cleveland Browns Sunday and began looking ahead to Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Stadium.
Continuity and cohesion has become a major storyline for the Jaguars' offensive line in recent games, with injuries on the left side of the line accelerating in the last three games and perhaps contributing to the team's recent struggles in the rushing game.
"Obviously, the injury situation on the offensive line has affected that just a little bit, having that continuity up front," Head Coach Doug Pederson said.
The Jaguars, after rushing for more than 100 yards in seven of the first 10 games, have declined in that area since rushing for 128 yards in a Week 11 victory over the Tennessee Titans. They rushed for 81 yards in a Week 12 victory over the Houston Texans, 71 in a Week 13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and a season-low 58 in a 31-27 loss to the Browns Sunday.
"Obviously you have to find ways to improve, possibly getting back to some of the schemes that worked earlier in the season or what helped [running back] Travis [Etienne Jr.] break free," Pederson said. "It's something that we're focused on and even with [offensive line coach] Phil [Rauscher], finding those schemes that have worked in our past and trying to tap back into that to see if we can jumpstart the run game."
The Jaguars have started five offensive line combinations this season, with center Luke Fortner, Scherff and right tackle Anton Harrison all starting all 13 games. Four players – Ben Bartch, Walker Little, Tyler Shatley and Ezra Cleveland – have started at left guard.
Three players have started at left tackle and four players have played the position in the last three weeks with Cam Robinson starting Week 12 against Houston, Little starting Week 13 against Cincinnati and Cleveland starting Sunday before sustaining a first-half knee injury and being replaced by Blake Hance. Robinson is on injured reserve with a knee injury and Pederson said Little could practice this week after missing Sunday with a hamstring injury.
"Every time the communication is different, their footwork is different," Scherff said. "I've played with a bunch of right tackles and a bunch of centers [in nine NFL seasons], it's all just getting those practice reps.
"It's just about getting the extra reps and maybe getting a few extras with a few different combinations. It's just continuity and just knowing what everybody does."
The Jaguars have had eight pre-snap penalties – false starts and delay of games – in the last two games, including five against the Browns Sunday.
"It's hard, you've got different personnels, different bodies, different people," Pederson said. "But it's not an excuse that we're going to use. Everybody reps those plays in practice, they know exactly which plays they're going to be in on. The cadences are all predetermined going into a football game what we're going to use. There's no excuse; we've just got to focus in and detail that part of our jobs."
Scherff was asked if it was impossible to be consistent offensively with multiple starting combinations on the line.
"I don't want to say impossible, but it's hard," he said. "The continuity between the offensive line, it's hard to be on the same page if somebody is coming in and coming out. We're not making those excuses and we want to be the best unit out there each and every game.
"That's what we're striving to be. There are no excuses. We've got to just keep playing."
- The Jaguars on Sunday allowed three passing touchdowns of 34 or more yards – 34- and 35-yarders to tight end David Njoku and a 41-yarder to wide receiver David Bell. They had allowed five touchdown passes of 34 yards or more in the first 12 games. "It's all self-inflicted," Jaguars defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot said. "I'm pretty sure everyone can see people are left wide open. It's just communication. When we go out there, we need to all be able to trust that everyone is going to be in the right spots. We've had some pretty good matchups coming up and we've been scheming up a lot of different things. We've just got to get back to what allows us to play fast, just communicating and all being on the same page."