The Jaguars are prepared to turn the page on their season and the words on this page say "run the ball."
That was the impression coach Jack Del Rio gave reporters at Wednesday's press conference, as the 5-3 Jaguars began hard preparations for Sunday's game against the visiting Detroit Lions. Sunday's game will mark the start of the second half of the season; eight games to decide the AFC South title.
"I think it's safe to say we will re-focus our energies on running the football. This is a strong (defensive line) we are going against. The desire to have a good, strong running game has never left, but the intent to carry it out had wavered a bit," Del Rio said.
The issue gained prominence following the Jaguars' loss in Houston on Oct. 31. Del Rio cited a run-pass imbalance, as the Jaguars' rushing attempts fell to a season-low 12, which included two scrambles by quarterback Byron Leftwich.
Half a season removed from a year in which the Jaguars were eighth in the league in rushing, they had fallen to 27th. Half a season removed from Fred Taylor's 989 yards rushing in the second half of the 2003 season, Taylor was at a mere 510 yards this year and, even more alarmingly, he has only 124 rushing attempts.
All of that is about to change. At least, that's the intent.
"In order to be a good football team, late in the year when the weather gets bad, you have to be able to run the ball. We need to get back to running the ball more effectively, get more carries," Del Rio said.
Taylor left the Houston game early in the second quarter with a hip pointer injury, but Taylor doesn't even appear on the Jaguars' official injury report this week. The injury report includes only Leftwich, "out" with a knee injury, tight end George Wrighster, "doubtful" with an ailing back, and linebacker Daryl Smith, "questionable" with a knee injury he sustained in the Houston game.
"I just want to win. However they call it, I'll be ready for it," Taylor told reporters when asked about a workload that's expected to be increased.
It's thought that Del Rio expressed his desires for a ramped-up running game to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave during the bye week. "We're on the same page," Del Rio said.
"How far away is Fred from last year's totals after eight games?" Del Rio asked.
Well, at midseason last year Taylor had rushed for 583 yards and had reached the 100-yard mark only once. Those numbers are very comparable to this year's stats.
"We did what we felt we had to do," Del Rio said of the emphasis on the passing game in the first half of the season. "We found a way to scratch out five wins."
The Jaguars attempted fewer than 40 passes in each of those five wins. They attempted 40 or more passes in each of their three defeats.
"Watch the second half and see what you think," Del Rio said, obviously referring to a re-dedication to the running game.
In other news, the Jaguars signed linebacker Jimmy McClain, who the team released in final cuts this summer. Del Rio described McClain as a "run-and-hit linebacker who understands our system and can help us cover kicks."