Jack Del Rio's stern postgame comments on Saturday were not lost on his team. Team leaders Paul Spicer and Rashean Mathis are challenging the defense and the Jaguars team in general to play better in Tampa this Saturday than they did this past Saturday in losing to Miami.
"The season is coming. Before we know it, it's going to be Tennessee. Come Saturday night, down in Tampa, we have to go out and handle business. If we don't, there's going to be another shellacking," Spicer said during a session with the media on Monday.
Spicer is one of the few players who performed well in Saturday's 19-14 loss to the Dolphins. Other than for Spicer, the Jaguars defensive line was a no-show against the Dolphins, winners of just one game last season.
"Stopping the run is always going to be number one, no matter who the defensive coordinator is. That's where it starts. As far as changing our personality, that has nothing to do with it," Spicer said, referring to the Jaguars' move to an attack-style scheme under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. "It's about stopping the run, making a team one-dimensional and then getting after them. We didn't do that."
The Dolphins did, which left the Jaguars to deal with a two-sided defeat. They didn't play well on defense but, as John McKay might've said, they made up for it by playing poorly on offense, too.
"Never hang your head, even during the regular season," Mathis said. "You can't take it too hard, but you have to learn something from it."
What the Jaguars learned from the loss to Miami is that a higher level of performance must be the result in Tampa, or starters might find themselves playing in the preseason finale five days later. Last year, Del Rio held his starters out of the final preseason game.
"We play well this week, we'll be in street clothes again, but if we don't play well, anything is possible," Mathis said. "We pretty much know this is going to be our last showing as a first team. We have to let the coaches know they can trust us on the field."
Yeah, the third preseason game is traditionally the closest thing to a regular season game. Players will play deeper into the game and coaches will do more game-planning than for any of the other preseason games. The idea of this week is to simulate a regular-season week of preparation. In other words, if you want to judge a team's readiness based on a preseason performance, this is the week to do it.
"I'm sure we had one bad game," Mathis said of the 2007 preseason.
Yeah, they did; in Green Bay in game three and it caused Byron Leftwich to be cut. Any questions?
Critics are blaming the Jaguars' performance against Miami on a soft training camp. Mathis refuted that claim.
"We're professionals. If we go into camp and not hit a day, we should still be able to play great football. You don't have to hit every day to know how to tackle," Mathis said.
The loss to Miami aroused such alarm among Jaguars fans that it temporarily pushed first-round draft pick Derrick Harvey's holdout off the front page. It no doubt will reclaim its rightful place.
"From what I heard, they're a million away," Spicer said, referring to media reports. "If you're a million away, the only guy who benefits is the agent.
"Take that," Spicer advised Harvey. "Tell your agent I'm tired of sitting at home. It's time to put the toys away, be a man and get down to business."
"He's got to take care of home," Mathis said. "We're here waiting on him."