No one's confusing the Jaguars' problems with the Falcons', but don't delude yourself into thinking the Jaguars don't have issues.
All you have to do is look at the team's practice report from Thursday. Five members of the defensive line appear on the practice report, and this on the heels of the worst performance against the run in franchise history.
These are tough times for Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith. The twin-towers defensive tackles on whom Smith and head coach Jack Del Rio built the Jaguars defense is playing through injuries. In John Henderson's case, it was a nagging neck/shoulder hurt last week; now he's listed with a thigh injury. Marcus Stroud is attempting to recover from offseason microfracture surgery on his ankle, and now he appears on the practice report with a shin injury that caused him to miss practice on Thursday.
Defensive end Reggie Hayward is still hobbled by last season's Achilles rupture, and ends Tony McDaniel (knee) and Bobby McCray (elbow) were also limited in Thursday's practice.
There's more. Linebacker Clint Ingram, who Del Rio expected to be ready to go this week, appears to be heading for another week of missed action. Ingram, who was thought to have sustained a simple ankle sprain in the preseason opener, hasn't played since and missed practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday.
The Jaguars have lost their kicker, Josh Scobee, who is one of the best kickoff men in the league, and that's not likely to help special teams, either.
Yeah, these are very tough times. The Falcons may be dealing with the long-term stigma of a franchise quarterback turned convict, but the Jaguars have present-tense problems that threaten to put this team out of the playoff race early in the season.
Now is the time for resilience. Coaches often speak of being strong in the face of adversity and, clearly, Del Rio's team is facing adversity. Defense is not likely to lead the way. The burden now falls on the offense.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Falcons on Sunday.
- Find a way—Don't worry about style points, just win, baby, win. Any way will do.
- Plays, not players—It may have to be that way on defense for awhile, because of the injuries. Smith and Del Rio and anybody else who has some magic fairy dust needs to sprinkle it on the playing field of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium at one o'clock on Sunday.
- QB has to step up—David Garrard has always wanted to be viewed as a prime-time quarterback. Sunday's game will offer a great opportunity to prove his point because the Jaguars may need him to be more than just efficient. They may need him to play at the star level.
- Catch the ball—Two big drops may have caused the Jaguars to lose to the Titans. The drops have to stop now.
- Block someone—The Falcons can be run on, but not if the Jaguars offensive line plays as it did last Sunday.
- Leave nothing on the field—The Jaguars left as many as 14 points on the field last week. That won't work this week, either.
- Deny Dunn big plays—Stopping the Falcons' running game cold may be too much to expect, but containing Warrick Dunn is a reasonable expectation.
- Follow Fred—This is a highlight game for Fred Taylor. He has full motivation to out-play Dunn, a rival of Taylor's since their college days. Give it to Fred. He'll show the way.
- Feel the wall—The Jaguars' backs are up against it.
- Know what a win might do—It might leave the Jaguars tied for second place with two other teams and no worse than one game behind the leader. That would represent a major recovery.