Jaguars players were collectively in a positive frame of mind when they greeted reporters today, prior to their first practice for Sunday's "must-win" game against the visiting Baltimore Ravens.
"We can't go on the field and play tight. We can't be afraid to lose," offensive tackle Tony Boselli said.
There is speculation that one of the topics of conversation this week among the players and the coaching staff was the emotional state of the team. Several players believe the mood has focused too often on mistakes in the previous game, which has compromised aggressiveness in the next game.
"We're going to have fun. It's on national television. Everybody gets to see you again," wide receiver Keenan McCardell.
Defensive tackle Gary Walker, who may not play this Sunday as a result of a knee strain he suffered in the loss to Pittsburgh, introduced the "too tight" theory Monday. "I think people are playing tight; scared to make mistakes. If you can go out and relax and play, you can get a lot more done than playing tight," Walker said.
Rumors are that Walker's theory has been advanced to coach Tom Coughlin.
"I think there's definitely a place for being supportive," Coughlin told reporters today.
The coach's mood was positive, but tense, which is understandable, considering the fact the Jaguars are 2-3 and in danger of falling out of the playoffs race before the season reaches the midway point.
However, Coughlin said he has not told his players this Sunday's game is a "must-win" situation. "I don't use that term, at this point in time. It would be a great game to win," he said.
Quarterback Mark Brunell does believe the Jaguars are facing a must-win game. "This is a must-win game for us and that's how we have to approach it," Brunell said. "At 2-3, there has to be a great sense of urgency, but certainly not panic," Brunell added.
Coughlin may be reluctant to put the "must-win" tag on this game, for fear of causing his players to be tight. Who could blame him? After all, they introduced the subject.
"In this game, when you lose, you get beat at the line of scrimmage," Coughlin said, explaining losses to the Steelers and Colts in consecutive games. "That's one of the things we've attempted to improve upon," he said, when asked about criticisms that his team lacks toughness. "What it boils down to is can you stop the run and (can you) run? And we're not doing that."
Coughlin took some of the heat off his offensive line for a franchise-low 26 yards rushing in the loss to the Steelers. "It's not all their fault. You miss a cut here and a cut there and it makes the line look bad," Coughlin said, referring to running back Fred Taylor's performance this past Sunday.
"When you lose, all the nay-sayers come out and it's up to us to prove them wrong," Boselli said. "I think it's a lack of execution. I think what people are seeing is a lack of emotion," he added of the lack-of-toughness criticism.
The Jaguars have "lacked toughness" most noticeably in the red zone. They are ranked next to last in the league in red-zone efficiency.