JACKSONVILLE – His focus is on the immediate future, and therefore on a number.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell met with the media Thursday morning, discussing a difficult performance this past Sunday – and an equally difficult task when facing the New York Giants at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
"Twenty-six," Caldwell said. "Twenty-six."
Twenty-six is the number of Giants running back Saquon Barkley – and while there are many reasons the Giants are 5-1 and one of the surprise teams of the 2022 NFL season, Barkley is perhaps the biggest reason they have improved dramatically after finishing 4-13 in 2021.
"He's a game-changer," Caldwell said.
Barkley, the No. 2 overall selection by the Giants in the 2018 NFL Draft, rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie but hasn't played a full season since. He sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and has returned to his pre-injury form with 616 yards and four touchdowns rushing in six games this season.
"He's special," Caldwell said. "He has great vision. He can find a hole when it's not there and their offensive line is playing well. They're protecting the quarterback and also opening up holes. The quarterback (Daniel Jones) is another dynamic. He's a guy who can throw the ball on time and use his legs when he needs to to get out of trouble and make plays."
Caldwell on Thursday also discussed a Jaguars defense that ranks 11th in the NFL in yards allowed (338.8 yards per game) and ninth in points allowed (19.0) – but that allowed four touchdowns and a field goal on the final five drives in a 34-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday.
"It just comes down to really making plays," Caldwell said. "The ball was coming out. We were in leverage sometimes and sometimes we were out of leverage. We'll learn from it. We're ready to get it fixed."
Colts quarterback Matt Ryan completed 42 of 58 passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns in an up-tempo scheme heavy on crossing routes with Ryan throwing quickly against man-to-man coverage. Caldwell on Thursday discussed veteran cornerback Shaq Griffin, who committed two pass-interference penalties and allowed a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Alex Pierce with :17 remaining.
"They make plays, we make plays and we just have to make more plays," Caldwell said. "We have confidence Shaq can go back out there and do it. There's no loss of confidence in him. We're just ready for him to get another shot.
"He's a veteran and he has been consistent throughout his career. As a corner, you have plays, you have to have a short memory. He does that. He moves on. He's back in here, trying to gt back healthy and trying to do the things we want him do to."
- The Jaguars through six games are sixth in the NFL with 13 fourth-down attempts and have converted 38.5 percent – which is 21st in the NFL. All five of the Jaguars' successful fourth-down conversions have extended drives that ended in touchdowns. "You just know he's doing whatever it takes to win," offensive coordinator Press Taylor said. "He (Head Coach Doug Pederson) is trying to give us an opportunity to win the game at each situation. It's fun to be a part of. It's great when you have extra downs sometimes to get a first downs. It's third-and-two, and you think, 'All right, if we just get half here …' or, 'If we try something, there's a good chance we get another down.' You can be aggressive in that mindset in terms of scheming things up."
- Taylor on reserve running back JaMycal Hasty, who scored on a 61-yard touchdown run Sunday: "You just kind of get a feel for how a back sees certain things. The cool part about that was we ran it in practice and said, 'Hey, just a reminder: You need one yard.' He said, 'Coach, I'm going to score.' He did a great job hitting it, and then it opened up pretty well. Everybody adjusted pretty well and he was able to finish things."
- Defensive end Foley Fatukasi practiced limited Thursday for a second consecutive day after missing the last two games with a quad injury. Griffin (back) and wide receiver Jamal Agnew (knee) both missed practice for a second consecutive day. Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (hamstring), DaVon Hamilton (foot) and inside linebacker Foye Oluokun (calf) all practiced limited for a second consecutive day.