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Notes and observations: "He wants the ball"


JACKSONVILLE – This much Nathaniel Hackett knows about Leonard Fournette:

"He wants it. He's a competitive guy. He wants the ball."

Something else the Jaguars' offensive coordinator knows about the Jaguars' rookie running back and the entire running game: They're showing progress. Hackett said he saw that against the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday in the regular-season finale.

And he said that's a positive entering the postseason.

"Without a doubt," Hackett said as the AFC South Champion Jaguars (10-6) prepared to play the Buffalo Bills (9-7) in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at EverBank Field Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

Fournette, who finished the season with 1,040 yards and nine rushing touchdowns, rushed for 69 yards on 19 carries against the Titans. He also caught four passes for 67 yards, with the 136 total yards his fourth-highest total of the season and highest since mid-October.

"That was something we wanted to be sure that we saw: the line of scrimmage move," Hackett said. "We wanted to see Leonard get positive yards, especially on contact. That gave us a good sense of what's to come."

All three Jaguars coordinators – Hackett on offense, Todd Wash on defense and Joe DeCamillis on special teams – spoke to the media Thursday. Notes and observations from Coordinator Thursday:

*Hackett called Blake Bortles' 2017 season "a roller coaster," emphasizing that while the quarterback is in his fourth NFL season, "I look at it as his first year in the system. There are going to be growing pains. There are some really good things and there are some things where you go, 'Oh, don't do that.' That's part of that process, but the biggest thing for me that I've seen is the different people who have been in that huddle and how he has been able to change and work with them and still be able to be successful, move the ball and score a lot of points.'' …

*Wash addressed the increase in explosive plays allowed in recent weeks. The Jaguars finished the season ranked No. 2 in the NFL in total defense, but allowed touchdowns of 66, 30, 25, 26, 61, 74, 40, 29 and 52 yards over the last six games. "There are some things obviously we've got to get cleaned up," Wash said. "I said it a couple of weeks ago: 'Trying to get into the perfect call, putting too many checks into the defense…' We've got to just let them (the players) play. We need to eliminate the long plays. We just need to get them down and if there's a blade of grass I think we have a good chance to defend it." …

*DeCamillis expressed confidence that first-year wide receiver Jaydon Mickens would respond well after twice muffing punts and being called for an unnecessary roughness penalty on a first-half muff against the Titans Sunday. "He made a mistake, and I think he was aggressive in what he did and too reckless," DeCamillis said. "I think he'll learn from that. He's a kid that studies and a kid that works. We have all the confidence in the world he's going to be rebound." Mickens was the NFL's fifth-leading punt returner with a 10.3-yards-per-return average and a touchdown this season, and he twice this season was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. …

*DeCamillis on the postseason: "The thing we've talked about all week is just the speed, and how it's faster. There are three speeds, in my opinion. There's preseason speed. There's regular-season speed. And there's playoff speed. They're going to see it Sunday. We've tried to show them some playoff tapes. We've tried to show them how fast it looks, how clean things look. They're going to play ball. That's what they need to do. It's just another game, but it's going to be faster." …

*Wide receiver Marqise Lee (ankle) and running back T.J. Yeldon (illness) were the only two Jaguars players not practicing Thursday, with Lee missing a second consecutive day and Yeldon having practiced on Wednesday. Lee has missed the last two games with a high-ankle sprain. …

*Left tackle Cam Robinson (abdomen) and defensive tackle Abry Jones (back) practiced full after working limited on Wednesday. Both players missed the regular-season finale. Linebacker Donald Payne (quadriceps) and tight end Marcedes Lewis (ankle) worked limited Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday, and center Brandon Linder (shoulder) was limited Thursday. Bortles (right wrist) worked full. …

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