JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's Wednesday Jaguars notes and observations: On what RB Carlos Hyde means for offensive identity, cracking the defense's Da Vinci Code and increasing takeaways
1.Newly-acquired running back Carlos Hyde seems likely to play extensively Sunday, a potential positive for an offense seeking its identity. Running back Leonard Fournette, a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie last season, missed practice Wednesday with the hamstring issue that has cost him five of the last six games – and his injury is one of several hampering what last season was the NFL's top-ranked running game. Left tackle Cam Robinson is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Marqise Lee – the team's best blocking wide receiver – is out for the season with a knee injury. Tight end Austin Seferian Jenkins (core muscle) is on injured reserve and third-team running back Corey Grant is out for the season with a foot injury. "Make no mistake about it, we have had quite a few injuries on offense and people are brought here or drafted and developed here to play a certain type of football," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "Not to say that we can't play any other way, but that's what we have worked on. If we can play to the identity that we want to play, then we feel that will help us become a better team and start winning some games." Hyde, acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns Friday, has rushed for 382 yards and five touchdowns on 114 carries in five games this season.
2.Free safety Tashaun Gipson on Wednesday spoke of the difference in the Jaguars' defense this season compared to last season. While the unit ranks No. 2 in the NFL in yards allowed and No. 1 in passing defense, the defense also allowed 23 points to Kansas City, 40 to Dallas and 20 to Houston. While many of those points – including 10 against Houston – came after the offense committed turnovers deep in Jaguars territory, Gipson still said the Jaguars still need to "crack the Da Vinci code, get out of this sunken place and start playing our type of football. Over the last three weeks, specifically the last two, it's just been downright bad football played on our end. We talk this talk … going out there and playing and laying eggs is unacceptable." Gipson was asked about the Jaguars having played with a "chip" on their shoulders last season. "That chip is what drove us and fed us last year," Gipson said. "Guys aren't playing with the same chip and it's not specifically singling out anybody. It's just collectively we're not playing with that type of urgency, that type of aggression – and it's starting to show. You can tell teams are comfortable now against this defense whereas last year teams weren't comfortable. Teams are testing us, and great teams respond to that."
3.Giveaways and takeaways are a major focus this week, with Marrone emphasizing improving the team's minus-12 ratio. The Jaguars have committed 17 turnovers while the defense has forced just five turnovers after forcing 33 last season. The Jaguars haven't forced a turnover in the last two games, prompting Marrone to emphasize the area in practice Wednesday – including having defensive linemen working on recovering fumbles early in practice. "Whatever you put emphasis on is going to carry over into the game," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "Hopefully, it will take over and turn into production. Said linebacker Telvin Smith: "I think you just have to play and execute. When you focus on playing hard, turnovers come. When you focus on trying to get turnovers, then you're focused on trying to get turnovers.
4.Marrone on Wednesday called the Jaguars' current three-game losing streak a group effort. "It's everyone, and it's all of us as coaches," Marrone said. "The first thing that comes to mind is, 'I have to do a better job when it comes to me.' That's what I have to do – I have to do a better job with this team in all areas, and we all need to take our level up." Toward that end, Marrone on Wednesday showed players plays from the team's 3-1 start as a reminder of how it should play. "We're not playing like the team we want to play or should play," Marrone said. The Jaguars were outscored 57-0 in the first half of the last three games. "It's always fun when you see yourself doing good, making plays," Gipson said of seeing the early-season clips. "To me, it just showed that we're not far off. It's little things, here and there. He didn't show clips from last year. He just showed, 'When it's good, it's good. When it's bad, it's bad.' When you look at each game, there's usually about four or five plays that can take an OK game and make it bad. If you make those five plays, it can take an OK game and make it a great game. We're just not making those plays."