JACKSONVILLE – New week, same messages.
Head Coach Doug Pederson on Tuesday said that's the Jaguars' reality with two games remaining in the 2023 regular season. The season objectives remain in reach, and eliminating self-inflicted mistakes – and improving tackling – remain the key to reaching them.
"I just have to keep reminding them of our goals," Pederson said.
Those goals include winning a second consecutive AFC South title, which the 8-7 Jaguars – despite losing their last four games – can do Sunday. The path to reaching that goal Sunday is three-pronged:
- A Jaguars victory over the Carolina Panthers (2-13) at EverBank Stadium at 1 p.m.
- A Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) victory over the Indianapolis Colts (8-7) in Indianapolis at 1 p.m.
- A Tennessee Titans (5-10) victory over the Houston Texans (8-7) in Houston at 1 p.m.
If those three things happen, the Jaguars will clinch the South because neither the Colts nor Texans could finish in front of them in the division. The Jaguars, who visit the Titans in Week 18, would win the South over the Colts or Texans in the event of a first-place tie with either team because of season-ending tiebreaker advantages.
The Jaguars are assured of winning the South with victories in their final two games no matter how the Colts and Texans fare.
"We have to keep encouraging the guys to stay focused on that," Pederson said. "Everything's still right in front of us. We have a great opportunity this week to just go 1-0 and that's our goal. You have to keep that in perspective, but the bottom line is we just have to play better."
The Jaguars on Sunday went 20-0 at halftime and 30-0 late in the third quarter. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence left the game with a sprained AC joint after throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Calvin Ridley late in the third quarter.
Pederson on Tuesday said Lawrence's status for Sunday and for Wednesday practice is uncertain, focusing much of his "next-day" media availability on the need continued need to correct avoidable mistakes.
"We didn't play good on Sunday," Pederson said. "We made too many mistakes that we have to fix as coaches and players. It's something we have to address and we have to make a conscious effort to do that this week."
Pederson added, "I've had conversations with players the last couple of days and guys are still locked in and focused. It is not like they're going out there and trying to make these mistakes. We just have to be more aware of what's happening. As coaches, we have to keep continuing to coach them up and put our players in positions to be successful in game day. I don't feel like they're tuning out at all."
The Jaguars committed four turnovers Sunday and have 15 in the last three games. Turnovers by Lawrence – two interceptions and a lost fumble – led to all three Tampa Bay touchdowns.
"It's the things that are within our grasp or within our control we're not doing," Pederson said. "A month or so ago, we were doing some things extremely well. Right now we're not and the turnovers are the biggest thing. That's the biggest thing right now."
Pederson also mentioned tackling when discussing ways to improve in the final two games.
"Everybody wants to point the finger somewhere," he said. "We have to do a better job at taking care of the football. It's not about the plays. We have to tackle better and we have to take care of the football, bottom line. We do those two things, those give us a chance to win football games.
"If we don't, then we're going to be talking about this again. Those are the glaring differences right now between winning and losing."
NOTABLE - INJURY UPDATES
- Safety/special teams ace Daniel Thomas sustained a broken left forearm Sunday, and Pederson said Tuesday Thomas "is going to miss some time." Rookie right tackle Anton Harrison sustained a back injury, with Pederson saying Harrison should be fine this week. Pederson also said wide receiver Zay Jones is expected to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday with a hamstring issue.
- With left tackle Cam Robinson eligible to return from injured reserve this week, Pederson on Tuesday said he is optimistic the seventh-year veteran could play Sunday. Robinson, who missed the first four games of the season under league suspension, started the next seven games before sustaining a knee injury in the Jaguars' last victory – 24-21 over the Houston Texans November 26. While Harrison, right guard Brandon Scherff and center Luke Fortner have started all 15 games, the left side of the line has been less consistent. Four players – Ben Bartch, Walker Little, Tyler Shatley and Ezra Cleveland – have started at left guard. Three players – Robinson, Little and Cleveland – have started at left tackle, with veteran Blake Hance also playing there. Pederson said Robinson will practice Wednesday. "We've had our share of lineup changes," Pederson said. "I think we have the right guys up front. We just have to get them all playing together, the same five guys playing together, and that's where you get the continuity and consistency. We're hopeful this week we get Cam and plug him back in. Cam brings a level of physicality. He brings some excitement and some enthusiasm to that O-line. So it's something that we're looking forward to." Pederson said Little likely would be the swing tackle if Robinson starts Sunday.