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Pressing forward


Dirk Koetter said the situation is clear.

Koetter, the Jaguars' fifth-year offensive coordinator, said while Blaine Gabbert is going through a learning process expected for a rookie quarterback, that doesn't change his answer when asked the No. 1 issue with the Jaguars' struggling offense.

 "Quarterback," Koetter said Thursday as the Jaguars (2-5) prepared to play the Houston Texans (4-3) at Reliant Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.

"The quarterback's the No. 1 issue. If we play more consistently at quarterback, well have a better pass offense. That's no big secret."

The Jaguars, despite a dramatic improvement defensively this season, have lost five of their first seven games, with a big reason the struggles an offense that is ranked No. 32 in the NFL in total offense despite the presence of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the AFC's leading rusher.

The Jaguars have scored just 12 points a game, and the passing offense is ranked No. 32 in the NFL.

"We're all pressing in the passing game," Koetter said. "We realize we're struggling in that area, and I think we have guys pressing. Normally, when you're pressing it doesn't help you. It makes it worse. It's not where it needs to be right now.

"We're aware of that. We're working on it. It's not just a wave-your-magic-wand-and-fix-it thing."

The key to improvement, Koetter said, is improvement from Gabbert, particularly in the areas of pocket presence and footwork.

Koetter said the positive is that the issue is identifiable and fixable.

"The No. 1 thing has to be getting your quarterback to set his feet, to step up in the pocket, now the protection comes in and get the guys open and throw it them," Koetter said. "When we do that on a consistent basis, we'll have a better pass offense."

The more-difficult question: How long does that process take?

"That's experience," Koetter said. "You look at the top quarterbacks in the league and they seem to have an uncanny ability to know how long they can hang in the pocket and when they have to let the ball go out. I would just say that's something that comes with time.

"Sometimes, you don't know , 'What do we need to fix?' When you know, you want that thing to happen overnight. You want to say, 'Hey, fix this and then it's fixed forever.' It's just not that easy."

Koetter said twice during a victory over the Ravens Monday Gabbert correctly avoided a free rusher on a play that easily could have led to a sack.

"At times, he flashes good pocket presence," Koetter said. "It's just inconsistent in that area."

Koetter said Gabbert has shown positives to balance the issues. He sees the field well, and is very coachable, Koetter said. Koetter also said there have been times this season when Gabbert has shown correct footwork and awareness.

"You've seen him do it before, in a game or practice, so you assume he's going to do it that way every time," Koetter said. "When they don't do it every time, you say, 'Well, I just saw you make that play in a practice or a game. We want you to show consistency and make that play time and time again. That's what the NFL is.' It just comes back to experience. The frustrating part is when Blaine has demonstrated he can do a certain play, certain footwork, execute it properly, and the next time it comes up, it isn't the same.

"Any quarterback issues come from consistent footwork, consist weight transfer – stepping into the throw, transferring weight. Right now, we're really focused on Blaine being on balance and stepping into his throws. When he does that, he's pretty accurate."

Also Thursday:

*Koetter addressed the play this season of tight end Marcedes Lewis, who has caught 11 passes for 129 yards after catching 58 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. "Some of it comes down to chances," Koetter said. "We seemed to always be able to put Marcedes in a position to score touchdowns last year. We try to do that every week. We haven't always been in a position to." Lewis had dropped multiple touchdown passes this season, including one against the Ravens this past Monday. "None of those catches has been flatout easy catches," Koetter said, "but I'm sure they're ones he expects himself to make."

*Fullback Brock Bolen (calf), OL Eben Britton (back) and S Courtney Greene (hamstring) did not participate in practice for a second consecutive day, and defensive end John Chick did not participate because of an abdomen injury.

*Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, fullback Greg Jones, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, defensive end Aaron Kampman and cornerback Rashean Mathis returned to full participation after being limited Wednesday for non-injury related reasons.

*Wide receiver WR Jason Hill was limited with a wrist injury after working full Wednesday.

*Linebacker Clint Session (elbow) and guard/center Jason Spitz (quadriceps) returned to full participation after being limited Wednesday.

*Koetter also discussed Jones-Drew's three fumbles Monday against the Ravens. "Maurice is not a fumbler," Koetter said. "He has not been a fumbler in his career. Our guys were extremely geeked up for that Ravens game. Our backs were against the wall and we talked a lot during the week as an offense about, 'Our defense is playing well. We need to do our part.' Our guys were bound and determined to make that a physical game.  Maurice has a tendency to put a lot of pressure on himself to carry the load." Koetter said he spoke to Jones-Drew, who rushed for 105 yards on 30 carries Monday to become the first back this season to rush for more than 100 yards against Baltimore, after the game. "Maurice was very bothered by the fact that the ball was on the ground," Koetter said. "That's not him. I don't think it's anything to worry about long-term. I don't see it as a problem long-term."

*Session said Thursday that Monday's victory over Baltimore was probably his most productive game since joining the Jaguars as a free agent in July. He registered four tackles and a tackle for loss. "There's so much that goes into this game," Session said. "This year was ridiculous, because we had to deal with the lockout. We didn't get that three months to get with our teams and study. You're basically put in an abbreviated rookie role when you get here, then things start to pick up. It's starting to pick up and work pretty well." Session said his comfort level on and off the field has increased. "You get settled off the field and you get more settled on the field," he said. "That's what's starting to kick in now. On the field, you have to develop an understanding of the scheme. Teams might run a similar scheme, but nobody runs the same scheme. That can be a difference between you making a TFL or a normal tackle. I've survived in this league by making big plays, and that's what I prefer."

*Koetter also said while the addition of wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker will enable the Jaguars to play wide receiver Mike Thomas inside more, Thomas also will have a role on the outside. Koetter said Sims-Walker played more Monday in his first game since re-signing last week because Sims-Walker was the lone receiver in the team's two-back, two-tight end package. The Jaguars had more success running from that formation than they anticipated, and Koetter said that led to Sims-Walker playing more than was originally expected. "You definitely have not seen the last of Mike Thomas as an outside receiver."

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