The NFL is professional football, and that's key to remember for the rest of the season.
That was a major theme for several Jaguars veterans early this week in the wake of a home loss Sunday to the New York Jets. It was their second consecutive loss, and dropped them to 2-11, and although that record is nowhere near what the Jaguars expected or wanted in 2012, several key veterans – guard Uche Nwaneri and cornerback Rashean Mathis included – said Monday that can't dictate the rest of the season.
So, what must define the rest of the season? Professionalism, playing to win.
"You have to play for pride," Nwaneri said as the Jaguars began early preparations to play the Miami Dolphins (5-8) at Sun Life Stadium in Davie, Fla., Sunday.
This week, the Jaguars – ranked 31st in the NFL in total offense – will prepare for a team that also has struggled in recent weeks offensively. The Dolphins are ranked 29th in the NFL in total offense, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has slowed after a solid start, throwing eight touchdowns with 12 interceptions for the season with a quarterback rating of 72.5.
Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey returned to work Tuesday, a day after being hospitalized after feeling ill Monday morning. His message after the loss to the Jets was that while the Jaguars were disappointed again with the result, the team will continue to fight as it did until the end of a 17-10 loss and as it has done all season.
That's not ideal, but with three games remaining, it's the Jaguars' situation.
The Dolphins (5-8) have slipped from the postseason chase after a solid start, losing five of their last six games. The Dolphins have scored more than 20 points just three times this season, and only once in the last six games. That was a 24-21 victory over Seattle, but although the Dolphins are essentially out of the playoffs, Head Coach Joe Philbin said this week the team will continue to focus on winning rather than playing young players in place of veterans. "That's all I'm concerned about right now," Philbin said. The Dolphins also have been hurt by a difficult schedule, with four of their losses coming against teams with nine victories or more – Houston, New England, Indianapolis and San Francisco.
The Jaguars-Dolphins game at Sun Life Stadium in Davie, Fla., Sunday at 1 p.m. will be broadcast regionally on CBS and locally on WETV CBS 47 (Channel 6). Marv Albert will be on play-by-play with Rich Gannon on analysis.
Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin says
"(When you score) 13 points, it's hard to win games. It's on everybody. It's our responsibility."
Early matchup to watch
Dolphins left tackle Jonathan Martin versus Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin. Few would have predicted this as a matchup a month ago. But the Jaguars acquired Babin off waivers from the Eagles two weeks ago, and he registered a sack/forced fumble/fumble recovery in a loss to the Jets last week. This week, he will be matched up much of the game with Martin, who moved to the starting left tackle position this past Sunday with Jake Long (triceps) on injured reserve. Martin, a rookie second-round selection from Stanford, moved from right to left tackle after Long's injury, and with Long scheduled to become a free agent after the season, the team wants to find out of Martin can be the long-term answer at the spot. Martin allowed one sack and four hurries to 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith in a loss to San Francisco Sunday.
Player to watch
Montell Owens, Jaguars running back. Owens, a two-time Pro Bowl selection as a special teams player, started at running back against the Jets Sunday – the first start of his seven-year career at running back. In so doing, Owens became the fourth player to start at running back this season, with Maurice Jones-Drew out the past seven games with a foot sprain, Jalen Parmele on injured reserve and Rashad Jennings out last week with a concussion. Owens, who had rushed for 112 yards on 21 career carries entering the game, rushed for 91 yards on 14 carries against the Jets, and his 32-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter pulled the Jaguars to within seven points. Mularkey said Sunday Owens likely will be the No. 1 option at running back moving forward unless Jones-Drew returns.
What to watch
- The Jaguars will enter the week with Owens starting at running back, with Richard Murphy potentially the top backup. Jordan Todmon sustained a calf injury Sunday and the team re-signed Keith Toston on Tuesday morning.
- Eben Britton will likely get a second consecutive start at left guard. He started Sunday in place of rookie Mike Brewster, and Brewster was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a hand injury.
- A focus early in the week will be the status of Cecil Shorts III. The second-year wide receiver missed the loss to the Jets with a concussion, and rookie Kevin Ellliott was inconsistent in his place. Rookie Justin Blackmon caught six passes for 57 yards against the Jets, with Elliott catching three for 38. Third receiver Jordan Shipley caught five passes for 55 yards, while the other receivers who were active – recently signed Toney Clemons and Quan Cosby – did not have a reception.