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Still a one-game season


In at least one sense, things didn't change much around the Jaguars this week.

The Jaguars, after a disappointing start to the season, had perhaps the most eventful week in the history of the franchise, eventful enough that the firing of their head coach wasn't even the week's biggest news.

Neither was the signing of their general manager to a contract extension.

But while the biggest news of the week was Owner Wayne Weaver announcing he had agreed to sell the franchise to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan, by week's end all of the aforementioned news had at least somewhat dwindled to the background.

A new coach? A new owner? A stable GM?

To Jaguars players, none was as important as what will happen Monday night.

That's when the Jaguars will play a game, and while it's not a game with realistic playoff implications, it's one the Jaguars are taking very seriously.

"It' a one-game season," Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said as the Jaguars (3-8) prepared to play the San Diego Chargers (4-7) at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville Monday at 8:30 p.m.

"We have to take it one game at a time and we have to make every game count than we have left in the season."

Such has been the Jaguars' approach through the last month.

Even as playoff hopes dwindled in a slew of last-minute losses that eventually helped lead to the firing of Jack Del Rio late in his ninth season as head coach, the Jaguars played hard most games, and managed to remain competitive.

But Weaver on Tuesday said it was unfair to leave Del Rio twisting in the wind. On the same day, he announced the decision to sell, he announced that Del Rio was fired, naming defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the team's interim coach.

Change around EverBank came quickly.

The day after Del Rio's firing, the Jaguars announced the firing of wide receivers coach Johnny Cox, whose group had underperformed much of the season. The Jaguars also announced that Mike Sheppard had moved from quarterbacks coach to wide receivers, with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter adding  the role of quarterbacks coach.

On the same day, veteran wide receiver Jason Hill was released.

The day after those moves, the Jaguars held their first practice under Tucker, with the consensus throughout the locker room that the crisp, up-tempo practice was the team's best of the season.

"We're taking it week-by-week, day-by-day," rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "That's what Coach Tuck told us to do and we're having fun coming to work. We're getting better, we're doing the things the right way. We're handling things like professionals and we expect that out of each other.

"We've just got to stay true to that process and things will turn around."

Tucker said in a week of distractions the focus remained obvious.

 "We're going to do everything that we possibly can to put our best foot forward on Monday night, and that starts with everything we're doing in preparation during the week," Tucker said. "Ultimately winning is how we're judged. We're judged on wins and losses, and we'd love be in the left hand column at the end of the day."

And while the week that just passed was a unique one, cornerback Drew Coleman said when it comes to the Jaguars' possible distractions, "San Diego don't care.

"We've got to get better fundamentally, and try to come out with a win," he said. "It's still a one-game season. We'll take this game one play at a time. Our focus isn't on the last game, or Thursday. All of our focus in on the next play, the next game. The season might be over as far as playoffs, but you still have to build on next year."

Said Nwaneri, "You have to put your head into your work. You can't focus on things you have no control over. At the end of the day, if you do that, it's going to affect your level of focus and your control over what you do. A lot of things that happened this week that's more than a lot of players will see in their lifetime.

"To have a drastic shift from one spectrum to the other is a very rare thing. I never witnessed things go down the way they went down. The only thing I know to do is focus on the field, on what we do on Monday."

The game will be the last nationally televised game in Jacksonville with Weaver as the owner, as well as the first since it was announced that Khan is buying the team. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew said while it would be special to win Weaver's last nationally-televised home game, "We're not really worried about that."

"What we're trying to do is just get better every day," Jones-Drew said.

The Jaguars will enter the game with a defense further depleted by injuries. Cornerback Will Middleton on Saturday was placed on injured reserve, making him the third Jaguars cornerback in the last month to go on the season-ending list. Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, the team's starting cornerbacks, were placed on IR in recent weeks, leaving rookie free agent Kevin Rutland to likely start opposite Ashton Youboty, a veteran who joined the team in mid-November.

The Jaguars got better injury news late in the week, when defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said he expects to play for the first time since sustaining an ankle injury at Houston shortly before the November 6 bye week.

Knighton had said last week he wasn't sure if he would be able to return this season, but the ankle made progress. Tucker said late in the week he believes Knighton has a chance to play and if he does play, he will start.

"We're just trying to find some positive in a season that hasn't been real positive," Knighton said. "We're trying to find the right formula to finish with some good times.

"Hopefully, we can get some momentum in these last five games and finish the right way."

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