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Ten things...


So much national media to dislike, so little time.

If there's a motto for Jaguars followers as the team prepares for its preseason finale against Atlanta, that has been it, what with everybody from ESPN The Magazine to Sports Illustrated prognosticating dismal days this season.

Fear not. Worry not.

Pay attention even less, because prognostications mean little in the NFL, where games and seasons are decided not by preseason polls and rankings, but by what happens on the field.

What happens on the field is often dictated by what happens in training camp, and in the locker room, and in how a team prepares, and that's why it's OK to be confident about this version of the Jaguars, the first version with Shad Khan as owner and Mike Mularkey as head coach.

What's going on on the field is good. The attitude is good. The approach is good. The plan is good. This is a well-coached team that believes in what it's doing. That means a lot in the NFL.

I don't know that this team will be as good this year as it will next year, and I don't know that it will be as good to start the season as it will be to finish.

But will it be competitive? Will it show progress early, and will it have a chance to win? Will it be exciting, and will it give fans hope? Yes, yes, yes, and mostly things are moving in the right direction, so dislike the national media all you want, and be as angry as you want, but fear not and worry not.

Just watch tonight's game against the Falcons, know that there are bright days ahead, and while you're doing that, keep in mind 10 things the Jaguars must do against the Falcons:

10) Get in and get out.The Jaguars' starters will play about 10-to-12 plays. That's more than enough. Get in, get a good feeling and get healthy. That's the first-teamers' job Thursday.

9) Get a stop.The defense struggled against the Ravens last week, allowing . . . well, allowing a lot. That's no way to go into the regular season. Get a stop when you're in the game and move on.

8) Get a touchdown.The offense played well the first two weeks of the preseason. In Week 3, there were too many long-yardage situations and near-misses. With the regular season looming, it's time to build some confidence. Get a good drive, and get some rhythm.

7) Stay in third-and-manageable.This isn't an offense that can overcome mistakes on early downs. Few offenses are. Keeping third downs under 5 yards will be key – and not just Thursday night.

6) Get Robinson involved.Whether he catches a pass or two or not won't dictate Laurent Robinson's season, but getting him involved a bit would have to help his confidence.

5) Protect Gabbert.The offensive line has done this well most of the preseason. Make that a preseason-long trend. Keep him clean and set a tone.

4) Sort out the linebackers.Joshua Jones. Julian Stanford. Brandon Marshall. J.K. Shaffer. One or more of the rookie linebackers will make the team. All certainly won't, and it's hard to tell out of that group who has an edge. Thursday will go a long way toward figuring it out.

3) Find your returner.Will it be Mike Thomas or Jalen Parmele returning kickoffs? Will Mike Thomas return punts, or will someone else emerge? The guess here is Parmele returns kicks and Thomas returns puts, but that's just a guess and Thursday will have a bearing on that outcome.

2) Pop the bubble.This is a night for evaluation, deciding roster spots and figuring out who on the bubble makes the team. Friday is cut down day, and lives and careers will change.

1) Stay healthy.And so, we're sort of back to where we began, but staying healthy is that important. This team is thin at spots such as tight end and defensive end. You don't want to get thinner Thursday.

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