JACKSONVILLE – Here are 10 things the Jacksonville Jaguars must do to beat the Arizona Cardinals at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday . . .
1. Play better.This was No. 1 last week, so we'll go here again. Although the Jaguars' defense made enough game-changing plays Sunday to beat the Titans, that unit could play better. The offense absolutely could. The Jaguars aren't good enough to let down and get a victory. But if they keep playing better, they have a chance.
2. Run.Easier said than done this season, and nothing was easy about the Jaguars' running game Sunday. The Jaguars averaged just 1.8 yards per carry, and nothing the Jaguars tried – Maurice Jones-Drew, Denard Robinson or Jordan Todman – worked well enough. Without Justin Blackmon to spread the field, running will be tougher, but you need more than two yards a carry.
3. Maintain momentum . . .Momentum? After one victory? Well, yes, because the Jaguars did get a victory last week, and that only enhanced a good vibe in the locker room. The way to maintain that momentum is to keep doing the things that got you a victory last week – staying focused on the process. As cliché as that sounds, that's what the Jaguars are about during this first season of the building process, so that's what's needed.
4….and bring that momentum home.It's no secret the Jaguars have struggled at home this season – as in, 11 points in three games at EverBank Field. That's not indicative of the entire body of work for this team this season, but that's what the home crowd has seen. The energy in the locker room after the victory over Tennessee last week was real. The home crowd wants to see that. They want this team to succeed. Give the home fans something to feel good about. They deserve it.
5. Get better quarterback play.Chad Henne has started the last four games in place of Blaine Gabbert, and as was the case when Gabbert was starting, results have been mixed. Henne led a couple of impressive touchdown drives last week, but also threw two interceptions. The circumstances are tough, especially without Blackmon, but if the team is going to build on its first victory, the quarterback performance must be more consistent.
6. Listen to Bradley.Well, duh, right? You must listen to your coach. But for this team, that's especially true. The Jaguars made it through a difficult first half of the season and through an equally difficult bye, coming out on the other side playing their best game of the season. They did that by listening to Bradley, particularly his message of continuing to get better and letting the victories and losses take care of themselves. Keep doing that. This is no time to stray from approach.
7. Get Cecil Shorts III involved.That's also easier said than done with Blackmon. But getting Shorts involved early helps get Mike Brown involved later. The Jaguars haven't shown they can run consistently and until they do, they need to get some plays in the passing game. There haven't been many of those with Blackmon out of the lineup, but they're needed.
8. Don't overlook this team.How could a 1-8 team overlook a 5-4 team? Well, the Jaguars almost certainly won't. The Cardinals aren't high-profile and few nationally have talked about them this season, but they have won their last two games, are 5-4 and have played their way into the NFC playoff chase. This won't be a case of catching a team stumbling toward the finish. The Cardinals will be ready. Prepare like it.
9. Get the Cardinals' front blocked.This won't be easy. As good as one of the Cardinals' 3-4 ends, Darnell Dockett is, the other – Calais Campbell – is even better. Many observers place Campbell only behind J.J. Watt of the Texans among 3-4 defensive ends. The Jaguars' offensive line has struggled this season, particularly run-blocking. It gets no easier Sunday.
10. Stop Larry Fitzgerald.Quarterback Carson Palmer has struggled with turnovers this season, but the Cardinals' offense still has been functional enough – along with the defense – to keep the team in contention. A huge reason is Fitzgerald. The Jaguars' secondary is perhaps the strength of the defense, and it certainly is a group with a bright future. But outside of perhaps Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, it probably hasn't faced quite the individual test Fitzgerald will pose Sunday.
10(a).Remember Carson!A bonus "thing" in this week's "10 things" – special for this week. And this may be more for the fans than the players. Whatever Palmer meant this week when he talked about the crowd being less than sold-out Sunday at the 'Bank, it didn't sit well with Jaguars fans. All right, then. Prove him wrong. Be proud. Be loud. Dare we say, "Be Bold?"