JACKSONVILLE – Here are ten things the Jacksonville Jaguars must do to beat the Oakland Raiders Sunday . . .
1. Forget the opener.That's a lot of forgettin' to do, true, because not a lot was pretty about the opener – a 28-2 loss at home to Kansas City. But the NFL is a week-to-week league about matchups, game-planning and momentum. A victory against Oakland, and a lot of the negative talk from the opener feels a lot further away.
2. Forget the past.See? More forgettin'. Longtime Jaguars followers know all about the West Coast woes around this team. Four consecutive losses since 2004. Those trips have nothing to do with first-year Head Coach Gus Bradley or first-year General Manager David Caldwell. No time to break that trend like the present. A victory would give the team a real boost after a disappointing opener, but it would also shatter what had been a pretty gripping West Coast phobia for a long time.
3. Stop Terrelle Pryor.The Raiders nearly won in Indianapolis in the opener. Pryor, Oakland's new starting quarterback, was the main reason, throwing for more than 200 yards and running for more than 100. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith hurt the Jaguars on scrambles in the opener. The Raiders depend on Pryor's running a lot more than the Chiefs depend on Smith's, and he's quicker to take off and run. Pass rush will be a focus for the jaguars Sunday, but they have to be just as aware of not letting Pryor get lanes to run.
- Improve on the offensive line. **The talk all offseason was that this was a dramatically improved area for the Jaguars. That wasn't the case in the opener. The line allowed six sacks, and the team finished with just 71 yards rushing. There are a lot of young skill players in the lineup right now, and whatever the age of the quarterback, he needs time to throw. This was supposed to be a team strength. It needs to play that way. Key for the Jaguars will be left tackle Eugene Monroe, who will face defensive end Lamarr Houston, who had six hurries, a hit on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and a sack in the regular-season opener.
5. Don't believe the hype.Forget the preseason talk around the Raiders. A ton of it has been that this will be the worst team in the NFL, and that they'll be fighting for the No. 1 draft choice come December. Whatever. The Raiders nearly upset the Colts last week and will come into this game believing they should win. Besides, the Jaguars are a long way from good enough yet to look beyond any opponent. This game will be tough.
6. Get Jones-Drew involved.Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew had six first-half carries against the Chiefs, and finished with 15 carries for 45 yards. The Jaguars haven't seen what Jones-Drew can do in this offense, coming off season-ending foot surgery. Is he healthy? Is he ready? He says yes, and it might be time to find out for sure. The line has to play better in front of him, but the offense needs the running game to produce.
- Get Cecil Shorts III involved.** It won't be easy. Without Justin Blackmon and Marcedes Lewis in the game, the Chiefs were able to focus on Shorts and that made it more difficult to get the Jaguars' best offensive player involved. Still, there were chances. An early interception thrown by Gabbert came on a play on which Shorts seemed to have a chance to get a step on a defender. Shorts will have a way to get open at least on occasion. Take advantage of those occasions.
8. Rush the passer.You get the idea this is going to be a season-long theme, because outside of Leo defensive end Jason Babin there's just not a pure pass rusher on the roster. This is going to be a team that relies on good coverage, big effort and scheming to get to the quarterback. With Pryor's ability to scramble, this may not be the day for all-out blitzing, but you still need to pressure the young player into mistakes.
9. Get turnovers.The Jaguars had their hands on one interception in the first half Sunday, and couldn't hold on. They had a blocked punt for a safety, but didn't create any turnovers. Gus Bradley and the Jaguars' coaches emphasized going for the ball and creating turnovers defensively all offseason for a couple of reasons. One is that it's the culture Bradley wants to create, and the other is that turnovers are the best way for a young defense and a young team to turn games around. Get one early and get more than one.
10. Just win.OK, that's the mantra of the late Al Davis, the former Raiders owner and heart and soul of the organization. But that's what the Jaguars must do. It doesn't matter how and it doesn't matter by how much. Find a way to win. Do that, and you're 1-1 and a lot of the bad feeling this past week goes quickly away.