JACKSONVILLE – New week, familiar story.
Doesn't it sort of feel that way as Jaguars-Ravens approaches?
The Jaguars on Sunday will play a team that's struggling. On paper, there are reasons it could be – and maybe even should be – a winnable game.
The Ravens are without wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., an enormously critical offensive player. They're without defensive end Terrell Suggs, an enormously critical defensive player.
They are struggling to create turnovers, and their uncharacteristic 2-6 record has the normally competitive, consistent franchise in last place in the AFC North.
So, this is a chance for the Jaguars to win, right? This is a chance to move to within a game of first place in the AFC South, right?
This is a chance to win on the road for the first time since 2013, right?
Yes, yes, yes, but the Jaguars have had similar chances before this season. Not once, not twice, but multiple times.
The Jaguars have been in the lead or within a score in seven of eight games this season. They have won two of those games. Familiar, frustrating themes such as mistakes, turnovers and the inability to make big plays at big times have kept them from being .500, maybe even better.
If the Jaguars eliminate mistakes, and make key plays … then yes, Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore is winnable. And a lot of games the rest of the way will be winnable.
Can the Jaguars do what it takes to win Sunday? To win as the season continues? Stay tuned.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to make that happen:
1)Close. Despite a brief respite with a Week 7 victory over Buffalo in London, the ability to close out games remains the Jaguars' pressing issue. The Jaguars are good enough to be in a lot of tight games. So far, they haven't been good enough to win a lot them. That means they're better than they were, but it's a frustrating version of better.
2)Protect Blake Bortles.The 25 sacks allowed this season aren't all on the offensive line. Not by any stretch. The Jets blitzed effectively last week, and there were backfield issues and quarterback issues. And offensive line issues. Whatever the issues, Bortles was under too much pressure. That can't happen. Certainly not to that degree.
3)Pick up the blitz.This is similar to No. 2, but it's that important. Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon struggled in protection last week, uncharacteristically so. Teams will test him until he proves again that's uncharacteristic.
Take a look at images from Thursday's practice.
4)Block Daryl Smith.Yes, this is obviously a way to mention the former Jaguars linebacker in "10 Things," but he deserves mention. In his 12th season, he remains an elite player and may be the Ravens' best defensive player. Of the players released or allowed to leave when General Manager David Caldwell took over in 2013, this is the one that still stings a bit.
5)Get Julius Thomas involved.Gotta happen. Gotta happen soon.
6)Stop the run.The Jaguars believe they're a run-stopping team. They were right against the Jets last week. If they're going to have any chance to win games, and if the defense is going to be effective, they have to continue to be right.
7)Pressure the passer.The pressure was a smidge better last week – and not just because of the blitz. Maybe Sen'Derrick Marks is getting that much healthier. Maybe stopping the run provided more opportunity. Whatever the reason, the more smidges the Jaguars can improve here, the better.
Images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars prepare to face the Baltimore Ravens.
8)Smooth out the edges.The strides Bortles has taken have been enormous, and they bode well for the future of the franchise. But for the present, the three turnovers he committed last week … well, however much boding he's doing, you can't win with that many giveaways.
9)Feed the Allens.Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson have become reliable. Really reliable. The Jaguars must keep relying on them, and there's no reason to think they won't. (Oh, and if Hurns can't play because of a foot injury, then rely on Bryan Walters. He has been reliable, too.)
10)Create turnovers.Win the takeaway battle. This is so painfully obvious that we rarely mention it in 10 Things. But the Jaguars had a zero-to-four – *zero-to-four *– ratio last week and still almost beat a contending team on the road. The Jaguars must turn it around. Or even get it even. To have a chance they have to give themselves a chance.
Take a detailed look at some behind-the-scenes images of the Bold Rush jerseys the Jaguars will wear on Thursday Night Football against the Tennessee Titans.