JACKSONVILLE – Must-win?
Forget that. That concept has been said, written and discussed ad nauseam the past few weeks, with analysts and fans assigning the moniker to the Jaguars' Week 3 game at Indianapolis …
And to the Jaguars' Week 4 game at Tampa Bay …
The Jaguars didn't win either game, and the frustration from that was real. So was the irritation, urgency and intensity Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley displayed in the wake of the game Sunday and the following day. All of that was noteworthy, and all has been noted throughout the week.
So, what does that make Texans-Jaguars at EverBank Field Sunday? It makes it an important game for the Jaguars. It makes it a game in which they need to play well, and certainly it makes it a game in which they need to show some strides from the mistakes and missed opportunities that cost them the last few weeks.
Does it make a must-win? Let's just say it would be a whole lot better than losing.
With that in mind, here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to win Sunday:
1)Clean it up.We'll parse out a few of these in the nine other things, but this is about mistakes. The Jaguars have made too many in recent weeks. Eliminating them is easier said than done. Still, it must be done.
2)Block J.J. Watt.Talk about easier said than done. Still …
Images from Thursday's practice inside the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields.
3)Get Julius Thomas involved.The high-profile free-agent signee caught two passes for 20 yards while playing 32 plays against the Buccaneers. The limited role stemmed from uncertainty over the hand injury that had kept him out of the first four games of the regular season. When that uncertainty goes away, Thomas' role should increase.
4)Keep doing that …This relates to Blake Bortles. He has shown progress, and last week threw for four touchdowns for the first time in his career. He's not going to do that every week, but Bortles played winning football for the most part Sunday. He needs to keep that up.
5) … but not that.Bortles also threw a key interception Sunday, one that led to a Buccaneers touchdown. He was under pressure on the play after Toby Gerhart missed a block (can't do that, either), but as well as Bortles has played this season, three of his four interceptions have been costly. He must keep reducing those.
6)Hit the open guys.Bortles missed two receivers who were wide open last Sunday for possible touchdowns. One was Allen Robinson on the interception and another was Thomas. Open receivers get missed all the time, but it's another example of how a play here or there makes all the difference. The Jaguars need to start making a few of those.
Images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars begin preparations for the Houston Texans.
7)Limit DeAndre Hopkins.Will this mean having cornerback Davon House cover Hopkins all around the field? Defensive coordinator Bob Babich wasn't giving that away this week. However the approach, Hopkins must be limited. He has emerged as easily the Texans' top receiver. Shut him down and this could be a limited unit.
8)Pressure the passer.If the likely return of tackle Sen'Derrick Marks makes a difference and allows the front to pressure quarterbacks with four, that's great. If not, then blitz – if not all the time, at least on a regular basis. Brian Hoyer's starting at quarterback for the Texans, but whether it's him or Ryan Mallett, pressure should force mistakes.
9)Stop Arian Foster.The Jaguars with Paul Posluszny for four games were really good against the run. Without him in Week 5 they were really bad against the Buccaneers, allowing 183 total yards. Posluszny is expected to play, but even with him, Foster is a tough task. He's getting closer to full health after missing two weeks early in the season with a groin injury, and he'll almost certainly be a focus of the Houston offense this week.
10)Clean it up?We said this already? OK, but it's key. Without a few key errors, the Jaguars are 3-2 – and maybe even 4-1. Penalties and a missed field goal hurt against Indianapolis. Twenty-three missed tackles hurt against Tampa Bay. This team isn't good enough to win by double digits very often. If it is going to win, it must win close games. Mistakes kill in close games. Clean them up.