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Ten to watch


Take a breath. Now, let it out. Do it again. As many times as it takes.

It has been a weird, exhausting week, the type that leads to irrational thought and quick-trigger response. But as you head fretfully into the Jaguars' 17thopening weekend, let's pause for perspective.

We're here now, at last – lockout long since over, the regular-season opener 48 hours away. Still, rather than giddy, opening-day optimism, there's a general dismalness among Jaguars followers.

This is beyond overreaction and pessimism. It's premature panic, and the thing is, a lot of it is based on the wrong things – specifically, a pretty short collective memory.

Loyal readers of this web site – he knows who he is – undoubtedly have tired of hearing how you can't predict the regular season based on the preseason, but it's worth saying one more time. It's simply not a proper gauge for how a team will fare.

The cynics among you will say, "Well, what about David Garrard? The Jaguars released him because he played poorly in the preseason." Point taken. But the fact remains: while teams indeed evaluate position groups and individual players based on their preseason performance, the regular season is a different beast than preseason.

Starters playing the entire game. Franchise players playing more than a series or two.

New position packages. Real game plans. Increased intensity.

There are more differences, but this is not a place for nitpicky arguments. It's a place for perspective, and as the opener approaches, a whole lot is needed around the Jaguars.

The season is not over. The season hasn't even started. The Jaguars aren't a mess, and they're not a team in trouble. They're a team with a quarterback situation they believe better than it was a week ago, and a team with significantly better defensive personnel than a year ago. They're a team with a two-time Pro Bowl running back and a Pro Bowl tight end.

They're also a team with extremely good special teams, and a defensive-tackle tandem that may be as good as any in the AFC.

They're also a team that really, really needs its running game to excel. If it doesn't, there's trouble, and because it hasn't yet, a lot of people are worried. That's where the short collective memory comes in. Remember last season? Maurice Jones-Drew rushed six times for minus-two yards. The Jaguars' preseason running game, as offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said this week, is usually bad.

It also usually gets a lot better.

The Jaguars are not a team without questions. The pass rush didn't dazzle in the preseason, and the offense certainly didn't. Those are causes for concern. They're not cause for surrender.

So don't give up. Don't panic prematurely. Take a deep breath, let it out and do it again.

Do it as many times as it takes, and while you do, take a look at 10 things the Jaguars need to do to beat Tennessee Sunday.

1.Put it in the past.Forget the week that was. Not easy, just necessary.

2.Get behind McCown.Won't be an issue. Players respected Garrard, but they respect McCown, too. Players will follow their quarterback, as long as he performs.

3.Hit Chris Johnson – hard and early.It's the best way to take a breakaway back out of his game.

4. Run block.Whatever the preseason results, the Jaguars believe they will be able to run effectively. It's a fundamental belief. For that to happen, the run blocking needs to improve. Now.

5.Pressure the passer.Opposing quarterbacks too often had too much time in the preseason. That can't happen in the regular season.

6.Get separation.The Jaguars receivers didn't get much in the preseason. In a game expected to be close such as Sunday's, one or two big plays will make the difference.

7. Contain Kenny Britt.The Titans wide receiver has significant off-field issues. On it, he creates issues for opponents. As much as you worry about Chris Johnson, Britt can win a game just as fast.

8.Don't let Chris Johnson control the game.No reason to worry if the Titans running back gets 100 yards. He'll get a long, breakaway run – and maybe a few. If you keep him from getting multiple runs on multiple drives you can control the game.

9.Protect McCown.He's making his eighth career start. The line must protect better than it did in the preseason.

10.Get Lewis involved. The Jaguars' passing game is more than wide receiver. Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis may be the key part. Use him. 

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