JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone's theme remained clear and simple.
What the Jaguars' head coach long has liked about the 2020 version of his team he still very much likes. On Monday, he again cited it as a reason for what happened in the previous day's regular-season opener.
"They trust each other," he said.
The Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-20 Sunday in an AFC South game at TIAA Bank Field, a result many considered one of the NFL's bigger Week 1 surprises. A day later, Marrone said the team's "team" approach allowed it to rally from four deficits – including one midway through the fourth quarter – and beat a team many expect to contend for the AFC South title.
"The best word is probably just trust," he said. "They trust that everyone's going to continue to fight and everyone's going to continue to play. That's where we'll get better: 'You have to trust that everyone's going to do their job; make sure you do yours.'
"I keep using the phrase, 'We're going to keep moving forward.'''
Marrone said he remained confident Sunday even as the Colts moved easily to a 7-0 lead that nearly became double digits before a goal-line stand late in the first quarter changed momentum. He said he believed a young team with 11 rookies playing Sunday would improve as the game continued.
"Those are the things that were going through my mind: 'Listen, we'll be fine … we'll tackle better … we'll be in better position,''' Marrone said. "What never crossed my mind was that we wouldn't be able to withstand whatever happened – whether they scored again, or whatever we stopped them…
"I go back to the type of [resilient] team that we have. We need to continue to be that way through the course of the season."
The 11 rookies didn't just play for the Jaguars Sunday. They made major contributions – with running back James Robinson rushing for 62 yards on 16 carries, cornerback CJ Henderson registering his first career interception along with three passes defensed and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. catching a 15-yard second-quarter touchdown.
The Jaguars kept 16 rookies on the initial roster, including their entire 12-player 2020 NFL Draft class. Marrone praised the group throughout camp for being ready mentally and said Monday he saw little unusual in their performance Sunday.
"When I put the players on the field, I don't look at it as putting a certain amount of players that lack experience, or anything of that nature," Marrone said. "I look at it as, 'Hey, I'm putting the players on the field that have earned these opportunities.' What they do with it becomes the next part of the evaluation. …
"When you say, 'expect impact,' I think you have to expect that out of anyone you put on the field. I just think it would be wrong to put someone out there and go, 'Nah, we don't think this guy's going to make any impact; let's just line him up there.'''
*Marrone discussed in less-than-glowing terms a backflip by rookie wide receiver Collin Johnson when the Jaguars were in "victory" formation Sunday. Johnson, lined up as the safety behind quarterback Gardner Minshew II, flipped backward as Minshew knelt to run the clock out. Marrone didn't love the maneuver. "I'm not one of those guys who's big on that," Marrone said. "All you've got to do is twist an ankle or get hurt … I'm sure I'll mention something to him when I see him." Marrone was asked if it was safe to assume Johnson wouldn't perform further flips. "I've learned in this sport never to assume anything," he said. …
*Marrone on a run defense that held the Colts to 88 yards, including 38 after the first drive: "I thought we did some things well and I thought we did some things not so well. A couple of runs got outside; we have to clean up some things we're doing. I thought we tackled well as the game went along." Marrone also said the Jaguars' defensive front throughout the game battled impressively against what many consider one of the NFL's best offensive lines. "There were a lot of challenges going into the game," he said. "They stepped up when they needed to step up and make a play. Now, there are lot of things to clean up. But there were some good plays out there by those guys. I think we have a chance to get a lot better. I really do. I think we have a chance to improve. We can get them better, and that's what our job is as coaches. I really believe we'll keep improving as we go along." ….
*Marrone on veteran wide receiver Dede Westbrook being a healthy inactive Sunday: "He was hurt for so long [in 2020 Training Camp] and we're just getting him back. He's missed a lot of time. He's working hard on the side and working hard in practice and working his way to get back."