JACKSONVILLE – This is no time to lose faith, or stop trying.
When it comes to the running game, running back Toby Gerhart said the Jaguars will do neither – despite the area struggling at times in the regular-season opener.
Gerhart, who signed as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason, rushed for 42 yards on 18 carries on Sunday afternoon, leading the team in rushing in a 34-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
"We'll get better – we're young," Gerhart said Monday, and then adding of Philadelphia, "That's a good defensive front. They tested us. We'll continue to get better. I'm excited about the future of the running game."
The Jaguars as a team rushed for 64 yards on 25 carries Sunday, struggling to run consistently enough to get the Jaguars into reasonable down-and-distance situations. That contributed to the Jaguars converting two of 14 third-down opportunities.
"That's what it came down to – just execution," Gerhart said.
The Jaguars rushed for 31 yards on 16 first-half carries, and after a two-yard run by Gerhart on their first possession of the second half, did not run again until late in the third quarter. That included back-to-back series in the third quarter that did not include a run.
The run was more effective after that, with the Jaguars gaining 31 yards on their final eight carries.
"It's still not where we want to be," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said, but "we're not going to lose sight of the fact that we did improve."
The improvement included a brief stretch during the Jaguars' first series of the fourth quarter. Gerhart on that series ran for nine and seven yards on back-to-back plays, with the second run giving the Jaguars first-and-10 at the Eagles 48. After a two-yard run on first down, quarterback Chad Henne threw incomplete twice, including what would have been a difficult third-down reception by rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns.
Quarterback Nick Foles' 68-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on the ensuing series gave the Eagles their first lead with 7:10 remaining, and the Jaguars didn't run again.
"Obviously, we didn't perform the way we want to in the run game," offensive guard Zane Beadles said. "But if you go back and look at the film there are opportunities there for us to gain the yards and to really run the ball the way we want to. It's really about being on the small details up front and doing what we need to do to finish blocks. It's really all of us together.
"On any one play 10 guys can do everything exactly right. If one guy takes a wrong step or doesn't get his head in the right position, the whole play breaks down. That's a big piece of it. We have to keep getting better.
"The small things are so important and they're the hardest things to get right."
Also around the Jaguars Monday:
*Wide receiver Allen Hurns said he kept one of the two footballs from his first-quarter touchdown receptions Sunday. Hurns, a rookie, became the first player in NFL history to catch two touchdown passes in the first quarter of his NFL debut. He became the second player to have touchdowns on his first two NFL receptions and said he likely will give the ball he kept to his mother. "She's just a person I value a lot," Hurns said. "A lot of this wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her. She gave up a lot for me to get here." …
*Bradley said his decision to have Henne pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis pass on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 29 with 6:01 remaining and the Eagles leading 24-17 had been discussed beforehand. "It wasn't an emotional decision at all," Bradley said of the play. "We ran it. We just didn't execute it." Bradley said his reasoning at the time was that the Jaguars needed two possessions and he didn't think that would happen with a punt. "I was trying to find a way to get another possession," he said. …
*Bradley also said he erred by not calling timeout when the Eagles faced fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 49 early in the third quarter. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny was temporarily out of the game with a knee injury, and though Bradley said the coaches got the correct defensive call in, running back Darren Sproles broke a touchdown run up the middle that pulled the Eagles to within 10, 17-7. "In hindsight, I should have stepped up and called the timeout there," Bradley said. …
*Bradley also said he thought the run defense played and swarmed throughout despite allowing 145 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Bradley said while runs of 49 yards by Sproles and 19 yards by LeSean McCoy hurt, he was pleased with the area overall throughout Sunday.