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Thursday takeaways: Mental machinations


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Thursday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday

1)Head games.We begin this Thursday takeaways by addressing the oddity of playing a team a second time in three weeks. That will happen Sunday, with the Jaguars having beaten Tennessee, 19-13, at EverBank Field on November 19. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson discussed this Wednesday, saying he had emphasized to players the importance of past notes on the opponent and of realizing the Titans will have focused on preparing for things the Jaguars did well two weeks ago. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich on Thursday said while fundamentals tend to take over when playing a team again so quickly, play-calling and preparation can be tricky. "Obviously, they're going to look at the things that we did against them two weeks ago, whatever it was," Babich said. "It's a little cat-and-mouse game." Adding to the mental machinations: two-week turnarounds during the regular season are division games, meaning familiarity already is high. "It's something that's different: you don't do it in college," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "You don't play anybody more than once in the season. So to have that opportunity in the NFL to play divisional games twice in a season is an advantage. You get to know not only schemes and what they do defensively, but personnel. You get to look at guys twice and really get a good look of what they do well and what they struggle with."

2)Tough task.One of the Jaguars' top defensive priorities Sunday is no secret: tight end Delanie Walker. One of the NFL's better receiving tight ends, Walker may be the Titans' top offensive weapon – and he has been their most consistent presence in the passing game this season. "He has speed and size," safety Johnathan Cyprien said of Walker. "He has big size for a tight end, but he's almost as fast as a wide receiver." The Jaguars have struggled against tight ends in recent seasons, a trend that reemerged in recent weeks. Walker caught eight passes for 109 yards against the Jaguars two weeks ago, and Antonio Gates caught touchdown passes on back-to-back drives in the Chargers' victory at EverBank Field Sunday. Walker's 100-yard game two weeks ago was his first against the Jaguars. "I play a lot of tight ends, and Delanie is definitely is one of the best ones," Cyprien said. "You have to make sure you slow him down when you're one on one."

3)Better and better.The good news for Jason Myers is he expects to be 100 percent Sunday; he practiced full Thursday after being limited with a back injury Wednesday. The better news is the rookie kicker had his most consistent month of the season in November. Myers, after converting three of five field goals and 11 of 13 extra points in a rocky October that included two missed potential game-winning field goals at Indianapolis, converted 14 of 15 field goals in November and five of six extra points. While he had two bad misses – an extra point this past week and a 26-yard field goal against Baltimore November 15 – he also converted a game-winning 53-yarder against the Ravens and a 51-yarder against San Diego Sunday. "I think the challenge for him is every game and just keep stacking them up," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "He's been consistent, hit some long ones. The extra points is something that he needs to clean up, but very pleased with how he's come through." Myers has converted 22 of 26 field-goal attempts and 20 of 24 extra points this season.

4)Numbers game.Credit the Jaguars' young offensive players for this: they get what's important. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is within 73 yards of becoming the first Jaguars player to surpass 1,000 yards receiving since Jimmy Smith in 2005 and quarterback Blake Bortles' 22 touchdowns are one shy of David Garrard's franchise record set in 2007. Neither spent the week overemphasizing the plateaus. "Obviously, I'd trade those numbers in for wins any day of the week as I think anybody else would," Bortles said. "I think that is a good sign that we are getting better as an offense. We're headed in the right direction and I really do believe that we're a small step away from being consistently good week in and week out." Robinson laughed when asked about reaching 1,000 yards. "I think it's a cool benchmark, I don't think it's something that's like crazy big," he said. "It's a good accomplishment, but at the end of the day, I think it's about our offense as a whole.''

5)Sticking with it.Will the Jaguars run more Sunday? Considering Jaguars running backs carried just 12 times against San Diego this past Sunday, the answer would almost have to be yes. But numbers aside, to listen to Bradley and Olson this week is to get the idea that there will be more of an emphasis on the running game – with a particularly emphasis on getting rookie T.J. Yeldon more carries. Yeldon has rushed for 621 yards on 156 carries this season, a 4.0 yards per carry average. He rushed for 36 yards on nine carries against San Diego, also a 4.0-yards-per-carry average. Olson on Wednesday said he generally believed the offensive play against San Diego was good, as evidenced by 420 yards of total offense, and that the offense's big issue was efficiency in the red zone. He also said he didn't believe in running "just to say we ran the ball." Still, he said "there is an emphasis here to get the ball to T.J. Yeldon and rushing the football … We'll look and see how this game plays out. Every game is different, but we'll be more committed to the run part."

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