As Jeremy Mincey sees it, this is no time to listen to the noise.
Mincey, the Jaguars' veteran defensive end, said Monday after the Jaguars returned from a rare two-day, midseason break that while the season hasn't gone as hoped – and while that has created outside conversation and criticism – outside stuff isn't important.
What's important is winning. And to start doing that, Mincey said this is a week to shut out not only what outsiders may or may not be saying, but to shut out the past and the opponent, too.
Now, Mincey said, is the time to come together and believe.
"Sometimes, it takes time to find your niche," Mincey said Monday as the Jaguars (1-8) began early preparations to play the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (8-1) at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.
"New coach, new everything – everything's new. It was a little tougher than everybody thought. We had had great energy and a great feeling (before the season). Things didn't go the way everybody expects, so we've just got to regroup, and find things we're good at and things we need to continue to get better at."
The Jaguars, after a 1-2 start and a positive energy under new Head Coach Mike Mularkey, have lost six consecutive games. They also have lost all five home games this season, including a 27-10 loss to AFC South rival Indianapolis (6-3) this past Thursday.
The loss to Indianapolis came in the lone prime-time game of the season, and because it came on a Thursday, the Jaguars had a long weekend before players returned to EverBank Monday.
Mularkey gave players Saturday and Sunday off, and coaches were off Saturday before returning to EverBank to begin preparing for Houston, a team many consider perhaps the best team in the AFC this season.
The Texans beat the Jaguars, 27-7, in Week 2 at EverBank Field, and will be heavy favorites Sunday – all of which Mularkey said means little this week.
"It's the next game," Mularkey said. "Every game's different. It's how you approach it. Obviously, we have to play better than we did the first time. They have a very good team. They're very well-coached. We have to play at the top of our game, regardless of what they did the previous game."
The Texans on Sunday won a physical, prime-time game against the Chicago Bears, a game that further solidified them in the national consciousness as a Super Bowl favorite, but Mincey said the Texans aren't as much a focus as what the Jaguars need to do.
Mincey called the two-day break "a replenisher," one that could help the team refocus on what's most important.
"That's putting this team together and trying to build a good team that can win," Mincey said. "We have to find out what we need when, where and how."
Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said Monday it's critical that the Jaguars get something positive from a season just barely half over, and defensive end Austen Lane said the Jaguars are looking at the final seven games as a new season, because at 1-8, that's the only way to look at it.
"We're all about improving and getting better every single day," Lane said. "We've got no one feeling sorry for ourselves in here. You can feel sorry for yourselves and look back or you can stay positive and look forward.
"Everybody in this locker room is looking forward. Coach Mularkey has done a great job of making sure people are doing that."
The first step to looking forward is to do something the Jaguars haven't done enough of this season, something they haven't done since Week 3 – win. Mularkey and players in recent weeks have continued to believe they are closer than many believe to being successful, but Mincey said being close matters little without results.
"Any win's big," Mincey said. "I'll take anything; I'll take a tie. I want a win, though. I want to win and the rest of my teammates want to win. Sometimes, it takes time to find your niche."
One thing Mincey said is certain: if finding that niche is about effort, or about want-to – history indicates the Jaguars will do just that. Mincey said the Jaguars never quit last season even after starting 1-5, and he said they won't this year, either.
"We pulled it together, and didn't have a shot at anything," Mincey said. "Pride is still on the line here – pride and jobs are still on the line here. You have to just continue to fight. That's what being a professional is all about. That's what it is. When you're a professional, you come to work.
"That's what it is. Just like you interviewing me now. That's the job. You have to do it. Some days you may not want to, but you have to do it."