Wash: "We're calming it down…"

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Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Leon Jacobs (48) against the Cincinnati Bengals in an NFL game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 in Cincinnati. (Rick Wilson via AP)

JACKSONVILLE – The plan will be to stay simple.

Considering the circumstances facing the Jaguars' defense – particularly the linebacker corps – defensive coordinator Todd Wash said that's pretty much the only approach.

"If we get too creative, we ain't going to execute," Wash said Thursday as the Jaguars (4-9) prepared to play the Oakland Raiders (6-7) at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California, Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

An already-struggling Jaguars defense has been waylaid in recent weeks by injuries at linebacker – to the point that the group is nearly unrecognizable. The unit must somehow, someway stop the run – something it hasn't done effectively this season.

At the same time, Wash said it's key not to ask an inexperienced group to not do too much.

"You almost have to go the other way and try to calm their world down as much as you can," he said.

The Jaguars, after ranking among the top six defenses in the NFL in fewest yards allowed each of the past three seasons, currently rank 23rd in yards allowed at 373.1 yards per game and 25th in scoring defense at 25.9 points per game.

"We're not used to playing not-good defense," Wash said. "It's very frustrating, but we have to find a way to fix it. That's my job. That's what I told the players: 'Hey, everything that happened is on my shoulders. I got big shoulders. I'm good with that.' But we have to continue to work and strive to get better so we can win a couple of football games.''

Part of the issue in recent weeks has been matching scheme to personnel, particularly at linebacker as injuries have further hurt a unit that has been inconsistent much of the season. Head Coach Doug Marrone touched on this issue on Wednesday, saying the Jaguars would "have to take a good look at what we can handle and not handle, and take it out and live with what we're going to play with schematically in the game."

The team placed starting middle linebacker Myles Jack on injured reserve with a knee injury last week and placed starting rookie middle linebacker Quincy Williams on injured reserve Wednesday with a thumb injury. Third-year veteran Donald Payne will make a third career start at middle linebacker for Jack Sunday, and second-year veteran Leon Jacobs remains the starter at strong-side linebacker.

All other active linebackers – Dakota Allen, Preston Brown, Austin Calitro and Joe Giles-Harris – have joined the Jaguars since the beginning of training camp, and only Jacobs and Calitro have been with the team since the start of the regular season.

"You have to figure out what they do know within our package – the guys that have been here just a short time – and when they're in there, just call those calls," Wash said. "For us, we're calming it down and letting them just go out and execute what they know how to do. That's important.

"The guys who are playing for us, we trust them. Hopefully, the plan works out where they have some success on Sunday."

Wash said Jack remained around the linebacker corps last week before knee surgery.

"He's been around trying to help the other guys, in position meetings talking about different things he sees trying to help out Donald at the mike (middle) spot," he said. "It's important, because he can communicate it from a player's aspect.

"At times I think we get caught as coaches trying to coach too much. He (Jack) can kind of calm his world down and put some of the verbiage in terms he (Payne) can understand. I think that really helps Donald out."

The Jaguars have allowed 200 or more yards rushing in three of the last five games and allowed 195 to the Los Angeles Chargers this past week. Much of that stretch came with the Week 1 starting unit of Jack, Williams and Jacob still in the lineup.

While the recent injuries have made the task tougher, Wash on Thursday called them "just part of the game."

"We have to be able as a coaching staff to try to get them into our rooms as much as we can, meet with them as much as we can and get them ready to go play. It doesn't really matter who's in the game," he said. "We have the same expectations and the same standards regardless of whether it's Myles – or whoever it might be.

"For us, once again, I think we just have to calm it down so they can do what they know how to do. They're good athletes. They can hit and run. Hopefully, that's what we need to do on Sunday."

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