JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Wednesday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field Sunday
1)First things first.We begin this Wednesday takeaways on the Jaguars topic that isn't really a topic inside the locker room – that is, the team's AFC South title hopes. The Jaguars (5-8) can win the division with victories in their final three games with the second part of their title equation depending on the outcome of Sunday's game between division leaders Houston (6-7) and Indianapolis (6-7). If Houston wins, the Jaguars need Indianapolis to lose one of its remaining games and for Houston to lose to Tennessee next week. If Indianapolis wins, the Jaguars need the Colts to lose their last two games. Players on Wednesday said the outcome of Colts-Texans isn't a concern. "We're just focusing on taking care of Atlanta," left tackle Luke Joeckel said. "Week to week, play to play, that's what [Jaguars Head Coach] Gus [Bradley] always talks about: focusing on Atlanta, preparing for them and focusing on being our best is all we care about." If there's a touch of Player Speak there, it felt real Wednesday. This is a team that always has focused well under Bradley and there's no sense that's different this week. "I let you figure all of that out," Posluszny told reporters. Told the Jaguars were one game from being tied for the lead, Posluszny said, "I'm cool with that. Honestly, if we don't practice well today and play well this week, nothing else matters. That's the mentality we always try to take."
2)In synch.So much for the idea that Julius Thomas and quarterback Blake Bortles couldn't find a rhythm. Thomas, the veteran tight end who signed as an unrestricted free agent from Denver this past offseason, missed the first four games of the season with a hand injury and caught 15 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown in his first five games after returning. He has 21 receptions for 213 yards in four games since, and has caught a touchdown pass in each of the last four games. "It's better," Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "As long as he (Thomas) is healthy and continues to stay healthy, then they're able to continue building that rapport with one another. That's been one of the pluses here late in the season with guys getting healthy and staying healthy."
3)A bit 'o swagger.The Jaguars under Bradley are coached not to say, "I got it," but the offense is maybe – just maybe – getting it a little. The Jaguars have scored 90 points in two games, with the offense scoring 11 touchdowns. Bortles has thrown eight touchdowns during that span without an interception, with wide receiver Allen Robinson, wide receiver Allen Hurns, Thomas and rookie wide receiver Rashad Greene all catching at least one. "Blake has a ton of different options he can go to," said Robinson, who has a franchise-record 12 touchdown receptions this season. "Me, I'm pretty confident in all of our options that if he goes to anyone we'll continue to be successful." The Jaguars, after ranking 31st in the NFL in total offense last season, rank 15th this season. They are ninth in the NFL with 25.07 points per game after scoring 15.56 points a game last season. "I definitely think there's a swagger and a confidence to this offense," Joeckel said. "We've been doing a good job moving the football. There were those weeks there we just didn't do a good job in the red zone. We've definitely gone out there and fixed some things."
Take a look at practice images as the Jaguars returned to the practice fields as they prepare for the Atlanta Falcons.
4)Last hoorah?Sunday is the Jaguars' 2015 regular-season home finale, so if they don't win the AFC South it likely will be the last game at EverBank Field for several Jaguars players. That's NFL reality, but it's particularly real for tight end Marcedes Lewis. A second-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft and the team's most-tenured player, Lewis is in the final season of his contract. While he said Wednesday he would like to finish his career in Jacksonville, that's rare in this era of the NFL. "We'll see," he said. "It would be awesome to play for a team for 12 or 13 years and retire with just one team." While Lewis' 13 receptions for 142 yards has him on pace for his least-productive season statistically since his rookie season, he has played in all 16 games after missing 13 games with injuries the past two seasons. "The big thing for me was showing I could stay healthy, and showing those injuries were flukes," he said. "It kind of is what it is. If they see fit for me and we're able to work something out, that'd be awesome to be able to stay here. If not, it's been a blessing."
5)Familiar feel.There will be similarities between the defenses at EverBank Sunday. That's unavoidable. Bradley and Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn each run the hybrid, 3-4/4-3 scheme they ran successfully as defensive coordinators in Seattle, with Bradley running the Seahawks' defense from 2009-2012 and Quinn running essentially the same scheme as the Seahawks' coordinator the past two seasons. Still, Bortles said that doesn't necessarily mean the Jaguars' offense has any particular advantage Sunday. "I think it will be a challenge, because we haven't faced our defense or a defense like that since [training camp] or OTAs [organized team activities in the offseason]," Bortles said. "We'll have to go back and review some things. But any time you get a chance to see somebody with similar philosophies I guess it could help out.''