JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Wednesday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium Sunday
1)Always on the ready.We begin this Wednesday takeaways on the opponent, which with the Titans this season means focusing on quarterback Marcus Mariota. The No. 2 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mariota this season has developed quickly as a pocket passer with 16 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. That's a positive for his long-term development, but while Mariota isn't running much compared to his time in the University of Oregon's spread offense, his potential to run presents a challenge. Mariota carried just five times in the Jaguars' 19-13 victory over the Titans at EverBank Field November 19, but one was a designed run for a 23-yard touchdown. "There won't be a ton of designed quarterback runs, but anytime he's in the shotgun with a back offset he's a threat," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We let our guard down for one play and he goes for a touchdown against us." Said weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith, "Anytime you're dealing with a mobile quarterback who has that weapon, you always have to be on guard. He didn't have that many against us, but he had that one."
2)Cohesion a key. We've covered the Jaguars' red-zone struggles elsewhere this week, but it's worth discussing an often-overlooked element in this area. That area: offensive cohesion. For red-zone offense to be effective, the quarterback and receivers must work together well in tight spaces, something Thomas said the Jaguars' young skill position players are working toward in the first year under offensive coordinator Greg Olson. "That's probably one of the more underrated aspects of the red area," Thomas said. "It's not just you on an individual route. In the passing game, you have to understand how your route is affecting everybody else, that what you're doing is affecting the coverage of other defenders. That continuity, it will continue to grow. It's one thing to move the ball in the field, but as we all know, it's a lot tougher to do it in the red area. As we continue to have a better understanding of each other and what we're trying to do offensively, we'll continue to grow and have more success down there."
Practice images as the Jaguars prepare to head to Nashville to face AFC South foe Tennessee Titans.
3)A number that matters.Second-year wide receiver Allen Robinson needs 73 yards receiving Sunday to become the first Jaguars player since Jimmy Smith in 2005 to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season. That's a well-documented statistic, and considering the passer-friendly rules in the NFL for the last decade, it's an eye-catching one. With five games remaining in the season, Robinson – if he remains healthy – almost certainly will surpass the mark – as could Allen Hurns, though the latter's status is uncertain this week because of a concussion. "I think it's proof that things are headed in the right direction, are getting better," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. "Any time you get two guys over a thousand or anywhere near a thousand is a special season because it's not done often." Robinson has emerged in 11 games this season as a consistent, reliable presence in the offense. His ability to win 50-50 balls and to make "chunk" plays downfield has become perhaps the offense's biggest strength. As importantly, he is becoming a player for whom defenses must account. The Jaguars haven't had many players who fit that description in recent years. If Robinson is the sort of player – as appears to be – then he's an important foundation piece around which this franchise can build.
4)Back to winning.While the postseason had been a common theme for two weeks, there was little such talk around the Jaguars Wednesday. That didn't mean there was a lack of motivation. While Sunday's loss to San Diego combined with victories by Indianapolis and Houston quieted postseason chatter, Posluszny said winning – and getting to the point where the Jaguars can win consistently – matters very much. A victory Sunday will mean the Jaguars have won four of six games for just the second time since 2010. The five victories also would be the franchise's most since 2011. "We just want to keep that positive momentum," Posluszny said. "You get on a roll where you're playing well, you're playing at a high level, you're starting to win and you're starting to see some results. We want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure that continues."
5)Breaking patterns.Sunday's game will mark the Jaguars' second game against Tennessee in 17 days, an unusual circumstance in the NFL though not an overwhelmingly rare one. Olson said Wednesday it's important for the coaching staff to be aware of its own team's tendencies on such a tight turnaround. Olson said it will be an issue often the rest of the season, with the Jaguars playing all three of their AFC South opponents – Tennessee Sunday, Indianapolis at EverBank Field on December 13 and at Houston January 3 – in the final five weeks. "We spoke this morning to the players about that – that as you work down this stretch down here, you're going to be playing three opponents you've played previously," Olson said Wednesday. "It's important that you reflect upon your notes and understand what we did well and the things that they (the opponent) will be working on. Obviously, they'll work to stop some of the things we did well. The players are aware of that going into this stretch."