JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars want to return to balance.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden made that clear Wednesday morning, saying "for sure" he would like more run plays moving forward.
"Every week our design is to go in there and run the football, pound the football," he said.
Gruden and Head Coach Doug Marrone spoke to the media via videoconference Wednesday, each discussing the need for more balance offensively as the Jaguars (1-4) prepared to play the Detroit Lions (1-3) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
Rookie running back James Robinson has impressed this season, rushing for 333 yards and three touchdowns on 73 carries. But Robinson has carried just 30 times in the last two games and has yet to have a game this season with more than the 17 carries he had against Cincinnati in Week 4.
"Unfortunately, I've done a poor job of sticking with it," Gruden said. "It's something we have to obviously get better at and be aware of the game and the situation and all that. We do have to do a better job early in games to try to maintain the run and keep our linemen pounding the run a little bit and keeping the pressure off [quarterback] Gardner [Minshew II]."
The Jaguars rank 32nd among 32 NFL teams in run percentage this season rushing on 33.4 percent of offensive plays, and Marrone on Wednesday said the Jaguars have discussed offensive balance this week.
"A lot of it's dictated to the games and being behind sometimes," he said. "I look at it as more of what we're trying to accomplish and being more balanced. We're going to continue to try to do a better job of trying to see what the right balance is. There's a lot that goes into it."
Run-pass percentage has corresponded with winning and losing this season. The Jaguars ran on 48.9 percent of plays (23 of 47) in a Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. They rushed on 36.4 percent of plays (27 of 74, Week 2 loss to Tennessee), 28.5 percent of plays (17 of 63, Week 3 loss to Miami), 28.5 percent of plays (18 of 63, Week 4 loss to Cincinnati) and 22.2 percent of plays (16 of 72, Week 5 loss to Houston) in four losses since.
The Jaguars are 1-0 when Minshew throws 20 or fewer passes and 0-4 when he throws 40 or more. Gruden said the preference is for Minshew to be dropping to pass about 25-to-30 times a game.
"That's the ideal number for us," Gruden said of Minshew, noting that fourth-quarter deficits have kept the Jaguars from running in the fourth quarter in the last three games. "Unfortunately, score-related, we weren't good enough on offense for the first two or three quarters to keep the game close where we don't have to throw the ball. You take a whole quarter out of the game as far as being able to run the football because you're playing from behind and you're playing against the clock as well as the other team … that kind of skews the numbers.
"In a perfect world, this offense is built on balance – and 25-to-30 times is the target number [for Robinson's carries] in my opinion."
The three key defensive players who missed the Jaguars' loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday – defensive end Josh Allen, linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback CJ Henderson – all practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. Allen missed the Texans game with a knee injury, with Jack missing with an ankle injury and Henderson missing with a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Abry Jones was limited in practice Wednesday with ankle and hamstring issues and defensive tackle Danel Ekuale – who missed the Texans game with an ankle injury – was listed as working full. Six players did not practice for the Jaguars Wednesday: linebacker Dakota Allen (foot), wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (ankle), cornerback Chris Claybrooks (quadricep), tight end Tyler Eifert (neck), wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring) and center Brandon Linder (scheduled day off).
Marrone: "Our focus is on ourselves and how we can play at a consistent level. These guys play hard. They work during the week and [we're] just trying to get these back to back plays. We're working on just gradually building up to this week on Sunday and trying to win the day or win the meeting, win the play, win all these things that we're doing that we can go out there and put a complete game together and come together in all three phases. That's really what our focus is."