JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser takes a final look at the week around the Jaguars as they prepared to play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, Sunday at 1 p.m.
BEWARE THE ARM
A glance at the tape reveals the difference immediately.
Talk to any Jaguars player or coach this week, and there's no hesitation when they discuss what makes Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford good. The guy can really, really throw.
While that's true of most NFL quarterbacks, it's perhaps a bit truer of Stafford – long a productive NFL player who this season has emerged as a Most Valuable Player candidate.
Stafford's arm strength sets the Lions' offense apart from many other NFL offenses.
"The confidence that he has in it plays a huge factor," Jaguars cornerback Prince Amukamara said.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash spoke of Stafford's intelligence and decision-making, but gushed when speaking of Stafford's "unbelievable live arm."
"He can put the ball in tight windows, so if you are playing zone coverage you have to be on your all-out breaks," Wash said. "If you are playing man coverage you better be close to him. His arm strength is outstanding – and [so is] his ability to read the coverages and get them in the plays he needs to do to attack us."
Amukamara said while Stafford in past seasons threw a lot of deep balls to All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson – who retired this past offseason – he throws more intermediate routes this season to a versatile receiving corps that includes Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and Golden Tate.
"He's always accurate, but he's throwing more precise and short," Amukamara said. "The shots are still there, though. He can make a throw where when he puts it out there you're like, 'Wow, where did that come from?'
"The way you rate a quarterback's arm is far hash, deep comeback from the opposite side; I've seen that on film where he puts it out there easy."
Stafford this season has emerged as one of the NFL's best late-game quarterbacks. The Lions have won five times coming from behind in the fourth quarter, and they have won four games in which they have trailed in the final two minutes.
"He has a lot of courage when it counts, and he's not afraid to put the ball in tight spaces," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We just have to be pinpoint in where we need to be on the field. He trusts his arm and trusts he can put the ball where it needs to be. We need to be extremely disciplined.
"He'll make throws where you say, 'Well, other quarterbacks won't even try that.' But he has the confidence he can put in there, and he does. He's playing at a really high level."
GOING IN MOTION
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles may be struggling in some areas through nine games, but he has the confidence of those within the Jaguars' organization. That's particularly true of Nathaniel Hackett, who on Sunday will be in his third game as offensive coordinator after working as the Jaguars' quarterbacks coach since the beginning of the 2015 season. Hackett praised several of Bortles' traits this week, most notably what Hackett said is a rare ability to be productive on the move. "We want to get him on the run because anytime you can move the pocket it allows the defense not to know where he is going to be," Hackett said. "Anytime that you have a threat that you are going to get out of the pocket, it is always positive. Sometimes when it is a smooth, easy look he feels it and he delivers the ball and it is awesome. Then all of a sudden if it breaks down he is comfortable with that; that is really hard to train with a quarterback. A lot of quarterbacks they only want that 'one, two, three throw the ball.' They just want that real nice thing and then all of sudden when it breaks down guys panic or something bad happens. The good thing about Blake, which separates him, is his ability to extend plays."
Linebacker Telvin Smith is likely to play after missing Wednesday and Thursday following the death of his brother last Sunday. He is expected to join the team in Detroit Saturday following his brother's funeral that day.
Rookie Myles Jack would start at weak-side linebacker if Smith can't play, and Jack is expected to start at Otto linebacker if Smith does play.
Also, defensive end Chris Smith (eye) has been ruled out for a second consecutive game, and tight end Neal Sterling (foot), wide receiver Bryan Walters (concussion) and linebacker Dan Skuta (back) are listed as questionable for Detroit.
"I would say we have to pressure the quarterback. Continue to do that, just so we have some errant throws. We have to be more ball-aware in tackle situations with the second guy in punching and ripping and getting at it. It has been a point of emphasis and we have to continue to stress it."
--Wash on forcing more turnovers