JACKSONVILLE – The bye is at hand.
That means no game-oriented "10 things" this week, but as the Jaguars prepare for a weekend off, we'll look ahead to the final six games of the regular season.
Some of these will be about what the Jaguars need to do to improve – and to win. Some will be what they need to learn about themselves before moving into the offseason. At 1-9, the season is now a mix of both elements. That's not ideal, but it's the state of the Jaguars at the bye.
That said, here are 10 things the Jaguars must do during that time:
1.Transform the pain.There was real pain and real frustration after the loss to Dallas at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday. The Jaguars felt they had been making strides; against the Cowboys, they did not. After the game, Head Coach Gus Bradley said, "It's time we take another step. It's time that we get it done, and get it done by playing consistent football from the first snap to the end. That's not what we're doing right now." That quote was significant. The team needs to improve. The Jaguars need to turn the talk into something else. Pain needs to become production.
2.Win.Well, duh … of course, the Jaguars must win. But this team really needs victories. It needs tangible evidence it is improving. The Dallas loss notwithstanding, the Jaguars have been close a lot this season. They have improved. That's not just talk; it's real. A play here or there in a game here or there, and the record looks a lot better. But those plays haven't happened. Make a few of those plays because the record does need to improve. Get some confidence. Victories make life rosier.
3.Improve at quarterback.This isn't to say Blake Bortles needs to look like a Pro Bowl guy by season's end. That's not likely. And it's not to say there's some magical touchdown-interception ratio that needs to be achieved, either. But he does need to play better. Forget for a moment the inaccuracies that have crept in in recent weeks. Those can be addressed in the offseason – and he showed this past offseason he can improve those areas. But you'd like to see a few games where the big plays outnumber the errors. That's an achievable goal, and would give him and the offense a good feeling entering the offseason.
4.Find the core.On offense especially, this is what the rest of the season is about. Pretty much everyone playing is young. If by the end of the season you have five or six guys from that group you truly believe can grow into core-level players, that's a heck of a start.
5.Protect the ball. We saw it again Sunday against the Cowboys. Whether it's Bortles, Denard Robinson, the special teams … whatever. If the Jaguars are to win over the final six games, they must protect the ball.
6.Develop Denard.Denard Robinson has proven he can play running back in this NFL. That's remarkable considering he has next-to-no experience at the position. Get him more carries. Get him more experience. Get him used to seeing what he needs to see. He can be special.
7.Target Marqise Lee.This needed to be a priority even before a foot injury ended Allen Robinson's season early this week; now, it's almost certain to happen. The Jaguars know what they have in Robinson, and it appears Allen Hurns will be a productive NFL receiver. But the Jaguars' third rookie wide receiver – Lee – has the most physical ability of the group. He has done little as a rookie, partly because of injury and partly because he has still needs to develop as a route-runner. If he starts looking the part, the Jaguars' future at receiver looks remarkably bright.
8.Find out what you have at cornerback.Dwayne Gratz has looked good at times, and not-so-good at others. Demetrius McCray has shown real potential. Aaron Colvin's going to be active for the final six games. Are there two good corners in there? Three? Do you need to address the position? Those questions need to be answered by season's end.
9.Get Cyp back.Safety Johnathan Cyprien was visibly upset after the Dallas game, and as Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said later, it wasn't one of his best games. But as Bradley also said, Cyprien hadn't been bad before that this season. He's had a few missed assignments, but overall, his presence makes the defense better. The Jaguars need Cyprien to play to his potential -- for the final six games, and moving forward.
10.Get better on the offensive line.This area made significant strides in the first 10 games, particularly run-blocking. But the offensive line still needs to give Bortles more time. If they get Brandon Linder back after the bye, that should help. Left tackle Luke Joeckel also needs to get more consistent over the last six games. In the big picture, the Jaguars would really like to see this group healthy for six weeks. You need to know if these five guys are the guys moving forward.
11.Win. We'll throw a No. 11 on here; call it a "bye-week bonus." And yes, it's a repeat of No. 2. That's OK, because the Jaguars need to do more than play better. They need to win. It's just been too long.