JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser offers 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1.Run. The Jaguars hadn't done it effectively in the first six games. They lost them all. They rushed for 185 yards against Cleveland Sunday. They won. The Dolphins will be stouter on defense than the Browns. That's fine. Run, anyway.
2.Protect Blake Bortles.That won't be easy. Defensive end Cameron Wake is one of the NFL's best pass-rushers, and he's only one of many disruptive players on the Dolphins' defensive line. The Dolphins have 17 sacks this season. The Jaguars have had issues in pass protection this season, but allowed just two last week. Don't let that be a one-game deal. Make it a trend.
3.Protect the ball.This goes out to Bortles. While the Jaguars rookie quarterback has energized the team and the offense, he also has 10 interceptions in four-and-a-half games. This is not a case where the Jaguars must worry about the mental fall out. Bortles is confident and won't be bothered by the interceptions. He's a young quarterback and he's going to throw interceptions this season. Still, being a little more careful would help his cause.
4.Defend Ryan Tannehill.Part of this is pressuring Tannehill, who had one of his best games as the Dolphins' quarterback last Sunday. But as big a part is stopping Tannehill's running. The Dolphins use a lot of zone-read offense, and Jaguars players and coaches will tell you Tannehill's ability is a huge reason the Dolphins are the NFL's fourth-ranked running offense.
5.Get Denard touches.OK, this could be up there with No. 1 because that was all about the run. But Jaguars running back Denard Robinson merits his own category. He rushed for a career-high 127 yards on 22 carries last week, and while he looked expectedly quick, he also showed power running inside. Robinson may not get 20-plus carries a game, but it appears he's going to get more than his share. Make sure he does.
6.Cover Mike Wallace.The Jaguars' defense has allowed 22 points over the last three games. That's an impressive trend and their three consecutive games allowing fewer than 20 points is their longest such streak since 2007. Still, the Jaguars have had issues at times with receivers running free. It hasn't happened lately, but if it happens against the Dolphins, Wallace can still make you pay.
7.Force turnovers.The Jaguars had four takeaways in the first six games. They lost those games. They forced three turnovers against the Browns. They won that game. Two of the turnovers against Cleveland led to fourth-quarter, game-clinching touchdowns. This team will have a tough time winning by losing the turnover battle. Don't lose it.
8.Feed off the crowd.Maybe the coolest thing for Jaguars players about a 24-6 victory over Cleveland last week was the reaction of the crowd. They were loud in the second half and still celebrating in the fourth quarter. That doesn't have to be unusual. This fan base is ready cheer. They want to get behind this team. Give them a reason to go nuts. Stay in the game in the fourth quarter. Give them incentive to be loud. They'll respond.
9.Stop the run.The Jaguars did it in a big way Sunday, holding the Browns' third-ranked running game to 69 yards on 30 carries. That's a big-time effort, and they must do the same Sunday. That won't be easy. Miami has been inconsistent on offense, but where the Dolphins have been consistent is with a running game that now features Lamar Miller as the main running back with Knowshon Moreno out for the season. Tannehill's presence makes it more difficult. This is a much more difficult task than last week, particularly without middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and defensive end Andre Branch.
10.Make plays.For too long this season, the Jaguars lacked plays above the Xs and Os. It was a glaring weakness. It meant that far too often drives ended with no points and opponents turned routine plays into easy touchdowns. That has started changing in recent weeks, and against Cleveland, players such as rookie linebacker Telvin Smith and rookie wide receiver Allen Robinson made game-turning, momentum-changing plays. That's good news for the rookie class and better news for the team as a whole. What would be even better news is if started being a trend at EverBank Field Sunday.