JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines ten things the Jaguars must do to beat the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1. Overcome a lot of odds.This by any measure is a very, very difficult task. The Jaguars lost by 31 points to Washington last Sunday and the score could have been worse. The Colts have an elite quarterback; the Jaguars, with a strikingly young offense, could struggle to score. But this is professional football and the Jaguars are playing at home. There's no such thing as no way.
2. Run.Yes, this is a repeat. Yes, the Jaguars needed to run last week and the week before and they didn't do it enough either week. But to make the entire offense work, the Jaguars must run. So … we'll keep repeating it until it happens. You needn't run for 150 yards to win. Or even 100. There's not even a magic number, but defenses must respect the thought that you might run. So far, the Jaguars haven't come close to making that happen.
3. Run block.Again, a repeat. Again, it hasn't happened. Blame Toby Gerhart all you want, and plenty of fans have, but the line must clear holes. The Jaguars made significant changes up front after a 10-sack game by the Redskins last week, but the offensive line must do more than pass block. The backs, especially Gerhart, need room to run.
4. Do not get the quarterback sacked.We can't go too far without mentioning this, and if you saw the Washington game, you're wondering why it isn't mentioned higher. The Jaguars allowed 10 sacks to the Redskins, and when that happens that often it's hard to remember anything else. The Colts aren't a dominant pass-rushing team, and with Robert Mathis out for the season, they're not nearly the same threat on passing downs as they were last season. But the Jaguars can't worry about who's in and who's out for their opponent. They've got to protect Chad Henne, just as he must do more to protect himself by getting the ball out quicker.
5. Spread the Colts' defense out.We've focused on the run blocking enough, but the passing game contributes to the run offense, too. Henne must get on the same page with the young receivers enough to complete some passes early. That would keep the Colts' defense from crowding the line of scrimmage, which would make things a bit easier for the running game.
6. Pressure Andrew Luck.The Jaguars rattled Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in the opener. They did it with a swarming rush that was more about all four defensive linemen getting pressure than one particular guy. They also were stopping the run early in that game. Repeat that. Stop the Colts' running game early, pressure Luck and get some turnovers. That can keep you in it early.
7. Get the crowd in it.This hasn't been the start of the season the Jaguars wanted. So what? The first two games are over, and if there is a truth in the NFL – particularly in September – it's that no one's out of it and every week is a new week. Plus, this is still the Colts and the crowd still isn't too fond of the horseshoe or even blue and white. Get up early, make plays. Get the crowd alive. They're aching to support this team. Give them a reason.
8. Get on the details.There was too much talk of missed assignments in the wake of the loss to Washington. Double-digit sacks allowed. Double-digit missed assignments by receivers. Double-digit assignments on defense. This team doesn't have enough established, experienced, front-line reliable playmakers to overcome such a litany of mistakes; few teams do. This team needs to play at maximum capacity to win, particularly against a team such as Indianapolis.
9. Forget last week.We've talked a lot all week about the loss in Washington. Media has rehashed it. The fans have owned it, bemoaned it and relived it ad nauseam. That can't be the approach of players or coaches. In the NFL, there's always a new week and a next game, and in professional football, teams that look bad one week can look great the next. The Jaguars were the former last week. Now it's time for some greatness.
10. Grow up fast.Defensive tackle Roy Miller said it best this week when discussing the Jaguars' defense. To paraphrase, he said it wasn't about who had been around for a year or two years or however long – everyone had to grow up in the defense. That's true everywhere. This team is young. It's inexperienced. It hasn't played together enough to be cohesive. So, yes, there's going to be a learning curve. But it's the NFL, and as the release of tackle Cameron Bradfield showed this week, there's going to be accountability. It's time to play some winning football, whatever your age or experience.