JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser offers 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday …
1.Pressure the passer.If the Jaguars have had a strength defensively, this season this has been it. Their 16 sacks are third in the NFL – and they're legitimate. Whether it's Charlie Whitehurst or Jake Locker at quarterback for Tennessee Sunday – and it appears more and more likely it will be Whitehurst – the goal should be the same. Pressure the quarterback, force mistakes. That leads to …
2.Force turnovers.The Jaguars went more than four games – from the first half of Week 1 to the second half of Week 5 – without a turnover. Abry Jones broke that drought with a sack/fumble on Ben Roethlisberger Sunday. Turnovers can come in bunches. Get a bunch Sunday, or at least get a few at key times.
3.Turn turnovers into points.Remember the first-half rush in Philadelphia? The Jaguars weren't just sacking Eagles quarterback Nick Foles; they were getting the ball on the ground and scoring touchdowns after they recovered it. That created an energy the Jaguars haven't matched since. This team needs to create momentum to win. They need points from unexpected sources. Turnovers do that.
4.Ignore the buzz.There are those – even those in the fan base – who believe the Jaguars aren't getting better, that the 0-5 record has defined the entire season. This is a better team than the one that lost to the Colts two weeks ago. It's better than the team that lost to Washington in Week 2. It has been competitive the last two weeks, which means the Jaguars are getting closer. Turn close into closer, and then turn it into getting ahead and winning.
5.Stay bold.This is about the quarterback position. Blake Bortles is nothing if not confident. He is poised and believes he and the team for which he plays should be good. That's a critical trait for any young quarterback. There will be mistakes and there will be losses. But Bortles must be bold and he must keep turning into a player 53 players believe can lead them. He also must keep having the confidence to make plays in the passing game. There's no sign he's losing that.
6.Smooth out the rough edges.Remember No. 6? Stay bold? Well, that's true for Bortles, but as Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said this week, you don't want to be so bold that it leads to crushing interceptions. All of the edges won't be smooth by Sunday. Shoot, they won't all be smooth this season – or ever. Quarterbacks make mistakes, particularly young ones, but the quicker Bortles eliminates the one or two game-changing interceptions, the quicker the Jaguars' offense starts moving toward its potential.
7.Get open.The young receivers have shown flashes, but often when Bortles drops, the kids haven't been open. At least not enough. Yes, they have been without Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts III. Yes, too, the group is young still learning the intricacies of NFL rout-running. But for Bortles to be effective, receivers need more separation.
8.Catch the ball.Allen Hurns had three drops last week. Clay Harbor also had one. Mike Brown had one the week before. Wide receivers drop passes. It happens in the NFL. But you don't want to make it a habit. Make the play when it's there. Catch the ball.
9.Build on last week.This is for the defense overall. The unit made significant strides against Pittsburgh last week, holding the Steelers to a first-half field goal and a first-half touchdown. The secondary covered better and the unit as a whole built on a good performance the week before against the run. This offense isn't going to be dominant, but if the defense can play as it did last week, it gives the offense an opportunity to score enough to win games.
10.Believe.It has been a long time since the Jaguars won. There have been a lot of double-digit losses this season. But the last two weeks have shown that this team has a formula – young quarterback; young, talented skill players; improving offensive line; scrappy defense – that should keep it in games. This is a team that can win. The first half of San Diego showed it, and the first three-and-a-half quarters against Pittsburgh showed it, too. Forget what outsiders say. Believe what you know. Believe you can win.