After a win, it’s easy to pick things apart and look at certain situations where it could have been better. When you lose, it’s much more difficult. So on Friday, less than 15 hours after beating Tennessee, Head Coach Gus Bradley was willing to talk about his teams failings in the red zone, something that’s haunted his team all year.
With a first down at the seven yard line to start the half, the Jaguars chose to run Denard Robinson three times, but only gained 5 yards. And all of those were on first down. It was a 13-play drive for 78 yards and 6:50 off the clock after receiving the kickoff so getting only three points was disappointing. With all of the options the Jaguars have on offense, why does it seem so vanilla in the red zone?
“We felt like if we got it to fourth-and-one at that point in time in the game, there was a strong percentage we were going to go for it,” Bradley said as he explained the thought process on a conference call Friday afternoon. “It was second-and-two and we just felt like we could get it on three downs by running the ball. And then when we lost yardage on the third down and went back to where we kicked the field goal.”
All of that is pretty easy to second guess when there’s no success. And it’s not new; it’s been a problem for the Jaguars for a while. Asking why TJ Yeldon hasn’t gotten a chance in that situation gets the same answer from Bradley that he gave after the failure on the goal line against Buffalo: they had Denard in the game.
“We thought we would spell T.J. and give him [Denard Robinson] some reps. ‘D-Rob’ was in there and we went with him. It just happened to be where ‘D-Rob’ was in the game at that time after the hurry-hurry situation …”
After the problems they’ve had in the red zone and the success Yeldon has in small spaces, that’s where Bradley or Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson has to look at Yeldon, go off script, and tell him to get in the game.
But the players have overcome those problems in three of the last four games and come away with a win. That’s the resiliency Bradley has been talking about, the grit and determination he was hoping the 2015 version of the Jaguars would develop.
“Anytime that resiliency pays off and get a win, I think it adds to the mindset. It helps the mindset [and] it gives them confidence,’ he said. “So that part is good. I think we also realize that every game is different, and just because you did it one week doesn’t mean it’ll automatically show up the next week. ”
Whether you watched the game in person or on the NFL Network, you could see a difference in the Jaguars’ body language at the end of the game compared to the last two years and even the first half of this season. They weren’t uncomfortable and seemed to have their act together. Bradley likes what he’s seeing.
“It’s something we can build on and talk to the players about, but more so to understand, ‘What does it take to get to that point where you do have that faith?'”
From a nuts and bolts standpoint, Bradley thought Safety Jonathan Cyprien played well for the third week in a row and liked what Jared Odrick did in the game. He sees improvement in Andre Branch but says he can play better and referred to the “catch radius” when talking about Allen Robinson, Marcedes Lewis and Julius Thomas. “If it’s not perfectly thrown, (they) have the ability to go up and make plays.”
And as good of a designed play the reverse pass from Bryan Walters was, its lack of success surprised Bradley since he had hit it all week in practice. Walters is a former high school quarterback who Gus says has a good arm.
“The timing and whether he had his shoulders squared, whatever the case is. It just didn’t work. He did have good success (in practice), we felt, had a lot of confidence going into it.”
Now with back to back wins for the first time in nearly two years, the second longest drought in the NFL, the Jaguars have a weekend off before preparing for San Diego at home and the final six games of the year. Even with their struggles, could they rest on their recent success?
“They’re sure saying the right things and acting the right way,” Bradley finished with today. “In the locker room, in our talk, in those, couple of players said some things to the team that I thought were spot on. Your actions are going to reflect it. It think when we come back and go back to work, I think that my mind is of the idea that they’ll come ready to go and work because they’ve shown us nothing otherwise.”