It was another Monday at the stadium with Gus Bradley after a Jaguars loss. In the past two years, the tone was different because the Jaguars weren’t even in most of the games the lost. This year, it’s usually one possession or two that makes the difference between winning or losing. Even in the Jaguars two victories, one possession made the difference.
“I love the spirit of our team,” Bradley said outlining the positives in the loss to the Jets. “I love how they’re relentless and they don’t blink and they battle and they fight and they scratch. They’ll do anything they can to give us a chance to be victorious. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.”
Earlier in the year, Bradley was concerned that he wasn’t getting 100% effort on every play from every player. He thinks that has changed, and for the better.
“Yeah I think that through the last couple of weeks some things that are taking place. The standard for us will not change. The players adjust to the standard that we create and I think they understand that. Sometimes players come in from other teams and they have to learn the standard and learn what’s expected from them in all situations.”
If the Jaguars are in these “one possession” games, what’s keeping them from winning more? This year, unlike the previous three, they’re making enough plays to win games. But they’re also making enough mistakes to get them beat. With that combination, and the margin of error in the NFL, you don’t win often.
“I think for us to make the next big step is what do winning teams do consistently? Gus said, echoing the message he gave to his team. “I think when those teams make plays at critical times like we did in Buffalo. When you get into a situation at a critical time, go down and score and defensively stop them and win a game. We need to do more of that consistently when those times show up and I think that’s what this team continues to grow from.”
Now in the middle of his second season as a starter, Quarterback Blake Bortles looks like a second year starter: He makes some great plays and some bonehead mistakes. Usually he’s decisive in the pocket but against the Jets, indecision led to a sack, a fumble and a turnover. Bradley seems to accept that as part of the growing process at that position.
“He was (indecisive). I think sometimes with Blake, he’s had the ability to, when he extends plays, to make big plays. He’s done that throughout the game. He’s done that throughout the year. I think down in that area, he was extending the play and looking to make a big play. It wasn’t there, so now, just take what you can and move on to the next play.”
Anytime Bradley talks about WR Bryan Walters, he talks about how you can “trust him.” He reiterated that on Monday, saying Walters and other players are building trust with their teammates by consistently making plays. But having said that, Gus explained that the game plan on punt return was to have Walters field it if it was expected to land inside the ten (because of his decision-making on catching it, letting it go, etc.) and have Nick Marshall as the returner if it was outside the ten.
At that point in the game, the Jaguars needed the ball, as Bradley has said for a couple weeks, they needed to play “situational football.” But they stuck to the game plan and Marshall fumbled, in essence ending the game. The head coach said they’ll evaluate what they’re going to do going forward on punt return this week but explained why Marshall was in the game.
“I think with Nick’s situation, one of the things that we’re looking at, we’re looking for returns. We’re trying to get more yards return. Kickoff return, he had a couple of really good returns. Then, the punt returns, the 20-yarder. Going into that, where it was on the field, felt like he gave us the best opportunity. I think when you looked; he saw a lot of green grass down the sideline. Took his eye off of it, first foot, second. You can’t do that.”
We’ve heard that from the Jaguars Head Coach a few times when it comes to young players. He’s willing to put up with some early mistakes but they can’t make the same ones over and over. He gave Jason Myers a pass after the Indy game but put him on a short leash. Marshall might have spent his one chance in New York.