Jaguars vs. Colts: 4 to watch 4
1. Stopping the run, running the ball
In the loss to San Diego, it was apparent the Chargers were going to get things done from the first drive. San Diego ran the ball effectively and scored easily on their first drive taking a 7-0 lead. The Jaguars went three and out on their first drive and the Chargers went on to dominate from there. The difference? San Diego ran the ball at will. The Jaguars couldn’t and the game got out of hand quickly. With Chris Ivory back in the lineup and Brandon Linder and Kelvin Beachum expected to return to the offensive line, the Jaguars should be able to run the ball. Gus Bradley said this week the Jaguars have to be able to run the ball even when the other team knows they’re going to run the ball. But if they can’t stop the run they won’t get the opportunity.
2. Take advantage of London
It’s the fourth year the Jaguars have played at Wembley Stadium where they won for the first time in 2015. That’s why this year they followed last season’s trip schedule to a “T.” Nobody in the league will admit to being superstitious but if they win, they’ll do exactly the same thing, week after week. The Jaguars have left on Sunday, left on Monday and on Thursday. Leaving on Sunday saw the Jaguars lost to the 49ers. Leaving on Monday they lost to the Cowboys. Leaving on Thursday, they beat the Bills. So this year they left on Thursday at the same time, stayed in the same hotel, practiced at the same place and followed the same schedule. Bradley said this week they think they found the right schedule that works for his team, with the input of the players. That might sound juvenile but every team does it. On the other hand, most of the players on the Jaguars roster have been on this trip before so they know the routine. Nothing is going to surprise them. On the other hand the Colts don’t know the routine. With some leadership, the Jaguars should settle into a routine that worked and make it work for them again.
3. Preach what they’ve practiced
After each of their three losses the Jaguars have talked about “doing the little things,” and “sweeping the corners.” But those little things that they haven’t swept have cost them all three games. I asked Gus Bradley if he thought he had enough veteran leadership in the locker room to explain the nuanced difference between winning and losing in the NFL. “That’s what today’s meeting was about,” was Bradley’s immediate response, recognizing that could be an issue on a young team. Around the league the Jaguars reputation is that of a young, undisciplined team on the field. Not undisciplined as in running afoul of the law but rather committing critical errors at critical times. Bradley admits that his team’s consistency is lacking on the big plays, but that’s what separates winners from losers in a “50-50” league like the NFL. If they’re going to talk about getting the little things right, then do it.
4. Bortles must play better
This week Blake said he wasn’t sure why he was in a funk but admitted that his mistakes were “stupid and easily correctable.” Bortles hasn’t been in any kind of rhythm this year save for a 9 of 10 stretch in the third quarter against Baltimore. He’s been flat-footed, hasn’t felt the pressure and is willing to check down quickly instead of giving his playmakers a chance to get something done. Thus the Jaguars haven’t had any “explosive” plays. Bortles overall completion percentage is up (63%) but his consistency is down. Bradley pointed out the missed balls to Marqis Lee, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas that could have been big plays and possibly touchdowns. On the other hand, the two throws to Allen Robinson for touchdowns against Baltimore were perfect. So consistency is the key for Bortles this week.
Randomly: With a triceps injury it’s just about the time it takes to heal for Jarod Odrick. He didn’t tear the muscle off the bone but rather has a soft tissue injury that will keep him out of the game against Indianapolis. He didn’t make the trip and neither did Nick Marshall. Dan Skuta and Julius Thomas will be game time decisions. Everybody else is expected to play. Former Jaguar Kyle Brady has been in London this week helping to represent the team for the NFL. Brady also has some family close to London so he’s enjoyed the stay and plans to make it a regular trip. When NFL teams fly to London they charter through Virgin Atlantic. The teams fly the A340-600, the longest commercial plane in the world. Indianapolis’ flight was a bit delayed on Thursday and the Jaguars got to London a little early Friday morning so the two teams missed each other by about 10 minutes in baggage claim at Heathrow. Back at Allianz field, home of the Saracens Rugby Club, they went through an up-tempo walk through this week. Saracens won both the English and the European Rugby Championship this past season. The Jaguars hope some of that rubs off.