“It should be an old school 15-round fight,” is how Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart described the upcoming game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Jaguars settled into their regular game week routine on Wednesday and clearly by Thursday their focus was on the upcoming game.
“They play hard,” Ryan Davis told us outside the hotel before practice. “They don’t take plays off, they keep coming. But in the end it’s about us. The one on one matchups and beating the man in front of you.” Davis echoed Gus Bradley’s overriding mantra for the team since he arrived in Jacksonville. Bradley wants the team, individually and as a whole to concentrate on getting better, take care of themselves, win the individual battles and the rest will take care of itself.
“But that’s not the goal,” General Manager Dave Caldwell said when asked if he had seen the team make progress. “We’re getting better. I can see us winning those games in the future. But the goal is to win.”
Caldwell laughed when I asked him if part of his planning during the rebuild of the team included starting eight rookies on offense. “We knew last year that some of the offensive line was getting older and often injured. So we knew we’d have to rebuild. And we wanted to take advantage of free agency and the draft. It was a deep draft. We thought we’d have a few guys coming back, Marcedes, Cecil, but part of the plan didn’t include starting eight rookies.”
Gus Bradley was Caldwell’s first choice as the Jaguars leader in this rebuild project and noted that today. “It’s one of the reasons we’ hired Gus as our head coach. His ability to develop young players. I give credit to the coaching staff. They’ve been patient, they’ve worked with our players and I can see them getting better.”
But when asked about when he expects the team to be more competitive on the scoreboard, Caldwell was pretty straightforward. “I think we’ll be less forgiving of the mistakes being made by young players next year. They haven’t used being young as an excuse. But I don’t expect we’ll be having this conversation next season.”
Bradley sees improvement across the board, and especially likes the attitude the players bring every day. “That’s something that we stressed from the beginning. Be relentless. Play hard every play. Our offensive line has really taken to that and it’s one of the reasons we’ve been more successful running the ball.”
Dallas has lost two straight but is still considered one of the elite teams in the league. Quarterback Tony Romo practiced today and Cowboys Owner/GM Jerry Jones said he expected him to play Sunday.
Jones came over on the Cowboys charter and has participated in the daily press conferences (Shad Khan will be available on Saturday morning). Jones was very complimentary toward Khan today, noting how he conducted his business, his business acumen and overall success story. He also said he expected Khan to have a bigger commitment to London.
After today’s announcement, the Jaguars will play the Bills next season on October 25th, the second of three games scheduled for London next year. There was talk that the Jaguars would play a home and away game in London, possibly back to back weeks. But six teams will be involved in the NFL International series next year with a game the following week of the Jaguars/Bills game. It’s the first time the league has tried back-to-back games in consecutive weeks.
Based on what Jones said, there are several possibilities. The simple answer would be the Jaguars extending their commitment to London past their current agreement that ends in 2016. Conspiracy theorists have the Jaguars moving to London as soon as 2017, permanently. Khan’s commitment to Jacksonville from an economic standpoint would make that unlikely, particularly if he continues on his path of development of the Jacksonville Shipyards and potentially putting a cover on the stadium. If the NFL puts a team in London permanently, and that’s a big overall if, a more likely scenario, but still remote, would be Khan becoming the owner in London and selling the Jaguars. All speculation, especially since the attendance is up at the games and sponsorship dollars have also increased, in and out of London. Notice the talk about franchise relocation to Los Angeles recently hasn’t included the Jaguars as one of the teams as a potential tenant.
Notes: Brandon Linder and Cecil Shorts didn’t practice today for the Jaguars. Gus Bradley said he expected Shorts to play on Sunday and they were looking at Shatley potentially at right tackle and moving Austin Pasztor into the right guard spot if Linder can’t play. It didn’t rain at practice today, but it was a bit chillier. After practice tomorrow, the Jaguars will leave their practice facility in the northwest suburbs and move into London near Wembley Stadium.