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Back to basics for Jaguars after bad losses
The Jacksonville Jaguars have looked like anything but Super Bowl contenders the last two weeks. Getting outscored 70-21 by the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, the Jaguars are doing a mini version of training camp this week, i.e. they are going back to the basics, to the fundamentals that were drilled into them the first couple weeks of August.
Head Coach Doug Marrone hinted on Monday that the team would need to do that, that everyone from players to the coaching staff to himself would have to get back to the fundamentals.
"Fundamentally, we have gotten away from some things and that is on us as coaches," Marrone said. "What I have challenged the coaches and I challenged myself with this week is, 'Hey listen, we have to get back to fundamentals. We have to stick with something that we can sink our teeth in and this way we can go out there and just perform.' I think that teams have done a good job with chip (blocks). Teams have done a good job against us and that's not an excuse. We have to find a better way to get ourselves in good position and we have to find a better way to teach our players to defeat blocks."
Sure enough, Wednesday's practice put an emphasis on getting the basics down pat. It was like a return to the opening weeks of training camp where fundamentals of doing things the right way were stressed. Quarterback Blake Bortles thinks the message struck home.
"I think Doug and the coaches did a good job of pushing us and making sure we are getting the quality work that we need to get done at this point in the week to be ready to go on Sundays," Bortles said following Wednesday's practice. "It is all part of our weekly preparation and Coach Marrone felt as those we needed to push that a little bit and that is what we did today. I thought it went well. I thought we got a lot of good reps in. It is obviously hotter as you know, so that's the camp feel of running that many reps in the heat and doing all of that. It was good. I thought the guys looked good. I thought everybody ran around and, for the most part, was in the right places they needed to be. If they weren't, we got it corrected and went through it again."
Bortles is one who knows that he has to play better. After playing well in three of the first four games, Bortles hasn't been sharp the last two outings. Granted he passed for his career high of 430 yards against Kansas City, but a good portion of those yards came when the game was out of reach. He had a season-low 54.7 rating in that game, due mainly to his four interceptions and only one touchdown.
Marrone thinks Bortles and others are trying to do too much. He said, "He, along with a lot of other players. It is not just him. It is a receiver catching the ball and trying to extend or spin or trying to make these unbelievable plays. I have had that happen with players my whole career. Great players too. Offensive linemen, selling all out, trying to overthink things too much. The quarterback knowing that we need a play trying to make a play and throw it maybe where it shouldn't be thrown. You can go down the line at every position.
All of which makes Sunday's game with Houston that much more important. It's the Jaguars second AFC South opponent this season and after losing to the Tennessee Titans in their first divisional game, they can't afford a second loss in the division to the second of the three co-leaders. The Jaguars, Titans and Texans all share the top spot with 3-3 records. A loss would be the second division game at home and leave the Jaguars winless in two home games with three of the final AFC South games on the road.
The Texans come to town riding a three-game winning streak after losing their first three games to start the season. The Jaguars are reeling with three losses in their last four games. Both teams desperately want a victory, Houston to keep their winning streak intact, the Jaguars to right a ship that is drifting out of control.
Whether the Jaguars retain enough of a grasp on the fundamentals that were stressed this week, could very well determine which direction their season will go.
SERIES HISTORY: 33rd regular-season meeting. Texans lead series, 19-13. Since the series started in 2002, the teams have played a home-and-home series every year. Texans had won six straight in the series prior to last year when the Jaguars swept both games, winning big by 38 points at home and 22 in the season opener in Houston. In the last seven years, it's been a season sweep by one of the teams, five times by the Texans and twice by the Jaguars (2013, 2017). Jaguars are even at home (8-8) but have struggled in games at Houston (5-11). In the Jaguars win at home (45-7) last year, it marked the most points scored in the 32-game history, and was the largest point differential in the series and was the Jaguars largest margin of victory ever against a divisional opponent.