Despite the difficulties,
And more importantly to Knighton, the Jaguars’ defensive tackle, there’s a reason for that confidence – a reason that trumps the team’s record entering the second half of the season.
Two and six? Three and a half games out of first place?
No, Knighton and others around the Jaguars said this week that wasn’t what anyone envisioned or wanted when the season began two months ago, but Knighton said this week there remains a feeling in the locker room that the second half of the season can be different for multiple reasons.
A big one?
The character of the players involved.
“We have the right group of guys who just always want to win,” Knighton said this week as the Jaguars (2-6) began preparing to play the Indianapolis Colts (0-9) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
“We always want to do the right things. If you look around the locker room, you don’t see guys tucking their tales in and pointing their fingers or anything like that. We’re just going to stick to the script, really. We believe in our coaches and believe in one another.”
The Jaguars, who had a chance to pull to within a game of Houston in the final game before the bye, now trail the AFC South leading Texans (6-3) by three-and-a-half games.
The Texans visit the Jaguars November 27.
“We have to take care of ourselves,” Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. “They’re playing good football. They’ve fought their way to the division lead right now. There’s still a lot of good football left.
“What we have to do right now is take care of ourselves and get ourselves going. We’ll worry about them in a few weeks.”
The Jaguars during the first half of the season played one of the NFL’s toughest schedules, with just one of their opponents – the Carolina Panthers (2-6) – currently having a losing record. They also played Tennessee (4-4), the New York Jets (5-3), New Orleans (5-3), Cincinnati (6-2), Pittsburgh (6-3), Baltimore (6-2) and the Houston Texans (6-3).
Twice they managed to win, beating the Titans 16-14 in the season opener and playing one of the best defensive games in recent franchise history to beat the Ravens, 12-7, on October 24.
The Jaguars’ defense, after ranking 28th in the NFL a year ago, has improved to rank No. 5 this season, and that improvement has helped keep the Jaguars in most of their games this season. But the offense has struggled, with the team ranking 32nd in the NFL in total offense and scoring just over 12 points a game.
Too often this season, the offensive struggles have been too much to overcome.
“Obviously we want to have a better second half than we did this first half,” center
“Having a short-term memory,” he said. “We got off to a slower start than we expected. Having this bye week come off halfway through the season, that may have been the best time for us to get back and get some clarity – to get back and put things in perspective.”
Del Rio said one thing the team must remember is that there are things it is doing well – particularly in preparation.
“We’ve had a good process,” Del Rio said. “We’re sticking with the process. Guys remain steadfast in the approach and things we’re looking for. That part has been good.”
And while not enough has been good, Lewis – like Knighton – said the Jaguars’ locker room is a team of motivated players who won’t quit, and certainly won’t stop believing that good can come out of a season that has started in disappointing fashion.
“The best part about coming back after a bye is everything that happened before the bye, you have to forget about it,” Lewis said. “That’s going to be the test for this team. What we did in the first half, obviously we’re not happy with it, but we have to keep moving forward. That’s how you get better in this league.”
“There have been a lot of big turnarounds in eight weeks in the NFL. We’re preparing for a surge right now.”