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Open Locker Room: Heading home

Posted Nov 13, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars’ goal this week simple and clear: Play better in front of home fans at EverBank Field.

JACKSONVILLE – Now, it’s on the next task.

That was the message from the Jaguars’ locker room Wednesday – that while securing their first victory under Head Coach Gus Bradley last weekend was great, that wasn’t close to the end all.

Now, the idea is to keep improving . . .

And to win again . . .

And perhaps most importantly, to play well – and to win – at home.

“We definitely want to win here, and play well at home to give our fans something to cheer about,” Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-8) prepared to play the Arizona Cardinals (5-4) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

“We do have an opportunity against Arizona. They have a good team, but hopefully, we can build on last week.”

The game against the Cardinals technically will be the Jaguars’ fifth home game this season, but because the team played the San Francisco 49ers in London on October 27, it will be the fourth regular-season home game at EverBank this season.

The Jaguars’ last game at EverBank was October 20 against San Diego.

The Jaguars lost the first three home games 28-2 to the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-3 to the Indianapolis Colts and 24-6 to the Chargers. Those aren’t the kinds of results Bradley wants, and Sunday is a chance to reverse that – and maintain the momentum from Sunday’s victory.

“I think we just have to execute,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. “There are some things we have to do better. We’ve played some tough teams here. The Colts and Chiefs and Chargers, they aren’t slouches. We just have to continue to work.”

Said Henne, “We just need to have a mindset this week that we need to play well at home and try to get on a winning streak.”

Bradley emphasized the need to play better at EverBank  when speaking to players as the team gathered to begin full preparations for the Cardinals Wednesday.

“We’ve got to focus on what we need to focus on to get better and play better at home,” wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said. “This is our town and we should want to be able to come here and play excellent, have it be to our advantage.

“We won last week, and we need to get it done this week and play well at home.”

The Jaguars are 1-10 at EverBank the last two seasons, and have won five games there the last three seasons.

“It’s very important,” Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. “We’ve really had trouble at home getting going and playing a good game. There’s a lot of focus on making sure we come out and play at a high level this week at home, especially coming off a win last week.

“This will be a great opportunity at home, to play against a good opponent and bring our best game to the table. We can’t afford to come out flat or come out slow.”

The Jaguars have not scored a touchdown at EverBank this season, and tight end Marcedes Lewis said while the team needs to start and finish faster, he doesn’t have a particular reason that hasn’t happened yet.

“I can’t pinpoint anything,” Lewis said. “I just know whatever it is we’ve been doing getting ready for the week, we need to change something. If on Friday, if you normally go out with your family if they’re in town, then stay home and eat in.

Nwaneri said the Jaguars can’t assume that just because they’re playing at home that that will be an inherent advantage. Success at home, as is the case on the road, must be earned.

“At the end of the day execution is always the most important thing,” he said. “You can’t expect just being at home to be a reason you’ll win. You can’t expect playing at home to get you to play well out of nowhere. The preparation and the focus and execution has to be there – same as if you weren’t at home.

“For us, there may have been a little bit of that this season – thinking, ‘We’re at home, so we’re automatically going to perform well.’ Everyone has to stay focused on the game plan, executing it and playing at a high level. You can’t expect it to be an automatic thing.”

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