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Ten Things: Colts-Jaguars

Posted Sep 27, 2013

Ten things the Jacksonville Jaguars must do to beat the Indianapolis Colts Sunday...

1. “Play free.” That’s what Gus Bradley wants Blaine Gabbert to do this week. The Jaguars’ head coach talked early in the week about the need for Gabbert to not worry about being perfect, and just play loose – with freedom. That’s become a topic all week, and it remains to be seen if Gabbert can play that way – and how much he can improve by doing so. But, hey, the approach makes sense. You can’t play quarterback in the NFL worrying about mistakes. So, play free? Yeah. Play free.

2. Protect Blaine Gabbert. You can’t play loose and free on your back. Or while being hit. Or running around to avoid being hit. The offensive line has allowed 14 sacks this season, including seven on Gabbert in the regular-season opener. The number has been going down each week. Keep it that way.

3. And run-block better, too. This is a lot more than an aside. The Jaguars are 30th in the NFL in rushing, and they’re averaging 2.4 yards a game rushing. There’s talk this week of gap-blocking more than zone-blocking, that maybe the former approach is better than the latter approach, with the latter approach having been emphasized more thus far this season. Whatever the approach, you can’t run for 2.4 yards per carry. It bogs everything else down.

4. Get Cecil involved – early. Cecil Shorts III is the Jaguars’ best wide receiver, and perhaps the team’s best offensive player. He has 19 receptions for 236 yards this season, but three of those receptions for 45 yards have come in the first half. That’s indicative of the Jaguars’ offensive struggles in general early in games, but he needs to be more involved early.

5. Stop the run. Sure, Andrew Luck is dangerous. But the Colts believe they’re becoming a running team, and after an impressive performance in San Francisco last week, they have reason to believe that way. The Colts will try to build on that, and with the Jaguars ranked 32nd in the NFL against the run, why wouldn’t they?

6. Block Robert Mathis. Remember him? Mathis, a longtime defensive end, is now a pass-rushing linebacker in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme. Whatever his position, he’s still dangerous. He has 4.5 sacks in three games this season and is dangerous in passing situations coming of the edge. If you don’t get him blocked, he’ll get a sack. If he gets a sack, it often means a fumble. He must be blocked.

7. Force turnovers. The Colts have committed just one turnover this season, and are 6-0 in the last two years when committing no turnovers. The Jaguars are underdogs. They’re a young team that needs a reason to feel good and to be excited early in the game. There’s nothing like forcing turnovers to get that feeling.

8. Get better on first down. This will be a theme until it’s not. The Jaguars have struggled on first down early in the game, and as a result, have been in far too many second- and third-and-long situations. The result has been only four first-quarter first downs and deficits that have proven impossible to escape.

9. Make plays when they’re there. The Jaguars haven’t had a ton of opportunities this season. When you’re down early, the opponent doesn’t have to take chances and when that happens, it’s hard to create opportunities for big plays. But there have been chances. Shorts, for instance, had a potential touchdown late in the first half against Seattle. The result was a dropped pass and minutes later, a potential 10-point deficit was at 24 entering halftime. Chances like that have been too rare, but when they’re there, plays must be made.

10. Just play. Yes, this is a modified, poorly-disguised version of the “Shut-Out-Da-Noise” entries of last week, but the theme holds true. Very few people outside the team believe the Jaguars will win Sunday. Their losses have been one-sided and the Colts looked very good beating the 49ers last week. None of that matters a bit. Nor do the opinions of analysts, fans and Twittererererers. The Jaguars are at home, and Gabbert is going to start. He’s 3-0 against the Colts. Don’t worry about what’s being said. Just go play, and make that 4-0.

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