JACKSONVILLE – The Wildcat still lives in Jacksonville. Very much so.
And Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said nothing Thursday afternoon to indicate otherwise, saying that the biggest reason Denard Robinson wasn’t used more often in the regular-season opener had little to do with Robinson.
Rather, it was about circumstance.
And because the circumstances in the regular-season opener didn’t always present favorable situations, Robinson – the running back/quarterback the Jaguars refer to as “offensive weapon” – wasn’t used as originally might have been the case.
“When you’re trying to find rhythm, you don’t want to be searching for something,” Fisch said Thursday as the Jaguars (0-1) prepared to play the Oakland Raiders (0-1) at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
The Jaguars never found a rhythm Sunday. Not only did they fail to score a touchdown, they faced down situations with 10 or more yards to go on 51 of 72 plays.
Fisch said with the team trying to get its base offense moving, and struggling to do so, it was difficult to add a wrinkle such as the Wildcat, a formation in which Robinson lines up at quarterback. The Jaguars used that formation just once on Sunday. Robinson ran for one yard on the play.
“I think Maurice Jones-Drew had fifteen carries for forty-five yards or so,” Fisch said. “I would have preferred to call one more handoff to Maurice if we got ahead of the chains at all – rather than say, ‘Let’s try a wildcat gimmick-type play.’ If we can get the chains moving and get a couple first downs now there’s a place for some more of the creativity, so to speak.”
Fisch said creating better down-and-distance situations is key overall – whether the team uses Robinson more or not.
“We obviously have to be in a better situation there to be able to play better ball,” he said. “When your down and distance gets skewed, so does your play call and so does the balance that you’re looking for. So does the ability to kind of help the quarterback out, and help the offensive line out.
“All of those things come with being able to run play action passes and move the quarterback out of the pocket. When you don’t have a run threat based on the down and distance, then you really kind of become a little handcuffed and you start trying to get the ball out of his hands quicker.”
Also on Thursday:
*Cornerback Alan Ball sustained a groin injury in practice, meaning the Jaguars could be without their two starting cornerbacks Sunday. “We’ll have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow,” Bradley said of Ball. Starter Dwayne Gratz is out at least three weeks with a high ankle sprain, meaning veteran Will Blackmon could start at one corner with rookie Demetrius McCray at the other. Nickelback Mike Harris also could start, though he has played well at the nickel and the team could leave him there while starting McCray/Blackmon. Bradley said rookie Marcus Burley could be activated from the practice squad, and safety Dwight Lowery has experience playing nickel. “We can jockey some guys around and get it put together,” Bradley said.
*Wide receiver Mike Brown missed practice with a back injury and could be a game-time decision. Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (groin) returned to practice full, giving the Jaguars three healthy receivers: Shorts, rookie Ace Sanders and Stephen Burton.
*With Blackmon likely starting at cornerback Sunday, Bradley said the team has to discuss the punt returner situation. Blackmon played there in place of Sanders in the opener because Sanders – the team’s top punt returner – is starting at receiver while starting wide receiver Justin Blackmon serves a four-game suspension. “That’s something we have to consider,” Bradley said.
*Guard Will Rackley (knee) returned to practice in what Bradley calls the team’s “return-to-play” protocol, a series of drills relating to a player’s position. Rackley’s status will be evaluated as the week continues. Bradley said he expects to have Rackley and guard Uche Nwaneri Sunday despite Nwaneri (knee) missing practice Thursday.
*Tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf) also worked under the return-to-play protocol, though Bradley said this week it’s a long shot that Lewis will play. If Lewis can’t play, tight end Clay Harbor – acquired off waivers from Philadelphia a week before the season – said on Thursday he is more familiar with the playbook than last week, which means he could play more than the 12 plays he played in the opener. Allen Reisner started at tight end and played 67 plays.
*Linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) was limited, but Bradley said Thomas is expected to play Sunday.
*Fisch said he believes quarterback Chad Henne’s work with the first team during training camp and preseason will benefit him Sunday in his first start of the season. Henne got nearly 330 repetitions with the first team in camp while Fisch said Blaine Gabbert got around 345 before being named the starter following the second preseason game. “I think it’s a huge benefit in comparison to if we were in a situation where we didn’t have those reps,” Fisch said, adding of Henne’s 37 career starts with Miami and Jacksonville, “It’s not certainly going to be too big for him and I think our guys will respond well with Chad behind center.” Henne is starting with Gabbert out with a hand/thumb injury.
*Fisch on Jones-Drew’s 15-carry, 45-yard performance in the opener: “We did probably put him in some tough situations. There weren’t some huge holes but there were also some that I bet he would tell you that maybe he took a cut early or maybe he will continue to press it more the more he plays in our system. We know how good of a back he is and we need to continue to get him going and I think for his first game back he ran extremely hard.”