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First off the field: Up-tempo a two-way theme in Jaguars-Eagles

Posted Sep 3, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles won’t be the only up-tempo offense in 2014 regular-season opener on Sunday.


JACKSONVILLE – The Philadelphia Eagles play fast offensively. Really fast.

Come Sunday, they won’t be alone.

The Jaguars play fast offensively, too, with up-tempo being core to the team’s offense under coordinator Jedd Fisch. But Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said on Wednesday while it’s a matchup of two teams with similar beliefs, the approaches are not an exact match.

“We’re a little bit different style of tempo,” Bradley said Wednesday as the Jaguars prepared to play the defending NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 regular-season opener at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sunday at 1 p.m.

“We’ll do bursts of tempo, depending on where are in the game and how the flow is going, so it’s a little different.”

The Eagles set what is believed to be an NFL record last season by running a play every 23.8 seconds, but Fisch noted several times last season that the Jaguars weren’t far off that pace. While Fisch said Wednesday that inexperience on offense could slow the Jaguars’ tempo a bit, the Jaguars’ objective is to run plays as quickly as any team in the NFL, including Philadelphia.

“We’re trying to be right at that tempo,” running back Toby Gerhart said.

Fisch said he has focused on tempo since after the 2011 season, his first of two seasons as the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami. He said he had studied not only the approach of Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly – then at the University of Oregon – but of Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn. Fisch said the Hurricanes “became a tempo team” the following season, not huddling at all.

“That’s our game,” wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said. “We want to be relentless and we want to have tempo.”

Fisch said the Jaguars would have liked to have run higher tempo last year, but first-down efficiency hurt that objective. He also said as the Jaguars improved on first down, they improved tempo.

“During this offseason, we made an even bigger commitment to it, so tempo is an important thing to both teams,” Fisch said.

While the Jaguars communicate the offense differently than the Eagles, Fisch agreed with Bradley that the biggest difference between the teams is the Eagles pretty much commit to no-huddle, high-tempo throughout the game.

“Sometimes, we either huddle or sugar huddle,” Fisch said, but added, “For the most part, there are probably more similarities than differences in terms of what we’re trying to get accomplished.”

Fisch said Henne’s ability to run an efficient offense is a big reason he has confidence in the veteran as the starter, and while Henne said the objective Sunday won’t be matching the Eagles’ pace, the objective will be to play fast.

“We just have to worry about what we can control on our side of the football,” Henne said. “If we are going to be up-tempo just like them then we have to be precise.  We have to convert on third down and being really good on first and second down.  I think positive plays are going to be a big part of this.”

Henne added, “I think we want to be that kind of team.  The only way you can do that is create on first and second down and convert on third down.  We just have to be smart with the football and move the chains as best as we can.”

And Bradley said while the Jaguars may not have the exact game-long commitment to tempo as Sunday’s opponent, he said without question it is core to their approach.

“Someone asked me, ‘Would you not run tempo since their defense faces high-tempo all the time?’” Bradley said. “Well, we face high-tempo (defensively in practice) with our offense and I’m sure that’s not going to stop Chip Kelly. Coaches don’t have that mindset. It’s more, ‘This is who we are.’”

Also on Wednesday:

*Bradley said the Jaguars have named team captains for the 2014 season: Henne (offense), tight end Marcedes Lewis (offense), middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (defense) and kicker Josh Scobee (special teams). …

*Bradley said Scobee kicked well in practice on Wednesday, adding, “He did pretty good. He’s on the up.” Scobee, the Jaguars’ 11th-year veteran kicker, said before practice how he kicked Wednesday would determine if he will be ready for Sunday’s regular-season opener.

*Scobee (quad) officially was listed as working limited Wednesday on the team’s initial injury report of the week, as was tackle Josh Wells (shoulder), wide receiver Allen Robinson (hamstring), punter Bryan Anger (right groin), defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (shoulder) and guard Zane Beadles (calf). …

*Running Storm Johnson (ankle), right tackle Austin Pasztor (hand) and tight end Clay Harbor (calf) did not practice Wednesday. Pasztor will miss at least the first two games of the season, and Bradley said early in the week Harbor likely will not play Sunday. …

*Rookie center Luke Bowanko was listed as working full with a quad injury. …

*Bradley said he expects the Eagles’ offensive approach to require more nickel defense, which should mean extensive playing time for rookie linebacker Telvin Smith. Smith is working with the first team in the nickel-defense package. “We need to play fast,” he said.

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