JACKSONVILLE – Here’s this week’s Wednesday wrap up.
On Wednesday mornings during the 2013 regular season, jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser sets the stage for the Jaguars’ Wednesday media access by previewing major topics facing the team. Each Wednesday afternoon/evening, he breaks down what was learned from Jaguars players and coaches that day.
Here’s the wrap up of Wednesday’s five topics as the Jaguars prepared to play the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Ohio, Sunday …
1. Can it continue? The Jaguars are playing as well the last three weeks as they have all season, a stretch that includes victories in two of their last three games. They haven’t won back-to-back games since 2010 and haven’t won three consecutive road games since the 2007 season. Still, when the Jaguars gathered Wednesday to begin preparing for their first game at Cleveland in two seasons, the focus remained more on Head Coach Gus Bradley’s process than the Browns. “One day at a time,” Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. “We don’t really put too much thought into the statistics and things. We know if we just keep punching it the way we’ve been punching it and just keep trying to build on what we’ve done and be consistent with it, all of that stuff will take care of itself.”
2. Can the Jaguars protect Chad Henne? Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne played perhaps his best game of the season against Houston, and Bradley said the day after that there are no immediate intentions to move Blaine Gabbert back into the starting lineup. Henne completed 23 of 32 passes for 239 yards on Sunday, a performance made notable by Henne’s willingness to stand in against an effective Houston pass rush that sacked him four times and hit him as he threw on several other occasions. “You definitely want to keep him upright,” Nwaneri said. “He took a lot of shots in the game. That’s something you never going to be perfect at as an offensive lineman, but you always want to strive to do the best that you can and be consistent to keep the quarterback from having to take shots.” The Browns’ defense has 31 sacks this season.
3. What’s MoJo’s role? Bradley lauded Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew earlier this week, but he did so for far more than his season-high 84 yards rushing against Houston last week. The Jaguars approached Jones-Drew last week about reducing his carries, and that indeed happened last week, with Jones-Drew rushing 14 times and backup Jordan Todman carrying 11 times. Bradley said Jones-Drew’s approach and his ensuing performance was an example of an unselfish player benefitting the team and being rewarded for that unselfishness. “Obviously, it’s difficult, but at the same time that’s what was best for the team – to get more guys in, to get more reps, to be more fresh come the fourth quarter,” Jones-Drew said Wednesday. “Come the fourth quarter, I was as fresh as I’ve ever been. It worked out well. We got the victory and we’re going to continue on that path.” Jones-Drew also noted that he caught six passes, meaning he was very much involved in the game plan. “It just depends on how the game goes, how we rotate in and out,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. I didn’t take as much pounding. When you get a lot of passes, you’re in space.”
4. Will Mike Brown be ready? Wide receiver Mike Brown and cornerback Will Blackmon missed Sunday’s game at Houston with AC joint injuries, but both practiced Wednesday and appear likely to play Sunday. Wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion) and running back Justin Forsett (foot) missed practice, with Forsett out four-to-six weeks and Bradley saying Burton is unlikely to play. Defensive end Andre Branch (knee), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder) all missed practice Wednesday, but Bradley said Burton and Forsett are the only injured players likely to miss Sunday.
5. What about the cold? There are more storylines than the Jaguars seeking a second consecutive victory and there are more than the team’s chance at a rare third-consecutive road victory. The high temperature in Cleveland is expected to be 38 degrees Sunday. “We’ll figure it out with the weather going into it,” Henne said. “I just watched the Pittsburgh (Steelers) game (at Cleveland this past Sunday). The coldness isn’t a factor; it’s the conditions, whether it’s precipitation or the wind. Let’s just play ball. Wherever we go, we’re going to compete and we’re going to have fun. Whatever those conditions are we’re just going to go out and play our best.”