JACKSONVILLE – Here’s this week’s Wednesday primer.
Each Wednesday morning during the 2013 regular season, jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser sets the stage for the Jaguars’ media access that day by previewing major topics facing the team. Each Wednesday afternoon/evening, he will break down what was learned from Jaguars players and coaches that day.
Here’s a look at five key Wednesday topics as the Jaguars prepare for the Buffalo Bills…
1. The MoJo watch. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is coming off his three best games of the season, including a season-high 103 yards on 14 carries in a victory over Houston last Thursday. But Jones-Drew sustained a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter against the Texans and will be questionable early this week. Jones-Drew remains optimistic he will play, but he and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley agreed Monday that it’s unlikely he will practice until Friday. Can he go Sunday? We may not know until the weekend, but it will be a topic all week.
2. Can Jaguars run without Jones-Drew? Jones-Drew believes he will play, and given his history, that means he probably will do just that. But if he’s limited, or even out, the Jaguars still need to run. They have surpassed 100 yards rushing as a team each of the last three games, and it’s no coincidence the offense has improved in that span. If Jones-Drew can’t play, Jordan Todman will make his first career start and rookie Denard Robinson’s carries also likely will increase. Todman has been effective in spots sharing carries with Jones-Drew, but his career-high game is 31 yards. Robinson has 27 yards rushing this season.
3. Can Cecil Shorts III reach 1,000? With three games remaining in the season, this is now a big topic. Shorts, who fell 21 yards short of the milestone last season when he missed the last game of the season with a concussion, has 66 receptions for 777 yards and three touchdowns this season, meaning he must average a touch less than 75 yards a game in his last three games to reach the goal. It can be done, but his post-bye pace will have to increase. Defenses have focused more on Shorts since the bye-week suspension of Justin Blackmon and he has averaged four receptions for 42.4 yards during that span.
4. Can the streak continue? Bradley for the most part has avoided discussing winning and losing this season. That was true when the Jaguars were 0-8, and it has been true since the bye as the Jaguars have won four of five games, including their last three in succession. The Jaguars last had a four-game winning streak in 2007, when they won four consecutive games to move to 4-1. That was the last time the Jaguars made the playoffs, so yeah, whether or not the Jaguars can keep that streak going will be a topic Wednesday.
5. Blocking the Bills. The Bills lead the NFL with 44 sacks, with defensive end Mario Williams leading the team with 12.5 sacks and his backup, Jerry Hughes, registering eight. Marcel Dareus and Keith Williams have seven sacks each on the interior. Bottom line: these guys can rush the passer. The Jaguars’ 41 sacks allowed are tied for seventh-most in the NFL, but they have reduced the sacks allowed in recent weeks with a combination of improved line play and quarterback Chad Henne getting the ball out quickly and avoiding sacks. The Jaguars have allowed just three sacks in the last two games. That improvement will get tested in a big way Sunday.