Wake-up call: Friday, Oct. 24

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
7:00
AM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here's a preview of what to expect on Friday regarding the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Coach Gus Bradley is scheduled to speak to the media at approximately 12:30 p.m. ET and he'll have the latest report on whether cornerback Dwayne Gratz (hip flexor) will be able to play in Sunday's game against Miami. Bradley already said Thursday that it's "highly unlikely" that cornerback Alan Ball would play. If Gratz and Ball are out, the Jaguars will likely start a pair of 2013 seventh-round picks against the Dolphins.
  • Ace Sanders hasn't provided the lift as a punt returner the Jaguars hoped when they drafted him in the fifth round in 2013 -- yet. He says the unit is very close to breaking one for a touchdown.
  • With defensive end Andre Branch (groin) out for at least six weeks, Ryan Davis is going to get more playing time outside at the Leo spot. If he's able to get a sack on Sunday, he might have a surprise ready for his injured teammate.
  • My prediction on the Jaguars-Dolphins game will post at 1 p.m. ET.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It looks like the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be down three defensive starters for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins -- and they may be forced to start two seventh-round draft picks in the secondary.

With the defense already down middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (pectoral/IR) and defensive end Andre Branch (groin), coach Gus Bradley said Thursday that it's "highly unlikely" that cornerback Alan Ball will be able to play because of a biceps injury.

Ball hasn't practiced this week after suffering the injury in the Jaguars' 24-6 victory over Cleveland last Sunday.

In addition, cornerback Dwayne Gratz was added to the injury report with tightness in his hip flexor. He would start in place of Ball if he's healthy, but if he can't play the Jaguars would be forced to start Jeremy Harris. He was one of the Jaguars' two seventh-round draft picks in 2013. The other is Demetrius McCray, who has started at left cornerback the past three weeks.

Harris missed his rookie season with a back injury and has been inactive for three games this season.

Here is the Jaguars' Thursday injury report:

Did not practice: Branch (groin), Ball (biceps), defensive end Chris Clemons (not injury related), linebacker Geno Hayes (not injury related), defensive tackle Roy Miller (not injury related).

Limited: Gratz (hip flexor).

Full: Center Luke Bowanko (ankle), running back Toby Gerhart (foot), safety Craig Loston (hamstring).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Blake Bortles really didn’t get into any kind of rhythm as a passer in last Sunday’s 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Until the Jacksonville Jaguars went into the two-minute drill.

That’s when Bortles played his best football of the day. He scrambled out of pressure, completed all three passes he threw and led the Jaguars to a touchdown to take the lead just before halftime.

Bortles is very comfortable running the two-minute drill and that was the latest example of his success.

Since he replaced Chad Henne at halftime of Week 3, Bortles has had six two-minute drill situations and has completed 74 percent of his passes (23-for-31) for 302 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. One of those incompletions was a spike to stop the clock. In addition to throwing the touchdown passes against Indianapolis and Tennessee, he also led the Jaguars to a field goal against Pittsburgh at the end of the first half.

"That kind of goes back to college," Bortles said. "We would get in two-minute in random situations and kind of flow and go. I think our guys do a good job and obviously when you’re going that fast the defense gets tired and it limits the things they can do. We can just go play ball so I think that definitely plays out."

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he’s not surprised by Bortles’ success in that setting because while the two-minute drill limits the play calling on offense, it also limits the defensive fronts and coverages.

"I think what the two-minute drill does is No. 1 you take motion out of it," Fisch said. "You’re not giving different looks. You’re not getting different looks, you’re being able to practice what you get for the most part unless it’s a timeout, unless you’re coming off of a stopped clock. When the running clock is going you’re really kind of getting a few defenses. With that he is comfortable with the plays that are called in that situation because you practice the same plays week in and week out in two-minute. And I think on top of it he does have a knack to be able to make plays in that situation.

"It’s pretty cool watching him go but I’d like to be able to not think that we have to live in two-minute offense because that’s a recipe for a very small time of possession."

That’s why the Jaguars don’t jump into the two-minute drill at random times throughout the game. It wouldn’t give the defense much time to rest, especially if they went three-and-out. The Jaguars will run up-tempo, but only about 20 to 25 percent of the time, and that’s not as quick as two-minute.

Even though he thrives in it, Bortles isn’t going to advocate for it.

"I think we’ll save it for when we’re in the situations," he said.
video

Matthew Berry discusses running backs he loves and hates in Week 8.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Each Thursday I’ll post an item in which five players answer a question that has nothing to do with football. Hopefully it's a way for you to get to know the players a little better. Some weeks it'll be a fun question. Others it'll be a quirky or off-beat question. There also will be serious questions mixed in as well.

This week's question, with a Halloween theme: What are you afraid of?

C Luke Bowanko

"Butterflies."

Say that again?

"Butterflies."

Really?

"I don’t know if I’m afraid of butterflies. I just don’t really understand them."

I don’t know what that means.

"Think about a butterfly or a moth or any of those things. They just, like, kind of float. They don’t fly. If they fly, I should be able to fly. Just the whole idea of a butterfly kind of freaks me out. I don’t like them. I’m not like scared of them or anything."

So what are you scared of?

"I’m scared of going bald, because my head’s too big to be bald. So that’d be a tough reality for me. I think Zane [Beadles] shares in that belief because he’s kind of in the mid-life crisis with his hair right now. I think that’s my biggest fear right now.

"Snakes. I know Florida’s got some snakes. That’s pretty jacked up. I don’t need those in my life. They can just hang out there they hang out and I’ll hang out where I can hang out."

QB Stephen Morris

"I hate roaches. I’m scared of them things.”"

Really?

"I’m scared of roaches. I hate them."

Why?

"They’re just really scary."

Big ones or little ones?

"The ones that fly."

Palmetto bugs.

"They’re Palmetto bugs? You know the name? Those are the ones. They’ve got that sound when they’re buzzing -- zzzzzzzzzzzzz. It’s like, ‘Oh, where is this thing?’"

It is freaky when you try to kill them and they take off flying.

"And then they’re gone. And then after that I can’t be in that room. I’ve got to leave. Like, I feel like I need to call the exterminator or something and come handle this one roach. If I have shoes on, all right, cool, I’m going to try to stomp on it. If I don’t, I’ve got to get out of there."

I just killed one near the media room this week.

"You messed me up with that one. You messed me up. But I always got shoes on so I can get them. If I don’t get it the first time: ‘You survived buddy. You lived another day.’"

WR Allen Hurns

"Like an animal?"

Anything.

"I’d probably say snakes. That’s about it."

Why? Did you have a bad experience with one as a kid?

"No. I watch a lot of TV and I’ve seen the crazy things that they do, like how fast they can react."

Come across any recently?

"I’ve seen a couple snakes when I was down at Miami because you’ve got a big lake over there and walking by I some kind of down by the rocks. Other than that I haven’t been real close to one."

So you don’t go to the reptile exhibit at the zoo?

"Oh, no. Not at all."

TE Nic Jacobs

"Open water."

Why?

"Because you don’t know what’s under the water."

Did you see the movie ‘Open Water?’

"I have never seen the movie. I would say [being in the] open water would be like the same as the movie ‘Gravity.' Just, like, being out somewhere and you’re helpless pretty much. I don’t know how else to put it. You’re stuck in the middle of the ocean and you can’t see land this way, you can’t see land that way. It’s not your environment. It’s not what you’re built to survive in."

So you don’t go on cruises?

"Uh-uh. None of that. I won’t go on cruises on the ocean. None of that. If I do I’m staying inside the entire time."

What about fishing?

"If I can see land I’ll be okay with it. I’ve been fishing in open water sometimes but it still makes me nervous."

G Tyler Shatley

"I’d say spiders or snakes. Pretty much anything that I can’t see coming."

Did you have a bad experience with one?

"No. I don’t like things that I can’t see coming or that are quicker than I am. If they’re quicker than me they’re going to get me."

If you see a spider can you kill it?

"I can take care of them. I’d rather not have to deal with them."

The worst thing would be for you to find a spider in your locker?

"Yeah. Well, no, that wouldn’t be the worst thing. It’d probably be worse if I got in bed and there’s a snake there. That would probably be worse."
video

ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Miami at Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny had successful surgery on Wednesday morning to repair a torn pectoral muscle, the team announced Thursday.

The Jaguars placed Posluszny on injured reserve Monday afternoon. He suffered the injury during last Sunday's 24-6 victory against Cleveland.

Posluszny is in his fourth season with the Jaguars and eighth overall. The 2013 Pro Bowler has recorded at least 110 tackles from 2008-2013. He was second in the NFL with 162 tackles in 2013.
Every Thursday I’ll present an interesting (to me, anyway) stat, break it down, and try to provide some context heading into the game the following weekend.

No more long ball

One reason for the Jaguars’ defensive improvements has been significantly better coverage in the secondary. There have been much fewer coverage busts or instances where players get caught looking into the offensive backfield, the two main reasons it seemed receivers were always running wide open during the season’s first month.

Through the first four games, the Jaguars had given up a league-worst 25 passing plays of 20 or more yards – an average of more than six per game. The total damage: 687 yards and six touchdowns, including three by San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers.

Since then, the secondary has been much tighter. It's given up only 10 in the last three games and none have gone for touchdowns. Even the 65-yarder the Jaguars gave up to Andrew Hawkins ended up not hurting because it went from the Cleveland 6-yard line to the Jacksonville 29, but defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks tackled Isaiah Crowell for a 4-yard loss on first down and linebacker Paul Posluszny sacked Brian Hoyer for an 8-yard loss on second down. Hoyer threw incomplete on third down and the Browns ended up punting.

It’s not a coincidence that the Jaguars’ lone victory (Cleveland) and closest losses (Pittsburgh and Tennessee) have come in the last three weeks.

The better work in the secondary bodes well for the Jaguars in Sunday’s game against Miami because the Dolphins don’t exactly have an explosive passing offense. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has completed only 14 passes of 20 or more yards this season and the longest touchdown pass he has thrown is 18 yards.
Reading the coverage of the Jacksonville Jaguars ...

Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles' 10 interceptions are not yet a concern for the Jaguars, writes Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. O'Halloran writes that interceptions will happen to quarterbacks in general and rookie quarterbacks in particular. The key for Bortles is limiting how impactful those turnovers become.

General manager David Caldwell is a guest on Daniel Jeremiah's Move the Sticks podcast on NFL.com.

NFL.com's Adam Rank has receiver Allen Robinson, who caught his first touchdown pass last week, among his sleeper fantasy picks this week.

Fox Sports Florida's Ross Devonport writes that the Dolphins aren't taking the 1-6 Jaguars lightly.

Cornerback Aaron Colvin, the team's fourth-round draft pick, practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday for the first time since tearing his ACL on the Monday of Senior Bowl week practices in late January, writes the T-U's Vito Stellino.

 
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Sunday's Jacksonville Jaguars-Miami Dolphins matchup at EverBank Field features two teams coming off big victories and searching for something neither has had in a while: a winning streak.

The Jaguars haven't won back-to-back games since Weeks 12-14 of the 2013 season, and the Dolphins haven't accomplished that since Weeks 13-15 of last season. Even worse for the Jaguars: They haven't won back-to-back home games since the 2011 season.

ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup.

Michael DiRocco: Everyone in Jacksonville is convinced Blake Bortles is the franchise quarterback the team has needed. What's the feeling in Miami on Ryan Tannehill?

James Walker: Just like Tannehill's play, the mood has been up and down on Miami's starting quarterback. There was a lot of optimism entering this season that Tannehill would carry Miami's offense. The Dolphins hired a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, who helped quickly develop Nick Foles last season in Philadelphia. So many Dolphins fans, perhaps prematurely, expected quick results from Tannehill, as well. But it's been a slow progression in his third season. He was average for the first three games. Then, Tannehill started to put together better performances against the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Last week was really the first time in 38 starts that I felt Tannehill was the best player on the field. He started with 14 straight completions, which Tannehill told me he's never done at any level to start a game. He appears to be turning the corner and clicking in this new offense. But the bottom line is Tannehill is still 18-20 as a starter. Gaining consistency over these next 10 games will be key.

I'm not sure if the Jaguars getting their first win makes them more or less dangerous to upset the Dolphins. What are your thoughts?

DiRocco: If you had asked me this question on Sunday night, I would have said more dangerous. The defense just played its best game, and the offense took advantage of some Cleveland turnovers and scored a season-high 24 points despite Bortles playing his worst game. Things had been starting to come together for the Jaguars in the previous two weeks, and they finally put a complete game together, eliminated mistakes and made big plays. But the loss of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (torn pectoral muscle) for the rest of the season and defensive end Andre Branch (groin) for at least six weeks is a huge blow. It's almost as if this team is snakebitten. They get some good news (a victory) but can't enjoy it because of the injuries. That will definitely impact the team's psyche because there are so many young players (29 first- or second-year players) who haven't been through a situation like this before.

How does the return of Dion Jordan impact the defense? Will that help Cameron Wake?

Walker: I don't expect a huge impact from Jordan right away. Six weeks is a long time to be away from football, especially during a suspension when you can't communicate with coaches or have a playbook. Jordan practiced with the team for the first time since Aug. 28 on Tuesday and a lot has changed. Backups such as Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Terrence Fede have stepped forward and developed. Miami's defense also added a few wrinkles since the summer. Jordan has a lot of catching up to do. The practice week is still ongoing, and how he responds physically and mentally will be key. If Jordan sees action Sunday in Jacksonville, his biggest contribution would most likely be on special teams until he gets his legs under him.

How much will the loss of Posluszny impact Jacksonville's defense?

DiRocco: As mentioned before, it's huge, and it goes beyond what he does on the field. Posluszny has his limitations in pass coverage, but he's a fantastic two-down linebacker. He's a tackling machine, one of the team's leaders, one of the team's smartest players, is responsible for calling the defensive plays and is the Jaguars' best defensive player. There's no way the Jaguars will be able to replace his production or leadership, especially since they're going to be relying on players who have mainly contributed on special teams (J.T. Thomas and LaRoy Reynolds). Though the Jaguars' defensive line has played pretty well, not having Posluszny makes the run defense considerably weaker -- not good since the Dolphins are fourth in the NFL in rushing.

The Dolphins had a big win in Chicago last week. Was that an aberration or are they legitimate contenders for a playoff spot?

Walker: I won't put the Dolphins into the "contender" category until they can at least win two games in a row -- a feat they have yet to do this season. The Dolphins are in that middle of the pack with about 12-15 other teams about which you're not sure what to expect week to week. There have been times -- such as wins against the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots -- when the Dolphins have looked like contenders. There is certainly enough talent, especially when the quarterback is playing well, but Miami hasn't developed enough consistency to this point to inspire confidence this is a 10-win team. We will learn a lot about the Dolphins with how they respond Sunday in Jacksonville.

Have the Jaguars finally found a spot for Denard Robinson at running back?

DiRocco: It appears so, although I don't think you're going to see him get the kind of workload he did against Cleveland (22 carries) on a consistent basis. Though he's the most explosive of the Jaguars' backs, he's not used to carrying the ball that many times. Carrying the ball as a running back is different than carrying it as a quarterback, the way he did during his career at Michigan. And, he's not used to taking the kind of pounding he did on Sunday. When Toby Gerhart returns from a foot injury (which should be Sunday), Robinson's carries will decrease, though he should still be the No. 1 back. I'd also like to see him used more on the edge and in the passing game, where he can use his open-field abilities a little more.

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Wake-up call: Thursday, Oct. 23

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
7:45
AM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here's a preview of what to watch for on Thursday regarding the Jacksonville Jaguars.

ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and I will preview Sunday's matchup between the Jaguars and Dolphins. The blog should post about 8 a.m. ET.

With Halloween next week, the Question of the Week to five Jaguars players is this: What are you afraid of? Next week's also will be related to Halloween.

We weren't able to get to this on Wednesday, so we'll get to it today: Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles struggled against Cleveland -- except when the Jaguars were in the two-minute drill. He also drove the Jaguars down the field for a touchdown late in the game against Tennessee and got them in position for a potential game-winning field goal. He's really comfortable running the two-minute drill.

The Stat of the Week has to do with how much better the Jaguars defense has been in limiting opposing offenses' big plays.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Denard Robinson carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 24-6 victory over Cleveland last Sunday.

He might have more touches in Sunday’s game against Miami. Or fewer.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch isn’t yet sure how the carries will be split with Toby Gerhart expected to make his return for a foot injury. Robinson could get the bulk of the work again, or it could be the Gerhart show. Rookie Storm Johnson could get more work.

"I think we’ll continue to mix and match a little bit," Fisch said Wednesday. "I don’t know exactly how that will all play out yet."

Gerhart practiced Wednesday on a limited basis after being held out of the last two games in order to give his right foot time to heal. He first injured the foot in the season opener against Philadelphia and aggravated the injury against Pittsburgh on Oct. 5. The Jaguars signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract in March to be the team’s No. 1 back, but the injury and offensive line struggles have limited him to 123 yards and 2.6 yards per carry in five games.

The Jaguars started Johnson against Tennessee on Oct. 12 and he gained just 21 yards on 10 carries; Robinson rushed for 22 yards on five carries. That production, plus the continued improvement Robinson has shown throughout the season in his transition from college quarterback to running back, earned him the start against the Browns.

"He showed that he is understanding the run game better," Fisch said. "He is understanding the stretch and cut, he’s understanding the stretch and bounce and understanding when you’re running outside zone, what’s your reads? Even earlier in the season, maybe we missed a read because we were too fast to the hole and the block didn’t develop quick enough. I think he’s understanding that and he’s understanding when he’s running inside he’s got to run with lower pad level and continue to protect the football."

Robinson averaged 5.8 yards per carry against the Browns in the most work he’s received in his career. He had never carried the ball more than nine times in any game, so Robinson was the most sore he’s been in his two-year NFL career on Monday.

"Got in the cold tub yesterday, stretched out a little bit, so I felt pretty good," Robinson said.

The former Michigan quarterback isn’t dwelling on his performance, though. He didn’t even revel in it on Sunday night.

"You’ve got to move forward," he said. "Right after the game I really wanted to move forward and watch film and try to break it down to see things I could have worked on. There was a couple plays I left out on the football field. I want to get better so I’ve got to make it happen this week."

Robinson and the running game will face a much tougher defense this Sunday. The Dolphins have the league’s fourth-ranked total defense and are ranked 10th against the rush. That doesn’t change Fisch’s commitment to run the ball because the passing game is predicated on play-action. How they split the carries, however, is still undetermined.

"I’m not ready to say that one yet," Fisch said. "It depends on how he [Robinson] is carrying the ball, I guess. I will take 22 for 120. If he wants to do that again, I’m all in."
video

The NFL Live crew make their picks for Miami at Jacksonville.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars guard Zane Beadles played with Peyton Manning for two seasons in Denver, so he did take a moment on Sunday night to send Manning a congratulatory text message after Manning broke Brett Favre's record for most touchdown passes in NFL history.

Not only is Beadles glad he got to spend time as Manning's teammate, he's also grateful because he says Manning helped his career.

"I learned so much playing with him and playing in Denver as far as how to approach teams and how to attack defenses, and just learned a lot about football in general and watching him work and prepare and things like that," Beadles said. "He epitomizes what it means to be a pro. Like I said, ultimate respect and very happy for him."

Beadles said that Manning's preparation level is every bit as intense as advertised and he benefited from playing with a quarterback like that.

"I had a great experience there and a great time there and I think playing with him made me a better player, so I appreciate that," Beadles said.

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars rookie receiver Allen Robinson knew his first touchdown catch would come eventually.

Robinson
He had just hoped it would have been a lot sooner.

But he finally got it in last Sunday’s 24-6 victory over Cleveland, and he hopes it’s going to open the floodgates for not only him but the rest of the offense to find the end zone a lot more.

"Just to get that first one out of the way, it’s always good to kind of break that ice and just to continue to improve and keep rolling," Robinson said.

Robinson, who leads the Jaguars with 34 catches and 371 yards receiving, certainly made his first TD catch count. He caught an 11-yard pass from Blake Bortles, broke the tackle of cornerback Buster Skrine at the 20-yard line and scored to put the Jaguars ahead 7-6 with 27 seconds remaining in the first half. The Jaguars never trailed after that.

Robinson’s celebration for his first NFL touchdown was pretty low key. Just a small dance in the back corner of the end zone that lasted only a few seconds.

"I know me and [Allen] Hurns had talked about it a little bit," Robinson said. "I was surprised Hurns didn’t do it on his first 9touchdown). I was just able to do that on mine."

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