Following the Jaguars’ first win of the season against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, Gus Bradley didn’t seem as if he wanted to focus on the win. There was no speaking of how good it felt to notch his first victory as a head coach. There were no “pats on the back.” There was only one thing to focus on for Gus Bradley: continuous improvement.
While winning certainly is nice, Bradley seems honed in on sticking to the process and staying the course of develop a winning culture. In years past, the Jaguars had no philosophical foundation. If there was, Del Rio and especially Mularkey weren’t very vocal about it. It’s obvious that Bradley believes in what he is teaching, and more than anything he believes in his players, and his fellow coaches. Bradley will not falter in these beliefs. He will stay consistent as he continues to build a winning atmosphere.
During the first 8 weeks of football, concern seemed to be developing among the fan base about Bradley’s coaching style. Some believed he was almost too positive. Well, let me ask you this. What good what it do, being overly negative and tearing down the psyche of a team that could easily feel defeated already being 0-8? It would do absolutely no good at all.
Bradley is more focused on doing the things necessary to win. Playing fast. Doing the little things. For instance, last week there was a major emphasis on tackling. He’s constantly thinking of different ways to teach the team his concepts. Whether it’s finding new ways to present the information, getting young players more opportunities, simplifying the offense or cutting back on mistakes, Bradley has thus far been consistent and constructively critical of doing what it takes to play good football.
This past weekend, we saw finally saw the results. Now, it’s time to look forward to this weekend and the challenge ahead. The Jaguars haven’t won back to back games since 2010 and have scored 11 points at home this season. The focal point so far this week has been winning at home. The Jaguars have played better on the road as of late. Maurice Jones-Drew stated that at times it’s easier to play on the road, having to play with the “us against the world mentality.” Well, it’s high time the Jaguars won back to back games. It’s high time the Jaguars play the kind of ball at home as they did on the road last weekend in Nashville.
It will not be easy. The Cardinals have a very underrated defense that can present all kinds of problems for this Jaguars offense that has struggled to both protect the quarterback and run the ball. Two players who will present the biggest of problems for the Jaguars are Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. As 34 defensive ends, their prime responsibility is tying up blocks. This allows linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington to fly to the ball and make plays. Did I mention they are also pretty good pass rushers? They each have four sacks a piece and are also threats to get in the back field and make tackles for loss, both having 6 TFLs as well.
Will Rackley has returned to practice, coming out of the concussion program. Mike Brewster has filled in decently, having his ups and downs, but really as a unit this offensive line has struggled. They will have their hands full with Campbell and Dockett.
Patrick Peterson is expected to cover Shorts. Peterson ranks in the top 11 cornerbacks in the league, per PFF. Tyrann Mathieu has played his way into a starting roll, and has shown his ability to make plays. With Campbell and Dockett on this underwhelming offensive line, and with the LSU duo on Shorts and Brown, the going could get tough on Sunday.
It’s important that we don’t get ahead of ourselves. The Jaguars are still coming into their own. The first victory of the season was great. The Jaguars played outstanding ball defensively, but the offense was less than stellar. If Jacksonville can’t find running room, as has been the case all season, and if this dynamic secondary nullifies Jacksonville’s receivers, it will once again fall upon the Jaguars defense to match Arizona’s play and keep Carson Palmer and company in check.
Don’t think about the first eight games. Don’t be infatuated with last week’s win. On paper this is a really bad matchup, but with Bradley at the helm I am confident that he and this young squad will continue to improve one game at a time.
-David R. Johns