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Jaguars’ Wednesday presser: ‘There is a lot on the line’

Doug Pederson speaks to the media about injuries, preparation for Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars are back stateside and preparing for a potential season sweep of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Doug Pederson’s team is still getting over spending the last week and a half overseas. The coach said he is trying to take it easier on his team to get them back to full strength.

“The jet lag is real,” Pederson said. “Just spend(ing) more time with walkthroughs, slow(ing) the pace down a little bit. Try to get their bodies and minds rejuvenated again. I can do my part by helping get them off the field to continue their rehab and treatments. It is individual how each person handles it.”

Playing on turf fields the past two weeks in London went decently well for the Jags in terms of injuries.

Both offensive lineman Walker Little and wide receiver Zay Jones exited Sunday’s game with injuries, but both avoided potential season-ending disasters.

Little (knee) and Jones (knee) were cleared, but did not practice Wednesday. They are both considered day to day. In replacement of Little at left guard will likely be Tyler Shatley for the foreseeable future.

Left tackle Cam Robinson, who exited but returned against the Bills with a shoulder injury is “fine” and will be ready for the weekend.

Playing in his first game of the season, Pederson thought his veteran tackle handled his duties impressively.

“I thought he did well,” Pederson said. “He was in a really good frame of mind, prepared well. He will be better this week.”

The team will also be getting linebacker Devin Lloyd back this week after thumb surgery. Lloyd will wear a protective pad on his hand going forward, but practiced on Wednesday.

Defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton is “getting closer each week,” according to Pederson, but is still not ready to play.

Dawuane Smoot is “fine” and “there is a chance” the outside linebacker could play on Sunday after being activated last week.

In terms of offensive line depth, Cooper Hodges is “is doing well” and is “still on track” to returning to full health.

Rookie safety Antonio Johnson played in his first game on Sunday after suffering a shoulder injury early on in camp. Pederson said he liked what he saw out of Johnson, and expects his role to grow as he gains more experience and gets healthier.

“It was good to get him back out there,” Pederson said. “He was probably going to start the season on special teams. I thought when he was coming out of camp he was improving each week. I do think his role will increase, maybe more dime situations or 3-4. He is athletic enough to cover tight ends, running backs.”

Pederson said he did see increased cramps in his players after playing overseas, but does not expect anything major to linger into this week of practice and into the Colts game. One can see the impact of coming back to America on the players, according to Peterson, but he needs his team to hit the ground running to prevent any London hangover.

“You can gauge it,” Pederson said of potential lingering effects of travel. “You need to guard against a lull, something that happened to us last year.”

Pederson’s team will be facing a new-look Colts team, as starting quarterback Anthony Richardson is on Injured Reserve. Former Jaguar gunslinger Gardner Minshew will take the reins on Sunday for his first start of the season.

A backup quarterback during his playing days, Pederson said Minshew can’t let nerves get to him but said Minshew will likely be extremely amped to start against his former team.

“You get your opportunity to start, lead your football team,” Pederson said. “There is really no pressure. He can obviously come in and relax and play. He is going to be excited and ready to go and our guys on defense need to pay attention to that energy and be ready for that.”

As far as familiarity goes, the Jags are plenty aware of who Minshew is and what he wants to do.

“I think there is enough information, and obviously you have to study the tape and understand what they are trying to do as an offense,” Pederson said. “They have a really good running game and that can help your quarterback.”

There is a drop off in terms of rushing ability between the rookie Richardson and Minshew. Last week however, the Colts utilized its running backs in the ground game to the tune of 193 total yards. Losing Richardson hurts, but the team has already added former All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor back to the mix.

In the Week 1 matchup between the two teams, Richardson accounted for 40 of his team’s 65 total rushing yards.

“Anthony Richardson has made a difference,” Pederson said. “They have made plays offensively. And the run game has sparked them.”

Somewhat surprisingly, the Jags have been one of the more stout rush defenses in the league. The team has only allowed one 100-yard rusher this season (Bijan Robinson) and only two teams have eclipsed over 100 yards rushing in total (Chiefs and Falcons).

“Angelo Blackson getting in here has helped,” Pederson said of the defensive line. “Roy (Robertson-Harris) is playing well. Adam Gotsis has got some opportunities. Jeremiah Ledbetter is playing good. And the addition of Tyler Lacy. All these guys are playing solid, consistent football right now. They are staying disciplined. We are tackling better on the perimeter. There is a confidence level with the defense that they pride themselves on.”

As for the Colts’ defense, the unit will be looking to replicate the explosive afternoon to open the season. The last time these two teams met, the Colts had two sacks, seven tackles for loss and a touchdown.

“Defense is solid,” Pederson said. “It is a penetrating style of front. We know DeForest (Buckner) and his size and length and what he did against us in the first game. It is a solid defense that is keeping them in football games.”

Pederson pointed out linebacker Zaire Franklin as someone the team will have to do a better job against in Week 6. Franklin tallied 17 tackles in the Week 1 game, and is currently leading the NFL in tackles with 69.

“He is all over the field,” Pederson said. “Kind of that field general for them. He is a really good player and is playing really well right now.”

The Jags’ offense does look and feel a lot differently than it did in its first game. Pederson said that with better production from Calvin Ridley, the team is getting closer to reaching its potential.

“It takes a little time,” Pederson said. “It takes that work in practice and seeing yourself in these game situations and making the necessary corrections. It has been good, still not where we need it to be.”

Tight end Evan Engram is someone that has been consistent all year, and is among the best in the league at his position.

Engram is third in targets, second in receptions, second in yards and first in yards after the catch among tight ends. In all four of his career games against the Colts, Engram has recorded at least five catches.

“Evan is in a good place,” Pederson said. “He is a hard worker and works on his craft. His confidence level is extremely high.”

Pederson said the time spent in London has been a huge help in getting the team where it needs to be emotionally and mentally. A usually calm Pederson got quite animated after an interesting roughing the passer call was thrown on Josh Allen. The veteran coach said his team feeds off his energy, and sometimes, he needs to let his emotions loose.

“I do think they react to how I go,” Pederson said. “As coaches we get caught up in the emotions of the game and things that are happening. I tell our players to let their personality show out there. When you play big games against good football teams, to be able to come out with that win, you let your emotions go.”

Sunday’s game is extremely big for the Jaguars, as the team looks to earn another AFC South win and a sweep over a division rival.

No one will care if the team is still slightly groggy from their overseas trip. When kickoff starts on Sunday, the team will have to channel the same energy it had in its two-game stand in England.

“There is a lot on the line with this football game,” Pederson said. “It is just getting yourself ready to play. Going away for 10 days was good for us, but we have to bring that energy back. We can’t leave that in London.”