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Jaguars Monday presser: ‘It’s one game at a time’

Doug Pederson speaks to media following the bye week

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only been a week, but it feels a lot longer.

For the first time in seven days, Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson met with the press on Monday. After enjoying a respite on their bye week, Jacksonville turns their attention to the San Francisco 49ers, who visit EverBank Stadium this coming Sunday. As always, Pederson addressed any lingering injury concerns - and for the most part, it was good news:

“All of them except Zay [Jones] are doing really well. They should be okay for this week, we’ll see how the week progresses obviously, no setbacks. Walker [Little], [Andre] Cisco and Tyson [Campbell] did really well. Zay is just going to be day-to-day, got a little workout in today, feeling a little bit better, but we’ll just monitor him day-by-day. He’s getting better.”

For those keeping score, Zay Jones has been ‘day to day’ ever since he limped out of the game against the Buffalo Bills in London, re-injuring the same knee he hurt against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. Considering the vague timeframe that the term implies, Pederson was asked if moving him to injured reserve was a possibility:

“We just got to see, we’re getting close but that’s something that we’ll evaluate if it looks like it’s anything further than or any longer than what it already is.”

Before looking ahead to their next game, Pederson was offered the opportunity to give his thoughts on how the season had gone so far. Considering the five game win streak following a dubious start to the campaign, optimism was expected - but the head coach wasn’t ready to get carried away just yet:

“Yeah, we did some good things. Definitely some things we can improve on this back half of the year. We can improve on third down both offensively and defensively. Even though defense got better as the season has progressed, redzone is another area that offensively that we have to continue to improve in. We looked at a lot of different, you always look at the top teams in the redzone and just see what they’re doing compared to what we’re doing and see if things fit and all that. We really wanted to take a look at our offense and defense and special teams to see what’s happening. The turnovers obviously can’t happen, the other night in Pittsburgh we had two of those that were taken points off the scoreboard. Those are just some areas that we looked at that we definitely have to improve. Defensively, the takeaways is a big positive and the offense has been getting points on their opening drives, things of that nature which are things that we can continue to improve on and also start of the third quarter is another area that we can definitely do better. So, enough work as we move forward.”

An addition on the offensive line

Whilst the players enjoyed a well earned break on the bye week, the front office have still been earning their paychecks. With the trade deadline coming and going Trent Baalke made a modest splash, sending the Minnesota Vikings a sixth round pick for offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland. Doug Pederson was asked for his take on the newest member of the Jacksonville Jaguars:

“Ezra [Cleveland] we knew was a good player and started the first six games for Minnesota this year and then he had a setback with an injury. It kept him out of the last couple of games in Minnesota, but anytime that you can add depth and add value, you can add talent like Ezra to the offensive line or really any position, it’s something that Trent [Baalke] and I and the guys looked at hard. Definitely a lot of different scenarios out there, you look at pass rushers, maybe even defensive backs, you look at O-linemen and Ezra is somebody that can come in and really provide the necessary backup guard. He’s very capable, smart, talented left guard. He played some right guard his rookie year and has been primarily left guard since. It’s just a good value for us and really solidifies an offensive line that is already pretty good.”

Considering Cleveland’s career as a tackle at Boise State, it was definitely interesting to hear Pederson deem him as a guard. The draft community often wondered if Cleveland could ply his trade on the outside at the NFL level, and it seems as if his new employers see his future on the interior - just as the Vikings did. With that in mind, will he be challenging for that left guard position? Not so fast my friend…

“Walker Little is the left guard. I want to be as clear as I can, Walker is the left guard and that’s been communicated to everybody. Cam [Robinson] is the left tackle. That’s our plan and that has never changed.”

Pretty emphatic. Pederson expanded on the decision - again emphasizing it has been the plan for the o-line all along:

“Walker has earned that spot. His ability to move inside, his versatility that way has been a plus for him and a plus for our offensive line. The time that he and Cam were together, that short time they were in together during that Buffalo game, they played well together. This was our plan all along when Cam came back, so getting these guys working together this week will be good and he’s earned that spot. He’s earned that right to start in that position. He’s done a good job there.”

Considering the multiple injuries on the offensive line so far this season, it does seem prudent to bring in an established veteran as depth - particularly one with the starting experience that Cleveland brings, not to mention the meager outlay for his services. Cleveland came cheaply, presumably due to his contract expiring at the end of the year. Was this move a sign that the Jaguars are in win now mode, or could the new guard secure a longer stay in Jacksonville? Pederson believes it can be both:

“I think you have to look at that. I think you have to look at long-term as well. The age of our offensive linemen, Brandon Scherff, as great as he’s been playing, he’s not getting any younger. Tyler Shatley isn’t getting any younger. You’ve got to have guys that are very capable that are going to be on your roster. You definitely have to look at long-term I think in situations like this. Definitely the player himself, Ezra himself knows he’s in a basically a contract-year as well, so he’s willing to come to Jacksonville and be a backup for now understanding that there are no guarantees in this business. But I do think it definitely could turn into a long-term situation for him where he could definitely compete and be in a position to help us move forward.”

The back nine of the season

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Attention once again returned to future challenges, and how best to prepare the Jaguars for what looks on paper a tough stretch of contests. Again, Pederson was keen to look at all ways to improve - with a big focus on moving the chains more consistency:

“Well, you and I both know you got to do better on first and second down. It keeps you out of those third-and-longs. Those are hard downs to convert. When you look at it from what we put ourselves in, whether it be a penalty or a sack, something of that nature that gets us in those third-and-12-pluses, your quarterback has to hold the ball. We’ve gone up against some really talented edge and pass rushers. It’s extremely hard, and then the execution, we’ve had some drops, we’ve had some missed opportunities and missed throws. When you look at it, it’s opportunities that are there but again, it’s us being better on first down and second down that keep us out of those situations. When you look at some of the third downs where at the end of the game where we were pretty good, we stayed in the more third-and-mediums, and-shorts. That’s where Trevor [QB Trevor Lawrence] is able to use legs a little bit more and convert. The goal is to stay out of third down completely, but it just comes down to execution. Quite frankly, you could throw the ball underneath and let your receiver go get the first down, too. It doesn’t always have to be a pass that’s down past the sticks.”

With the team returning on a high and ready to embrace the upcoming slate, Pederson was asked if it was difficult to keep the focus just on the 49ers on Sunday, and not get carried away looking further down the schedule:

“No, I avoid that with this football team. We’ve got a great football team coming in here on Sunday and our focus is just on that. I’ve mentioned to them, ‘Hey, we’ve got a nine-game schedule coming up, we’ve got five home games coming up’ things of that nature of the nine [games]. But I don’t look at down the road as far as circling games or opponents that we have coming up. It’s a matter of just staying in the moment, staying in this week, getting prepared later in this week for San Francisco who we know is a dangerous football team. They’ve dropped a few games here lately, but they’re coming off their bye just like we are. They’re going to be gassed up and ready to go. We just live in the moment and it’s one game at a time.”