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Jaguars Wednesday presser: ‘Make the play when it comes’

Doug Pederson speaks to the media to preview game with Ravens in Week 15

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

On the heels of a two-game losing skid, the Jacksonville Jaguars draw the AFC’s top seeded Baltimore Ravens at home on Sunday night.

Despite the recent losses, and increasing nervousness about the team, head coach Doug Pederson said he and his team are ready for their next challenge.

“The guys are excited for this week,” Pederson said on Wednesday. “Two good football teams coming together. It is great for the NFL, great for fans. These are the games that I expect our players to get used to. The confidence is high.”

Pederson immediately gave praise to Ravens All-Pro quarterback Lamar Jackson, noting how Jackson’s increased pocket presence has been giving the entire league fits.

“This is a very explosive, high energy player,” Pederson said. “Great quarterback. Throwing the ball a little bit more from the pocket, and he has done a great job with that.”

To stop someone like Jackson, it takes every man on defense. With a few nagging injuries on that side of the ball, it will be a whole team effort to keep Jackson contained.

“It takes all 11 on defense,” Pederson said. “You just can’t let your guard down with him in the run game and the pass game as well. When you get an opportunity to tackle him, you have to tackle him. He can definitely burn you with his speed. You try to slow him down. But at the same time, with his ability to throw the ball, it makes it a challenge.”

On the injury front, defensive backs Tyson Campbell (quad) and Andre Cisco (groin) practiced Wednesday. Pederson said they are day to day while working through “tough injuries.” Fellow corner Tre Herndon has not yet cleared concussion protocol.

Offensively, quarterback Trevor Lawrence has no limitations and offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland (knee) and Walker Little (hamstring) are “doing well” and “trending in the right way.”

Specialist Jamal Agnew was also activated off of the IR on Wednesday.

Having Cleveland and Little healthy only stands to help the overall offense, which has struggled with running the ball as of late. In the team’s two most recent losses, the team has rushed for a combined 129 yards.

The Jags haven’t eclipsed 100 yards since beating the Titans.

Pederson attributed the lack of explosive run game to playing good defenses, while needing a bit more effort from his front five.

“We are playing some good defensive lines,” Pederson said. “There hasn’t been a shortage of (good) defensive fronts. We have another one this week. It is a matter of extra strain, extra effort. These guys work extremely hard at it, but we can do better there. Getting back to what we do well will help us.”

Across the board for the team, there has been plenty of struggling. Pederson took the blame on him and his coaches to emphasize the importance of communication to help alleviate issues on and off the field.

“I challenge the coaching staff to listen in practice, to make sure the guys are communicating,” Pederson said. “It carries through into the game. We keep communicating with our players to communicate in the game. We know that has been a big reason why we have had some breakdowns.”

With the team already in Week 15, the coach said his team cannot be experiencing the types of breakdowns it has been. Running the wrong routes or whiffing a block cannot happen. Getting on the same page all starts with simply communicating with one another.

“I know one thing, at this level and where we are, we have played a lot of football,” Pederson said. “Those things can’t happen. It comes down to those guys talking and having conversations on the field and staying locked into the game plan. One play at a time mentality. Trust your instincts.”

Specifically with route running, poor routes led to the struggles of quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Sunday. Lawrence tossed one interception that was caused by receiver Calvin Ridley not running the right route. A couple of Lawrence’s balls were almost picked due to lack of separation, among other things.

“That is going to be a point of emphasis on offense, that route detail,” Pederson said. “I tell the guys all that time that they don’t have to go chasing plays. Let the ball come to you and then make the play when it comes. Much like the issues on defense, it comes down to that. Just do your job. Work through your issues now in practice so they don’t show up in games.”

The Jags are no longer a “young” team in the eyes of Pederson. He said that no team can fall back on that excuse this late in the year.

As the year grows longer, many practices are light on the physical side and heavy on the mental portion. Pederson said while his team may not run the same routes every single day, they still go over that information in meetings.

“Those are the things that we have to continue to iron out during the week,” Pederson said. “There are a lot of things this late in the season where we talk about them in meetings, but we may not get that live rep in practice. As coaches and players, we expect those things to happen in the game. Even if you don’t get that rep in practice, we have covered it. Those are things that have kept us back.”

Following up on the mental side of football, Pederson said he tasks every player with doing as much extra work as possible.

While families and other obligations may limit what a player can do outside of their usual schedule, an extra couple minutes can make a difference in the long run.

“That is all I ask them to do, spend 30 minutes, 45 minutes watching some extra film,” Pederson said. “You can tell the guys that do it. It is more about getting mental reps at this point in the season.”

Overall, Pederson said the confidence from the coaching staff has not wavered. The team is still on pace to make the playoffs and win the AFC South. But getting there is as much on the players as it is on the coaches.

“Confidence level is fine,” Pederson said. “I trust the coaching staff. It starts there, making sure our guys are prepared and turning over every stone. Confidence is still high. A lot of confidence in the staff and players to get it done.”

Not everything is doom and gloom for the Jags, as the team has turned around its luck in the red zone on offense.

Last week, the team went 4-4 in the red zone. Against the Bengals, the team went 3-3.

“The execution has gotten better,” Pederson said of red zone scoring. “Getting opportunities down there has been good for us. You aren’t going to start out great, and you will keep building and certain areas will get better. It is a matter of all those things beginning to come together at the right time.”

The ship is not sinking for the Jaguars. It may be taking on water, but that is nothing the team has not seen before.

One individual player or coach will not be the reason the Jags beat the Ravens and stop the losing skid. It takes everyone. No one knows that more than the team’s head coach.

“It is all us,” Pederson said. “It is what we see, how we execute, how we play. We have to make sure we do a better job of that. Everybody has to focus that much greater this time of year and be on the same page.”