The sun has risen on a new week, and the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) are preparing for an all new opponent.
Last week’s fumble against the Chiefs has come and gone, and coach Doug Pederson’s team is focused on this Sunday, not any Sundays in the past.
“It has to be a now mentality,” Pederson said. “You have to play it one game at a time.”
The only carryovers from last weekend will be key players recovering from injuries suffered against the Chiefs.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is “fine” according to Pederson, after Ridley ran into a goalpost coming off of a route.
Linebacker Josh Allen is also “fine” but will be limited in practice on Wednesday.
Wide receiver Zay Jones was “down today” according to Pederson, after suffering a knee injury.
Jones will be monitored as the week goes on, but the team already has a contingency plan in mind.
Tim Jones will be the next one up if Zay Jones is unavailable.
“Tim Jones can fill that role quite nicely,” Pederson said. “Tim will get some work if Zay can’t go.”
The team’s next opponent, the 0-2 Texans, will present a challenge whether the Jaguars are healthy or not.
To Pederson, he has seen quite a lot of good coming from the Texans, who have a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach.
“These guys fly around,” Pederson said of the Texans. “They play with a lot of speed, enthusiasm and aggression. Just a tribute to what (head coach) DeMeco (Ryans) is doing down there. He is changing that culture. Good football team.”
Offensively, the team is led by former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.
In two starts this year, Stroud has passed for 626 yards and two touchdowns, without throwing a pick.
“Young on offense, but (Stroud) is a talented player,” Pederson said of the rookie. “Dangerous out of the pocket. Throws well on the run.”
The Texans also acquired former University of Alabama star pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. in last year’s draft, taken with the team’s second first round pick after Stroud.
Both Stroud and Anderson are set to be cornerstones for both the offense and defense moving forward for the Texans, a team that has not had a winning record since 2019.
“They drafted him for a reason,” Pederson said of Anderson. “He can rush. (Jonathan) Greenard on the other side, and these guys can rush the passer. You can’t go to sleep on them.”
Whereas fans may have already written the Texans off based on their record and roster, Pederson said that is exactly how teams can get trapped and lose.
It isn’t wise to assume since the Jaguars’ defense has played so well through two games, that they will automatically feast on a young signal caller.
“You can’t go into a game and say that he is a rookie quarterback and will make mistakes,” Pederson said. “He has 10 other guys. There are other ways of protecting a young quarterback and helping him to be successful early.”
Last year, the Jaguars fell victim to potentially looking past the Texans, losing to the team 13-6 at home.
Much like he said of the Chiefs, Pederson said the team can’t go back to that loss to determine how the team will do this year.
“We can’t go backwards,” Pederson said. “We have to have a forward mindset. We have to clean up some things.”
One area the team will focus on cleaning up will be offensive line play.
It is no secret the Jaguars have been less than stellar up front on offense, giving up six sacks in two games.
“There is some continuity that has to be worked through,” Pederson said of the offensive line. “There is communication that has to be worked through. There (are) some pieces that still need to work together but they are coached well and practice hard and we will work through those.”
Guys like Anderson are drafted by teams like the Texans in order to take advantage of poor offensive line play. Pederson said he and offensive line coach Phil Rauscher have a long road ahead of them to get the offensive line unit prepared for not only Sunday, but the duration of the season.
“In this league, defensive fronts are too good,” Pederson said. “Things are moving quickly. It can affect you. We continue to work with these guys and keep building to head in the right direction.”
On offense, defense or special teams, it is never just about one position group doing well. It takes everyone, according to Pederson.
“It takes 11, no matter what the situation is,” Pederson said.
Pederson said rookie offensive lineman Anton Harrison has been given a trial by fire through two games. Harrison has gotten beat up early, especially against the Chiefs, but Pederson thinks he is in for a much better time against the Texans.
“You grow up fast in this league,” Pederson said. “There is no time for development and growth, you just have to go do it. It is our job to help him. He will be better, he will be a lot better this week. He will be a lot more confident.”
The struggles with the offensive line have made it hard for the Jags to run the ball, evidenced by only 74 rushing yards on 18 carries against the defending Super Bowl champs.
The team elected to throw the ball when on short yardage situations last week, but those types of choices may be a thing of the past for the Jaguars’ coaching staff.
“Even when you struggle with it, you have to stick with it,” Pederson said of the run game. “That is something we learned, even in the Indy game. Those are things that help your offense. They help your quarterback.”
If the team sticks with the run game, it is only a matter of time before running backs Travis Etienne or Tank Bigsby are able to spring a run open.
“One, two, three yard runs eventually turn into six, eight, 10 yard runs as the game or the season goes,” Pederson said. “You have to be patient with it.”
Pederson said last week the team flat out didn’t practice well.
He thought the squad looked good heading into Sunday, but the offense fell on its face and the Jags were handed a loss.
This week, the coach expects a much more cohesive practice regiment. But it isn’t Pederson that is running routes or blocking linebackers.
“A lot of it is on the players,” Pederson said. “There are going to be mistakes, but each player has to have that motivation.”